Probably the worst couple of miles walking of my whole journey today, from Sandwich to Pegwell Bay, alongside a dual carriageway, and industrial estate and commercial development

Extract from Reflections Journal – Friday 1st September 2017

The walk out of Walmer was pleasant as it took me through the town but the section of footpath besides the golf course was a little dull. I planned to walk as far as Sandwich and then take a detour out to Richborough Roman Fort which would add 3 miles to my journey. The visit to Richborough was a satisfying distraction and interesting to spend a little time following the audio tour around the site. I was heading for Minster, my last stop before Canterbury, but had planned for my route to pass St Augustine’s Cross just north of Pegwell Bay.

St Augustine’s Cross marks the site where it is thought that St Augustine landed on the shores of Britain in AD597. At this spot it is said he held a mass before travelling on.

From the site of the cross I continued inland to Minster where I would spend the night and where I would have the opportunity to visit the chapel at Minster Abbey. The abbey welcomes visitors and travellers and invites people to ‘find a space to discover the presence of God in their lives.’ And on the topic of hospitality they say, ‘All guests who come to the monastery should be received as Christ’.

I found myself alone in the chapel that afternoon and as sat quietly I reflected on the prayers that I had encountered during my pilgrimage. By the time I arrived in Canterbury I had received just 5 offers of prayer for my journey, something that I still find quite disappointing. The prayers that were offered and shared with me were powerful and personal, and they were graciously and meaningfully shared.

Why is it that prayer so often seems so difficult? Whether personal prayer or prayer for and with others. If, as we should, we take Jesus as our example for our devotions and discipleship then prayer ought to be something at the very heart of our lives. I read recently the comment, ‘It is much easier to preach about prayer for 30 minutes than it is to pray for 30 minutes’. Perhaps this is true, and I must confess that there are still times in my own life when prayer doesn’t come easily. I have long been an advocate of the idea that we can pray wherever we are and in whatever we are doing, and that we should see prayer as an ongoing conversation with our Father God who is always listening, and my pilgrimage certainly reinforced this in me. I also use alarms on my phone to break into my day in order that I will stop what I am doing and make just 5 minutes to pray for a particular person or situation, and yet some days that conversation just doesn’t seem to happen. 1 Thessalonians chapter 5:16-16 says;

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I don’t think that this passage is meant to be understood as an instruction to continuous, uninterrupted prayer all day long, but it does point to an attitude in our discipleship where prayer is appropriate at all times of the day.

It can be frustrating, and perhaps dispiriting, when we hear somebody in the fellowship or in our house-group talk about how prayer is, ‘like talking to my best friend’, or how they, ‘find it easier to speak than listen’, when we can’t seem to find the right words to pray at all, and I think that one of the most important things we need to remember in our faith journey and in our discipleship is that we don’t need to compare ourselves with other Christians. God doesn’t do it and we shouldn’t either. God isn’t measuring us up against anybody else to see if we make the grade. He is inviting us into a relationship with him and a life of learning to become the person He created us to be.

Since returning from my pilgrimage I have made something of a commitment to myself to be more generous with my prayers – both for myself and for others – and I am trying make the space to pray whenever the opportunity arises. I don’t always achieve what I am aiming for, but I will continue to strive for it.

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