When I first felt motivated to take a sabbatical, I said to myself and a few others that I wanted to learn about "praying for the healing of institutions." It has now been about six months since I left my job, and recently I've been describing what I'm doing as learning about the connections between spirituality and organizations. Both descriptions are true, but last week I was drawn back to the original intention, of praying for organizations. I'm hesitant to talk about praying for organizations because I don't want people to think that I'm trying to convert anyone to particular beliefs or actions. Here are two recent experiences that have drawn me back to the language of prayer:
Last week I did two presentations at Minneapolis Friends Meeting about spirituality and organizations. The night before the first presentation, I took my kids swimming. After about an hour and a half of swimming, my son came up to me and said, "Daddy, I think Grace's lips are purple." His observation that his sister was turning into a popsicle let me know that my quiet time was over. While watching them swim, I had a contemplative time (maybe too much so), and I found myself feeling pulled to pray for the people and organizational life that made up this Quaker Meeting. Without knowing the details of their community's life, I felt tender and open towards the brokenness and the love that is a part of their community. During that time I realized that my main responsibility in doing this talk was not to tell them about spirituality and organizations, but it was to pray for the healing of their organization. During my talk the next day, I described this opening I felt, intending it as a prayer for their community.
One secular nonprofit organization that I did consulting with recently was struggling with conflict, financial stress, and many layoffs. During the time I worked with the organization, a Quaker friend and I met a few times to pray together. Each of the times we met, at least one of us found that this organization came to mind during the prayer time. During one of those prayer times, I felt an inner nudge to ask one person in the organization I was working with to meet with me and talk about our spiritual lives and how they connected to the organization. I had barely talked with this person before, and we'd certainly never talked about anything spiritual. I eventually got up my courage to ask him to have lunch with me. I affirmed the ability that I saw in him to remain centered in stressful situations, and I asked about how he saw spirituality and work. He told me that he was a part of a small group at this organization which met to pray together. Sometimes they would pray for the well being of the organization and for other people there. I had no idea that this prayer group existed. It was a reminder that my prayers and intentions for the healing of organizations are joining with many other unseen prayers.
I have tendencies to be detached and judgmental in how I relate to groups and organizations. The prayer that I feel drawn to might be primarily about softening my own heart in relation to organizations I work with. I know that my own needs for healing are often intertwined with my prayers for organizations. To talk about loving and praying for co-workers and organizations feels uncomfortable, and it is hard for me to explain. Yet, if I am honest with myself, this is at the core of what I feel drawn to do.
Do you have stories and thoughts about prayer and organizations? I'd be grateful to hear them.