I was standing in the grocery store one day feeling pushed by the clock. And grumpy. The person in front of me was being rude to the checkout clerk. The clerk was trying to keep his cool, but was starting to lose it, too. My thought? “Well, I would pray about this, but I don’t really have time. I will do it later when I get home.”
The thing was, I had been saying that all day. Not only had I neglected praying for myself because of lack of time, but I was pushing off all kinds of things. “I would do this, or I should do that, but I don’t have time. I’ll get to it later.” And the time kept passing, and the pressure kept building, and my mood—along with the attitude of all those around me—was deteriorating.
As things continued heating up in front of me, I started looking around the store for an escape route to a shorter, less volatile line. A sign overhead caught my eye: Self-Checkout. Without budging an inch, I chuckled, thinking, “That is probably what is needed more than anything else—a moment of self-examination!”
Then came a truly unexpected thought:
“Michelle, would you leave the house and come to the store without getting dressed and brushing your teeth?” I hesitated. The thought continued: “Why would you even think of going to the grocery store without ‘freshening up’ by praying for yourself? Is that being kind to the people around you?”
In a letter to the church at Philippi, Paul encouraged the Philippians to pray regularly. He explained that prayer enables us to get everything done with joy and inspired energy. He also commended the Philippians for sharing “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
Standing in the grocery line, I thought about the “smell” I was giving off—an aura of irritation, criticism, pressure, and impatience. I felt like a woman who hadn’t changed into clean clothes or brushed her teeth before going to the store. I couldn’t blame the people around me for picking up on my “smelly” thoughts.
I no longer had time not to pray. It didn’t really take time. It took awareness. Praying in line for just a few seconds, I became aware of the sweet thoughts of God, the Christ-message of my goodness as God’s child or spiritual reflection. Then I heard the woman in front of me say, “Oh my, you are right. I am so sorry! Thank you very much.”
Dispute over. All was calm as she rolled her cart away. And the checkout clerk greeted me with a friendly, “Good morning. How are you?
Mary Baker Eddy explains, “Mind, God, sends forth the aroma of Spirit, the atmosphere of intelligence” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 191–192). Through prayer for ourselves, we reflect that sweet-smelling savor of God’s love and goodness, and everyone around us picks up the scent.
I don’t leave the house anymore without putting on the perfume of prayer. I wouldn’t do that to the people standing near me.
All it takes is a note on the bathroom mirror—PRAY NOW. If you have time to brush your teeth, you have time to pray for yourself. We owe it to ourselves and to those around us to cultivate that sweet awareness of God’s goodness!