“Daddy, watch me!” The little girl with newly removed training wheels grinned from cheek to cheek, her pigtails flopping.
“Honey, no, don’t go yet! You will need my help to begin,” Dad answered.
“No, I can do it on my own, Daddy. Remember? I’m five now!”
“You are going to…” Dad could not finish his sentence before running to his daughter, who was crying on the cement.
“I told you, Honey. I will hold onto the seat. Then you won’t fall.”
“Okay, Daddy. Don’t ever let go,” the girl pleaded.
From the earliest of ages, we were taught to pray. We were taught a little prayer to say before and after meals. Our little hands were clasped tightly beside our beds, and we prayed that God would keep us safe while we slept and would wake us in the morning. “Our Father which art in heaven…” flowed off the tongue in unison with the family. In school, we formulated our own prayers to say when our turn for devotions arrived. Prayer has been a nurturing milk, flowing through our family life, school life, and church life.
But is prayer also established in our personal lives? A life of prayer is crucial, especially as young people. We grow up, sit in the driver’s seat of our cars, and think we have all the time and control in the world. We don’t need the help of our parents or teachers anymore. We don’t need guidance or direction. We’re smart enough. We forget our weakness and dependency. Driving up to the large building called school, we strut in thinking we can take on the world. Within a short time, we totter on our bike seats, lose our balance, and realize our foolishness. Our heads hang heavy, overwhelmed with the relentless pressures of school-work, jobs, decisions for our future, friendships, and, overriding all these things, the constant battle against sin.
Why is this? We have turned our eyes from a very important relationship: the beautiful covenant relationship between God and us, his people, the relationship that makes him our Father and us his beloved children. Yes, beloved. We are without a doubt dearly loved by God our Father, and we cry “abba” to him (Rom. 8:15). He is both our Father and our Friend. To have communion with a friend, we must speak. Therefore, we must speak to God. He speaks to us clearly in his word, and we respond to him in prayer. Prayer is “the chief part of thankfulness” (H.C. L.D. 45, Q & A 116).
We pray not only when life is overwhelming and difficult. God is not just our lifeline. But we pray reverently in the most mundane of things and in the most joyous of times. He bows down his ear unto us (Ps. 86:1) as we confess that he is our Father, that all glory belongs to him, when we ask that his kingdom come, that his will be performed in us, that he provide for our needs, and that our sins be forgiven.
Let us go forth as young people, strong in prayer, understanding our need for dependence, just as the psalmist David says: “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy” (Ps. 61:1–3).
Originally published January 2020, Vol. 79 No. 1
Book Review: Veith, Gene Edward. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011.
A tired ear bends to yet another wail from the bassinet, the dryer buzzes, the full sink beckons to be emptied, boiling water awaits added ingredients, bedspreads lay wrinkled and forlorn, the phone rings, van doors close in the school parking lot, the thermometer beeps too quickly, sacrificial arms embrace tightly, a prayer is lifted. The cool air of morning wafts into the car, familiar voices chatter on the radio, names fill every slot of the schedule, yet another envelope enters the top corner of the computer screen, a knock sounds on the office door, eyelids sink, a ding resonates through the phone, footsteps patter on the floor toward the door, arms scoop up, a seat is taken, a prayer is lifted. Books weigh on the back, eyes follow fellow pupils, “good mornings” are given, the heart thumps at the sight of the exam, ink words fill pages, hands raise in question, locker doors clang in finality, the unknown lingers, too many paths to take, a prayer is lifted.
Described above are a few of the common day-to-day activities of the mother in the home, the father at work, and the son or daughter as a student. In the book God at Work, Gene Veith beautifully takes apart the meaning of the word “vocation” through the lens of the Protestant Reformation. In doing so, he brings to your attention that the seemingly insignificant day-to-day activities are instead sacred callings of service to others through the work of God in you.
In the world today, the word vocation is tossed around flippantly as just another word for a job or work. Interestingly enough, this is the way vocation was referred to at the time preceding the Protestant Reformation. To the Roman Catholic Church, the only work that was viewed as a true vocation was done by those who held important offices in the church, like bishops and priests. The mothers, the masons, and all other laymen were seen as insignificant and part of the secular areas of work. Luther demolished this idea with the teaching of the priesthood of all believers. Everyone could stand before God equal in their callings. Not only did men in the church have a sacred calling, but every kind of work was transformed into a holy and sacred calling.
