A few days ago, I commented on a feature of the National Day of Prayer that was mostly overlooked by the mainstream media: an encouragement for churches to pray on the Sunday prior to the official National Day of Prayer. Churches were urged by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, an evangelical group, to pray for seven centers of influence: government, military, media, business, education, church, and family.

As I reflected on this request, it occurred to me that Christians often pray for most of these centers. At least that has been true of my experience in church. When I was pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, for example, we regularly prayed in worship services for government, military, education, church, and family. But we rarely, if ever, prayed for media and business.

That got me thinking. Why had we – had I – been so selective in praying for certain institutions but not others? I particular, I began to wonder why we neglected to pray for business?

New York Stock ExchangeI’ve been participating in church worship services for fifty years. I’ve heard or offered thousands of prayers in the context of congregational worship. Yet I cannot remember either hearing or offering a prayer that focused on – or even mentioned – business. In my pastoral prayers at Irvine Pres, I would regularly intercede on behalf of government officials, members of the military, teachers, police officers, firefighters, parents, grandparents, pastors, churches, and mission partners. But I cannot remember offering prayers for bankers, lawyers, realtors, salespeople, and the like. Nor can I recall praying for business institutions: banks, law firms, corporations, small business, brokerage firms, etc. This seems especially odd to me now, given the fact that the majority of working people in my church were in business settings such as those I just mentioned. Why didn’t I pray for them in the activity that took up so much of their time and meant so much to their lives? Why didn’t I pray for the companies they worked for or, in many cases, owned? (Photo: The New York Stock Exchange. Now there’s a business institution that could use a little prayer, don’t you think?)

The title of this post, “Why Don’t We Pray for Business?”, assumes that I am not unusual in my failure to pray for business and business people. I believe that this is the norm for Christians, both in their private lives and especially in their corporate worship. Now I’m sure that individuals pray about their own businesses and jobs. And I would sometimes pray for people’s jobs when they came to seek my pastoral advice about situations they faced in their work life. But, for some peculiar reason, or set of reasons, these private prayers did not impact my public leadership of prayer in worship.

Thus I continue to wonder: Why don’t we pray for business?

As you read this question, you may be feeling a bit defensive. You may be thinking, “Hey, we do pray for business in my church! And I pray for business and people in business in my private prayers as well.” If so, that’s fantastic, and I’d like to hear about it. How does your church include business in its life of corporate prayer? What is said? How often? In what context(s)? 

But if your experience is like mine, then you might also be wondering why we don’t pray for business. What are your thoughts about this? Before I get too far into my suggestions, I’d like to hear you ideas. If you have a moment, please add a comment below or email me.

Before I finish today’s post, I’ll offer one reason I believe Christians don’t pray for business.

Reason #1: We don’t pray for business because we don’t pray for business.

Yes, I realize this sounds so obvious as to be silly. But I am serious about this answer. Our particular way of praying, both form and content, is governed to a great extent by our practices, traditions, and habits. This is obviously true if you operate in a tradition of structured prayer (such as using the Anglican Book of Common Prayer). But even if you are most comfortable with spontaneous prayers, how you pray is, to a significant extent, shaped by your past experience of prayer. How you pray is how you pray.

For example, I grew up praying every night before I went to bed. In these prayers I always asked God to bless my family members by name: God bless Mommy and Daddy, Gary, Julie, Nancy, etc. etc. I did not think, nor was I taught, to pray specifically for my Dad at work, for his boss, for his company, etc. His work life was simply not something I ever mentioned in prayer. Thus, even today, it is much more natural for me to pray for people in their personal lives than to pray for them in their professional roles. How I pray has been molded by my practices of prayer.

If Reason #1 has in merit, it also suggests a way to help people begin to pray for business. Do it. Model it. If pastors and others who pray in worship services, for example, began on a fairly regular basis to pray for businesses and business leaders, for bosses and employees, for church members in their professional roles, that example would have a powerful impact on the prayer practices of the congregation, both in corporate and private prayer.

Tomorrow I’ll offer up some other reasons why Christians don’t pray for business. 

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