By April Yamasaki
At the first meeting of The Upper Deck Company in March of 1988, President Paul Sumner invited the other five men in the room to join him in prayer:
“Dear God,” Sumner began. “Here we are, the group of us, creating a new corporation. The Upper Deck Company — it’s like having a little baby, so fresh and young and tender. Give us the wisdom and strength to guide ourselves through this place called Earth. Give us the knowledge to raise this entity with poise and confidence. Help us to lay our foundation on sound principles and to organize its power in such a form, as it will be, to most likely effect its safety and happiness. And for the support of this endeavor with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our sacred honor — Amen.”
“Amen,” the other five men said in unison. As recounted in Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child’s Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business by Pete Williams, MacMillan 1995.
Within the year the newly launched Upper Deck Company issued its first set of baseball cards — a premium product printed on higher quality paper instead of regular cardboard stock, with a unique hologram to guard against counterfeiting. The following year the company expanded its licensed products to include hockey, football, and basketball cards.
Today Upper Deck continues to produce sports cards along with electronic cards, toys, and games. The “little baby” of 1988 has grown “with poise and confidence” just as Sumner had envisioned in his prayer.
Yet the mutual pledge of “sacred honor” among the six men that started the company didn’t last long. Tensions surfaced, and within months, Bill Hemrick had resigned as vice president of marketing; Boris Korbel, who started as vice president of manufacturing, replaced Paul Sumner as president; and Richard McWilliam, vice president of finance, demanded a larger share of the ownership.
Clearly, their prayer was no guarantee that their partnership would go smoothly, and their story raises questions about how we might pray for our business ventures today.
Is praying for business in the Bible?
Before they became followers of Jesus, Simon Peter, James, and his brother, John, were partners in a fishing business. Lydia was both a worshipper of God and a dealer in fine fabrics. Paul was an entrepreneur who also worked for a time alongside Aquila and Priscilla as fellow tentmakers.
As an evangelist and church planter, Paul regularly prayed for the churches that were part of his ministry. To the church in Philippi, he wrote: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (1:3-4). To the church in Thessalonika: “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:2-3).
But while Paul didn’t hesitate to pray for the church’s “work produced by faith,” did he also pray for the work of his hands in making tents? Did Lydia pray for the success of her business? Did the fishing partners ever pray for a good catch or for calm weather or for mutual honor in their business partnership?
We have no evidence that they prayed for their business in these ways, yet Scripture clearly understands everything as a matter of prayer, as in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Surely “anything” and “every situation” includes our business ventures too. In that spirit, here are three business prayers for today.
Prayer for wisdom
“If any of you lacks wisdom,” says James 1:5, “you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” At the start of his reign, King Solomon asked God for wisdom to govern the people. So too running a business today requires wisdom — to establish sound principles, to discern the way forward, to deal with technical, financial, personnel, and other issues.
God, grant me wisdom in faithfully stewarding this business in ways that honor you and for the good of others.
Prayer for God’s favor
The psalmist prayed, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us” (Psalm 90:17). Yet in the Bible, prayers for success are also tempered by humility. As James 1:11 reminds us, “the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”
God, this business and our very lives are in your hands. Guide our decisions and look upon our efforts with favor.
Prayer for God’s will
James 4:13-15 offers this rebuke:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
God, whether we make money or struggle, whether we expand or need to cut back, direct our steps and may your will be done.