Constantly Pray Over the Work by Mother Teresa
Whenever we do a work of charity or counseling or mission or ministry or when we comfort someone in their sorrow, we must carry out the work with love and gladness. We must, as Mother Teresa says, “Serve Jesus with joy and gladness of spirit, casting aside and forgetting all that troubles and worries you. To be able to do all these, pray lovingly like children, with an earnest desire to love much.” (A Life for God, 124) “We must work in great faith, steadily, efficiently, and above all with great love and cheerfulness, for without this our work will be only the work of slaves, serving a hard master.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 107) “You may be exhausted with work—–you may even kill yourself (with over-work)—–but unless your work is interwoven with love, it is useless.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 107)
Remember what St Paul reminded us, “if I give all my possessions [my talent, my money, my time] to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love [for the person in front of me that I am serving with my work], it profits me nothing.[1 Corinthians 13:3, NASB]
Thus, most importantly, we must constantly pray over the work. Why?If we do not pray over the work, the danger is that the work will be for our recognition, fame or glory. It will become our own work. We will focus on making the work successful and then take the credit for the success as being due to our own effort. We get admiration and adoration. We get our reward. We become very proud of our own effort.
However, if we constantly pray over the work, we know that the work is done together with Jesus. We need to pray that Jesus give us the enthusiasm, zest and passion to carry out the work. If we work together with Jesus we will do much better work. We will do the work more cheerfully. The work will not be tiresome or burdensome. We will be more assured of what we are doing. We will take the time to prepare more thoroughly and to do our very best as we pray that we do not spoil His work. And when we work with Jesus our work will be for Jesus. For Jesus to strengthen us with courage and determination to carry out the work wholeheartedly, we have to put ourselves under His influence, His prompting, His guidance and His leading through constant prayer.
As Mother Teresa says:
“Have I really learned to pray the work? Maybe I have never learned to pray the work because the whole time my mind is ‘work.’ Here are words that will help you: ‘With Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus.’” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 113)
“We must join our prayer with work. We try to bring this across to our sisters by inviting them to make their work a prayer. How is it possible to change one’s work into a prayer? Work cannot be substituted for prayer. Nevertheless, we can learn to make work a prayer. How can we do this? By doing our work with Jesus and for Jesus. That is the way to make our work a prayer. It is possible that I may not be able to keep my attention fully on God while I work, but God doesn’t demand that I do so. Yet I can fully desire and intend that my work be done with Jesus and for Jesus. This is beautiful and that is what God wants. He wants our will and our desire to be for Him, for our family, for our children, for our brethren, and for the poor.” (A Life for God, 12)
“The value of our actions corresponds exactly to the value of the prayer we make, and our actions are fruitful only if they are the true expression of earnest prayer. We must fix our gaze on Jesus, and if we work together with Jesus we will do much better. We get anxious and restless because we try to work alone, without Jesus.” (A Life for God, 13)
“Our work is the fruit of our prayer, so that if our work is not going well, we must examine our prayer life. If we neglect our work or are harsh, proud, moody, and angry, then we should examine our prayer life. We will see that something has gone wrong there.” (Thirsting for God, DECEMBER 19)
“Never do the work carelessly because you wish to hide your gifts. Remember, the work is His. You are his co-worker. Therefore, He depends on you for that special work. Do the work with Him, and the work will be done for Him. The talents God has given you are not yours—–they have been given to you for your use, for the glory of God. There can be no half-measures in the work. You may feel very bad, but feelings are not the measure of our love for Christ. It is our will and our work that matters. Be great and use everything in you for the Good Master.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 108)
“Remember the work is not ours and we must not spoil it. That would be a great injustice to God because the work is His.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 108)
The joyous result of constantly praying over the work is that we know that we are working with Jesus and for Jesus and for His glory. We will leave the results of our work to Jesus. It is natural to want to see the results of our work but we should accept the success or failure of what we do to Jesus. He is in charge and the timing and the results are His. In this way when the result doesn’t work out the way we expect it to be, we will not be discouraged; we will continue to do the work wholeheartedly. We will overcome our weariness and shoddiness in the face of not seeing any fruit in our effort. We will not be restless and try to change our work. We will not give up easily or be disillusioned when we consistently pray the work.
As Mother Teresa advises:
“Don’t give in to discouragement. No more must you do so when you try to settle a marriage crisis or convert a sinner and don’t succeed. If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people’s opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. It is very difficult in practice because we all want to see the result of our work. Leave it to Jesus.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 107)