One of the things I've struggled with over the years is knowing how to best pursue my own productivity goals. At various times, I’ve experienced everything from “productivity pride” to “productivity disappointment” to “productivity envy.” Along the way, I have learned that I don’t have to battle my productivity struggles in my own strength. And as a result of some of those lessons, I’ve collated a few items that I regularly pray for in relation to my productivity pursuits.
While there’s nothing earth-shatteringly profound about these prayer points, the effect of praying about my work in these ways has helped me understand my work more theocentrically. So, I offer this list of productivity prayer requests here for your consideration, particularly if you’re susceptible to locating your identity in task accomplishment (or task failure) as I often do.
1. Pray, broadly, for diligence and direction in my work. Like any other area, I can’t do my vocation apart from God.
2. Pray, specifically, for what God wants me to accomplish today, and thus to trust God for what I am working on AND for what I'm not working on today. (My resources are finite, and what I'm able to accomplish in any given day is limited.)
3. Pray for openness and patience with divinely appointed “interruptions.”
4. Pray that I will not worship my productivity, and that I will not have an achievement-based identity, but will instead understand my identity in Christ as foundational.
5. Pray for freedom from the fear of man that would lead me mainly to attempt to please and impress others with my work. Conversely, pray that I would simply seek a sense of God's approval and awareness that I have been faithful with my time and talents.
6. Pray that I will have an honest assessment of my gifts/abilities and what I am capable of accomplishing in any given set of circumstances. That way I will have realistic expectations about what I'm aiming at, and not set myself a standard that is based on what someone else can do. We all have the same 24 hours, but not the same wiring, stage in life, experience/foundation, calling, responsibilities, and/or number of talents/gifts from God, nor in the same degree.
7. Along the same lines as the previous, pray for contentment with my vocation, gifts, talents, etc. as opposed to envying someone else’s.
8. Pray for a clear and confident sense of vocation so I will know when to say yes and when to say no to various opportunities that come my way.
9. Pray for freedom from the tug of leisure when it is time to work, and for freedom from guilt over the unaccomplished when it is time to rest, knowing that God is sovereign over all things, the accomplishment of my “To Do list” included.
10. Pray that I will see and understand that my family is part of my vocational calling and not just my M-F 9-5 job. Therefore, I need to plan and reserve energy for them too.
For a great resource on a theology of vocation more broadly speaking, see Gene Veith’s, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.
And for someone who’s been thinking carefully about the theology and practice of productivity and work-flow much longer than I have, you may want to check out Matt Perman’s website: What’s Best Next. I am eagerly anticipating his new book on the subject: What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (due out October 2012).