.It seems rather strange to the about to write a practical blog at this time of year. It is raining outside and any sensible pilgrim is tucked up in the warm. There will be little chance of trying out what I am going to suggest for sometime yet. But a promise is a promise so here goes. But I must stress that the following is my experience.It is not 'the' way it must be done, perhaps it is one amongst many. .
.When you set off give yourself a little time to settle into the rhythm of the day. This need not be a long time, do not fall into the trap of putting a start off and so waste the day. After a little while begin to think about all those things you want to pray about. For 98% of these are contained within the category of 'God bless Mummy and Daddy' prayers, the things that you need God to do for you. Please do not think that I want to devalue these needs.Our Father has invited us to cast all out burdens on him. Some of these requests are very serious and you will not proceed very far until you have addressed them. There are however, like birds that will keep dropping down into the silent space to feed off your prayer time, if you let them. Deal with them first and sent them on their way. This takes about 45 minutes to one hour for me. There are times when the problems you bring are so massive that you do not get very far from them. This is not a failing. On my first pilgrimage it took many days to move on from here.( The story is on earlier posts. If you have not read my story perhaps it would help you to read it so that you are able to understand where I am coming from) ..
.There is much work to be done here. All those hurts and pains of previous times need healing. They are healed by looking at them and through them in prayer. Opening up to God's spirit all those dark rancid corners that have not seen the light of day for years. It may be ,as I have said already, that you will need to go over much ground and even go over it many times. But do not rush it as this is one of the reasons you are here on Pilgrimage. You have a great deal of time to use, so use it wisely. ..
.There is also the 'holding up before God' those things that are of concern to you, but with which you are not directly involved, but are of real concern to you. Aunt Maud's operation that she is to have later today and many other similar things. If may feel as thought the list is inexhaustible, but is is not. You will get to the end of it. ..
.Do not be misled at this point. You have run out of words, but the prayer is not over. Prayer is not just a shopping list. It is more about relationship than words. The example of two lovers comes to mind at this point. When they first meet each other after a period of separation, they cannot stop taking. After a while the words cease and silence takes over. This silence is about harmony and togetherness. Should one of the lovers wander off at this point, this coming together would be halted, with no little distress as the link is smashed. The absence of words does not mean an absence of communication. So with prayer . Silence has eloquence of its own. ..
.There are times when it is not possible to get into this active state of silence. This is where the use of the 'Jesus prayer' is helpful. The prayer goes like this~ 'Lord Jesus Christ. Son of God. Have mercy upon me.' Say it over and over. It has a mantra like quality. It will focus the mind and draw you into the presence of God. It works by stilling the surface mind by giving it something to do whilst the lower levels detach and follow the lover. ..
.A little discernment is needed here. The thoughts that come into the mind are not all enemies of the soul. Some thought will not be your thoughts, but God's answer to the hopes and questions that you have expressed in the earlier opening section or even from other days. So weigh the thought carefully and quickly. If it is not of the moment, say, I wonder how Man U are doing? put the thought down and walk on. If it is not of prayer, but is important the write it down on a note pad and work through it later. If on the other hand you begin to discern the hand of God within it answering and taking you on into new truth then allow it to run in this Holy prayer space. It will be in this way that God will speak to you, healing you and giving you the next steps of your life pilgrimage. ..
.The ground is now cleared to go to the next level. Levels are a great way to think about prayer. In former times and in earlier understandings of God, God was seen as 'out there'. the Deity who was watching us from on high. This is not enough. St Augustine spoke of God as the ground of our being. He is the first principle. He comes first before everything. He comes before my thought about him. He is foundational. We on the other hand are secondary. Our thinking is built on the ground of our being. He is down there in the depths of my being. Thus as I focus and find the still centre of my being I begin to find God. This is why we have cleared the decks, dug down, stilled the heart to travel into his presence. ..
.As well as being relationship, prayer is also experimental theology. That is not to say that we are free to make it up as we go long. But it is the space where we find out things about God by observation of the situation that we find ourselves in. Prayer on pilgrimage has a good slice of this experience. As with physical science, this science of God needs patience and insight into what is happening. Without acute observation much can be missed. The silent centre can be mistaken for just a silent place or we can go deeper into it and get to God's heart. ..
.Tresa Of Avila and St John of the Cross, both Spanish mystics, have written about the darkness of God. By that they mean that God is so other that he cannot be seen with any of our existing senses. That he is also such intense light that to look on him produces an instant blindness.But look we must! It is in this looking that we experience him. There is a direct link between this blinding darkness of God and the deafening silence that we experience in pilgrim prayer. We peer into the dark, strain our ears in the silence and meet with the ground of our being. ..
.This takes time and persistence. We have to become tuned into his presence. When we are, all takes on a new awareness, an awareness of him, that in time becomes a daily opening to us of the God space, not restricted to our wonderful pilgrimages.