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6 Ways to Make Standing in Line a Positive Experience

How being stuck in line can be good for you

Waiting in line
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A new year brings hopes for a fresh start and possibilities—and lines. Long lines. Lines at the “returns” window. In the airport. At the bank. For the bus or subway. In restaurants, grocery stores and traffic jams. 

If you’re anything like me, your thoughts in such moments turn to, Not again. Who’s the slowpoke? Why am I always stuck in the slowest line? And other lofty, enriching thoughts.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to make standing in line a positive experience. In fact, it’s possible—and so much better—to use that time “on line” (as some English-speakers call it) prayerfully instead of becoming impatient, annoyed or resentful.

So, the next time you’re caught in a queue, turn it to your advantage by employing one of these easy prayer strategies:

1)  Make Yourself Available to God
The Bible is full of the stories of people who were willing to pray those electrifying words, “Here I am Lord, send me.” So, when you’re stuck in line, try praying a variation: “Here I am Lord. Use me.” Or: “Here I am Lord; I am willing to be interrupted.”

2)  Ask God to Show You Something
Jesus seemed to always notice what others missed: the man at the Pool of Bethesda, the man who was “up a tree,” the woman who touched His garment. He said, “I only do what I see the Father doing” (John 5:19, paraphrase). So try turning on your radar. Or “God-dar.” Ask the Spirit, “Help me to see what you are up to around me.”

3)  Pray for the Cause of Delay
Instead of complaining about something you can’t control—the reason for the line—take a moment to pray about its cause. Was there an accident or a broken-down vehicle ahead of you in traffic? Is a new cashier being trained? Did someone call in sick? Even when you don’t know the cause, praying about such possibilities can change things for both you and others.

4)  Pray for the Person Ahead of You
Frank Laubach wrote, in his classic volume, Prayer—The Mightiest Force in the World, “Some of us who travel much have hundreds of days when we can sit behind people in street cars, trains, stations, restaurants, concerts or lectures, and pray at the back of their heads with our eyes open to see how many of them show signs of being aware.” He said that often a person he had prayed for that way would turn, look at him curiously, often smile, and frequently say something. Try it. You might pray simply, “Lord, bless him.” Or “God, meet her need today.”

5)  Pray for the Person Behind You
Remember that the people behind you in line have an even longer wait than you do. So pray for them. You might pray for them to get to their destination on time. You might even (gasp!) feel an urge to let one of them go ahead of you—especially if they have small, rambunctious children.

6)  Pray for the Cashier, Teller or Ticket Agent
You’re not the only one who gets worked up about long lines. Sometimes it puts stress on a cashier, teller or ticket agent. It could even ruin their day. So take a thought for them, and say a quick silent prayer.

With prayers like these in your pocket or purse, who knows? Being “stuck” in line might turn out to be good for you

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