Pray and work

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"Ora et labora" redirects here. For album by Croatian singer Marko Perković Thompson, see Ora et labora (album).
Relief with the motto (in gold) Ora et labora

The phrase pray and work (or "pray and labor", in Latin ora et labora) refers to the Christian monastic practice of working and praying, generally associated with its use in the Rule of Saint Benedict.[1]

Benedict viewed prayer and work as partners, and believed in combining contemplation with action.[2] The phrase expresses the need to balance prayer and work in monastic settings and has been used in many religious communities from the Middle Ages onwards.

Some orders (such as the Cistercians) applied the concept directly to farm work and became an element in the movement towards land reclamation from rot and agricultural development in Western Europe. Other orders such as the Humiliati applied the concept to the production of woolen cloth using wheels in the period prior to the industrial revolution.


In 1818, Dalhousie University was established, adopting the motto of Ora et Labora in 1870. This is also the motto of Clan Ramsay, of which the Earl of Dalhousie is the leader. [3]

In 1857, near the village of present-day Bay Port, Michigan, German Christians led by Emil Baur founded the religious community called the Christian German Agricultural and Benevolent Society of Ora et Labora or Ora Labora. Designed along the lines of religious, socialist, and communal living, 288 colonists created the town near the shores of Wild Fowl Bay. The community operated where members could combine work with prayer, and live according to the Methodist Church Discipline, but Baur also planned to build institutions of learning for the diffusion of literary, scientific, and religious information, and homes for the care of widows and orphans. However due to the draft law of the American Civil the younger men were into the service, and the colony was without funds to hire substitutes for them. By 1867 only 14 families remained when the colony disbanded.[4]

In 1874, Wesley College, Colombo, a high school in Sri Lanka, was founded by Methodist missionaries. It has been using "Ora Et Labora" as the motto since its inception.

Motto of Billimoria High School, Panchgani.jpg

It is also the motto of Billimoria High School, in Panchagani, District North Satara, Maharashtra, India. Founded in 1908 as the Parsi High School by the late Mr Naoroji Billimoria. His sons, Mr Burjorji N Billimoria and Mr Rustomji N Billimoria were the joint principals till the late 1990s, when the school was sold. But the name and the Motto still remain. (Added to this page by Yazdie N Panthaki, Class of 1973)

In 1929, the religious Zionist organisation Bnei Akiva was founded with the motto of torah v'avodah, meaning "Torah and work".

In 1936, the Methodist Boys Secondary School, Sentul, a school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was founded by the late Rev. Preston L Peach. Its motto has always been "Ora Et Labora".

St Michael Secondary School Penampang Sabah motto Appear to use Ora Et Labora as school motto and St Aloysius Limabanak Penampang Sabah Primary School also use the same motto but translated it to Malays "Berdoa Dan Berusaha" meaning Pray and Work

When walking in to the LEGO head quarter in Billund, Denmark, there is a plate on the right hand site with the picture of the founder, and the inscription: "ora et lebora".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anselm Grün, Linda M. Maloney (2006). Benedict of Nursia 2006 ISBN 0-8146-2910-5 page 30
  2. ^ Lonni Collins Pratt, Daniel Homan (2001). Benedict's Way: An Ancient Monk's Insights for a Balanced Life ISBN 0-8294-1787-7 page 47
  3. ^ Waite, P. (1997). Lives of Dalhousie University: 1925–1980, The Old College Transformed. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 0-7735-1644-1. page 98.
  4. ^ Evet, Paul (1956). Thumbs Up. A Collection of Historical Essays on Huron County and the Thumb, by Members of an Off- campus Class in English. Mt. Pleasant, MI: Central Michigan College of Education. Central Michigan University. 


  • Ora et labora: prayer and action as cooperation with God by Robert Field, University of the South, 1993