5 Tips for Praying When You Work Shift Work

This blog is part of the Alumni Week 2021 Collection! Written by Mary, NET Alumnus 2012-2014.

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In two years of being a police officer, I have seen a lot. The trauma, intensity, and periodic tragedy is stressful; but one of the more underlying challenges of my job has been shift work. I work days, nights and always have to adjust my sleeping patterns. The nature of shift work hinders routine and keeps my mood/energy swinging around in all directions.

Balancing prayer life with shift work is tough. My prayer life is immature, but it is growing so what I share with you is simply based on my own hurdles so far. What I am confident in saying is I’ve never needed God more. Whatever the type of work you do, here are some realistic approaches for maintaining a prayer life with shift work:

#1 PRAYER IS A RELATIONSHIP

If you wouldn’t go 4 days without talking to your spouse, you shouldn’t go 4 days without talking to God. At the end of each shift I feel like I have nothing left, so I use this spousal concept as a reminder that even a short conversation is better than none and it is necessary to keep a relationship alive. 

#2 SOMETHING FROM NOTHING
 “but she, out of her poverty, put in everything” - Mark 12:43-44

Any shift worker can relate to having seemingly no time or an abundance of time. It is the nature of working longer days, nights, and having days off when everyone else is at work. When I re-committed to prayer I learned to forgive myself if I failed. Give yourself a little grace if all you can give to prayer is the time during your drive to work at first. Give your everything even if your everything is barely anything. God sees even the smallest efforts. 

#3 DEALING WITH DARKNESS
“the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us” - Romans 8:18

Shift workers, particularly first responders, see the most beautiful or horrid, inspiring or devastating moments in life. We take home a burden whether we know it or not.  It is easy to become jaded; it is more difficult (but rewarding) to maintain hope in something greater. I find comfort in remembering God’s fatherhood over his children. Praying during a shift and over the people you work with is an excellent way to cope with the impossible circumstances in other people’s lives. 

#4 TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TIME
“I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish” - Jeremiah 31:25

There are days that provide an abundance of time and quiet. (Keep in mind that I do not have kids yet… shift-working parents are saints!) I work 2 days, 2 nights (12 hour shifts), and 4 days off. Days off give the opportunity to take more time to be still and spend time with God. I like to reset on those days and have the prayer time that I may have lacked during my set of shifts. Have a “retreat mindset” and praise the Lord for when you do have a little extra time to sit in His goodness. 

#5 ROUTINE AMID NO ROUTINE

The same advice for shift workers when it comes to sleep applies to prayer: find what works for you; and make it a routine. Keeping your routine for sleep consistent can help bring some normality to an unconventional schedule. Some tips: have prayer before the nap, schedule prayer on your break, try a daily devotional that will keep you accountable to prayer, and consider a spiritual director. 

We have a host of angels and saints to get us through some ugly shifts. Accept prayers from others when it’s offered and make your never-ending  needs known before the Lord. 

St Michael, St Joan of Arc, St Joseph, protect us and pray for us. 
Cheers, Mary 

Mary served on NET in 2012-2014 on two different parish teams across Canada and has now been a police officer for two years.