A sacred calling is a calling that serves God and the neighbor. Is the calling sacred because of what you do? Absolutely not! Gene Veith uses the analogy that Luther used of vocation being the “mask of God.” Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, God is there. Not always seen, but constantly present, “hiding” behind the scenes. Child of God, you would fail without him! What a wonderful truth that he works in and through you, even in spite of your great weaknesses. Think of the doctors, the pastors, the farmers, the policemen, and so many others. Do they, in themselves, heal you? Save you? Feed you? Protect you? It is God at work, through them. He works through the vocations of worldly men by his providence. By this you must understand that God cares for you through them, providing for your daily bread, for example. But God works in a different way through the vocations of his children. He works grace. For example, God calls a man to preach, which is the greatest means of grace. This leads men to believe! He is at work through preachers.
And it is God at work through you too, dear child. Through him alone you are able to strive toward the goal and purpose of vocation, which, according to Veith, is “to love and serve one’s neighbor” (Veith, 39–40). Our neighbors are dependent on us, and we are dependent on our fellow neighbors. Remember when Jesus told his disciples that when they fed and clothed the poor, they really fed and clothed him? When we love and serve our neighbors, we love and serve God, as he is hidden in our neighbors. What inexpressible joy is to be found in wearing the mask of God!
I feel as though I personally am unqualified to be talking to you concerning vocation. I still do not see clearly where God would like me to go and how exactly he would like me to serve. But I understand now that my mind conjured too much of a “big picture” notion of vocation. Maybe you are reading this in the exciting, yet nerve-wracking, time of your senior year. Or maybe you have even been out of school for a time. I thought that I needed to have one goal, one plan, one idea in mind. I needed to know what I was “going to do with my life” (as the phrase usually goes). I was completely wrong. Vocation is not for us to choose, but it is what God is calling us to in each and every moment of life. No matter what decision you make, God has a place for you and will bring you there in whatever way he may need to.
You have particular gifts and talents given to you by God. In focusing on your interests, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your personality, you are able then to find what vocation might fit. If you excel in math, then a major in engineering or the like may be a good fit. If you are a strong writer, consider the English fields. Do you have a care for children and the schools? Consider the teaching profession. Do you enjoy working with your hands? Look into the trades. So yes, we do make choices. We must make choices, but the idea is that God himself is acting in these decisions. He acts by using outside people and circumstances. The admissions representative might deny you entrance into the university. God closes a door. You continue work at your part-time job until he opens another door. That job is your vocation too.
Therefore, vocation is not just one specific place or area or end goal. You have a vocation in so many different spheres! God has given you an abundance of areas in which you must love and serve your neighbor. Not only has he placed you in those spheres, but he has uniquely designed you with the gifts and talents to be able to serve in those spheres. Are you a mother, or will you be a mother someday? You have a vocation to care for the children at home. To teach them, to raise them. You have a vocation as a wife to love and submit to your husband. You have a place as a member of the church, as a parent in the school. Yes, your vocation does have to do with your career, but sometimes when this is unclear, then remember that God is at work in the “small” moments too. Clean your room, drive a friend to school, help your mom, or babysit for a family at church. These are sacred callings too, because you know what? When you understand vocation rightly, “it transfigures ordinary, everyday life with the presence of God” (Veith, 17).
Yes, Mother, your nights spent feeding and rocking, time spent doing the wash, doing the dishes, cooking dinner, making beds, picking up from school, administering Tylenol, and holding your children are your sacred spheres of vocation. Holy work. God is at work through you. Father, the days may drag on, going to work morning after morning, providing for the family, answering emails, taking calls, dealing with customers, giving energy to your children, and leading your family. You are serving and loving your neighbor. God is at work through you. You have a sacred place. Young person, you have a lot going on with schoolwork, tests, friendships, responsibilities at home, and decisions to be made for the future. Remember, your vocation is not for you to decide. God has the perfect fit for you. Look at the talents and abilities he has given. Serve where you are right now, and he will show you. God is at work, but you will still sin on this side of the grave, so continue to lift up a prayer to God, “being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Originally published February 2021, Vol 80 No 2