During the recent holiday season I had many opportunities—I use the term reservedly—to shop with my lovely wife. She and I approach shopping differently. That is to say, she shops; I suffer. It doesn’t matter if we’re buying groceries, gifts or gadgets, the process of shopping (as opposed to walking straight to the item you intend to buy and taking it to the checkout lane as quickly as possible) is an agonizing experience for me.
But at some point in our recent crowded-store adventures, it dawned on me that praying might be a better use of my time and energy than pouting and protesting. Lo and behold, it was! It transformed the experience for me. So I offer here the fruits of my discovery in the hope that it may help someone else who isn’t totally engaged in the delights of shopping with a spouse:
1) Give thanks for the ability to shop.
How often do we shop and buy without a thought about how fortunate we are to be able to do so? Even a shopping curmudgeon like me ought to be grateful for the ability to shop, while many of our elderly and shut-in neighbors would love a trip to a store or mall, and many with much more limited resources would love to have just a portion of what we spend on groceries or gifts. So take a few moments as you shop to say “thank you” for the means and ability to go shopping.
2) Pray for those who lack the resources you enjoy.
While you’re at it, why not pray for God to comfort and bless those who lack the resources to buy a cartload of groceries or clothes or gifts? Take a moment to remember in prayer people who seldom get out of the house or must rely on others for transportation. Pray also for those who live in remote places, far from the shopping outlets you take for granted.
3) Ask for the wisdom to be a good steward.
Every time you shop you have the opportunity to exercise wisdom. Will you buy things just because you can, “that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3, NIV)? Or will you shop according to God’s values, taking into account not only your desires but also the effects of your purchases on yourself, your family and others? So ask God to help you spend wisely.
4) Pray for those who grew or made the items you see.
Another way to pray while you shop (or your spouse does) is to ask God to help and bless the farmer who grew your vegetables or coffee beans and the laborers and manufacturer who made the shoes or toys you buy.
5) Pray for those who will receive and enjoy the things you buy.
It can also be a meaningful exercise to think about and pray for the people who will consume the groceries you buy (even if it’s just you) or the other items you purchase. For example, you don’t have to wait to ask God to “bless” the food at your table; you can ask it in the grocery store aisle.
6) Pray for those who serve you in the store.
Finally, send up a prayer for the employees who surround you in the mall or store where you shop. Pray for the person you ask for directions. Ask God to bless the pharmacist who fills your prescription. Intercede for the cashier who totals your purchase and the person who gathers the grocery carts in the parking lot. And when you have the chance, say something to them that might help to answer your own prayer.
You might not be as grumpy as me when it comes to shopping, but the above ideas can transform every trip nonetheless, even while they expand and enrich your own soul with more prayer. And who doesn’t need that?