As a Quaker I appreciate the belief that everything is equally sacred. Therefore any Quaker business meeting uses the ‘Quaker Business Method’ and a (local, area or yearly) meeting’s business meeting is formally called, a ‘Meeting for Worship for Business’, we also have ‘Meeting for Worship for Marriage’.
The names and belief are a reminder to hold that stillness and connection we find in worship as we go about our daily lives. That’s hard – and I fail regularly but it is a great thing to attempt.
Yearly Meeting is the annual gathering of Quakers from across Britain, with visitors from further afield. The entire period – from the opening on the first night to the closing moments is considered to be one Meeting for Business. It is an amazing experience to worship and do business in a worshipful manner seeking the will of God in a room full of several hundred other Quakers. One I’m always grateful for!
Prayer is an exercise of the spirit, as thought is of the mind. To pray about anything is to use the powers of our spirit on it, just as to think clearly is to use our mental powers. For the best solution of every problem, the best carrying out of every action, both thought and prayer are necessary… To pray about any day’s work does not mean to ask success in it. It means, first to realise my own inability to do even a familiar job, as it truly should be done, unless I am in touch with eternity, unless I do it ‘unto God’, unless I have the Father with me. It means to see ‘my’ work as part of a whole, to see ‘myself’ as not mattering much, but my faith, the energy, will and striving, which I put into the work, as mattering a great deal. My faith is the point in me at which God comes into my work; through faith the work is given dignity and value. And if, through some weakness of mine, or fault of others, or just ‘unavoidable circumstances’, the work seems a failure, yet prayer is not wasted when it is unanswered, any more than love is wasted when it is unreturned.
Prayer is often a tricky topic for Quakers. Instead, we talk about ‘holding in the light’ and of finding ‘way forward’. Yet one of the things that makes a Quaker business meeting so very different from a secular business meeting is that it is grounded in prayer. The Quaker Business Method involves coming with heart and mind prepared, listening not only to those speaking, but to those holding the silence and trying to touch the divine, plus being willing to seek the best way forward without holding their own agenda.
Being an active part of this Quaker Business Method is the responsibility of all members, not just the clerk or elders. Accepting whatever you are called to today, that it might be different than on another day – whether it is holding the silence, listening for those prompts of love and truth, speaking only when you are responding to a leading, and listening for the meaning within unclear or hurtful words are all part of a spiritual discipline. These habits also work well in a work situation, especially when dealing with the general public I’ve found over the year.
Starting the workday, or a work task, by pausing and mentally transitioning from the previous activities is useful. Taking that moment to ask God to help you do this work with love, to see that of God in those you are interacting with and to live out those testimonies that you hold dear as you go through the work.
Through doing this I’ve found that even day-to-day tasks take on aspects of vocation rather than drudgery. It also helps me to maintain good boundaries, accepting that there is a time to stop and let someone else have a turn. Rather than feeling, I need to do everything. After all – I’ve already accepted I can’t do it all by asking for that help.