Traveling is a beautiful way to encounter other people and other cultures, and to be inspired by what you find and even more so, by those whom you meet. When you make that decision to go traveling, make it with God, because when you allow Him to work through you and guide you as you travel – then you’re in for an incredible adventure.
For me personally, traveling has brought with it some of my most treasured memories and most providential encounters. But it’s also brought with it challenges – both physical and spiritual!
One of these challenges has always been how to keep a consistent prayer life when on the move; with the constant challenges of time zone differences and having to be finding my feet in new places, and with new people.
So here are 7 recommendations for praying whilst you travel.
1. It starts before you even set off!
A priest speaking about vocation once told me that a man who doesn’t pray is a seminarian who doesn’t pray, and a seminarian who doesn’t pray is a priest who doesn’t pray. The point he was making is that we can’t think that our prayer life will suddenly flourish when we move onto the next stage in our journey – it has to be present from the beginning!
Similarly, with traveling we shouldn’t expect that we are going to suddenly find “time to pray”, the most important thing to know about praying while you travel is that it will be grounded in the prayer life that you have already fostered at home.
Maybe there will be more time alone to pray as you travel, but as a general rule, if you don’t pray at home then you’re not going to suddenly be able to pray when you’re away from home. So start now!
2. Mass – Why is everyone standing?
Mass when you’re traveling can present its own challenges, but don’t be afraid of the different language or the different customs! The congregation may well be standing when you’d normally be kneeling, or sitting when you’d normally be standing but don’t worry! The important thing is that you are there!
The best rule of thumb is to follow the congregation; the local Bishops conference will set out the liturgical norms for the congregation to follow, and you’ll soon discover the natural rhythm of the liturgy.
Recently I was introduced to the Byzantine rite Divine Liturgy as there was no Latin rite Mass where I was, and it was certainly very different to anything that I’d previously experienced, but it was so incredibly beautiful – something that I am truly thankful for having experienced.
3. Build habits (but be ready for change).
Find things that work for you and make them a daily habit as you settle into traveling through different places. Maybe it’ll be a simple morning consecration each day when you wake up; or maybe you’ll find that an opportunity naturally presents itself which you can use as a time for prayer, like your morning commute – the key is to find things that you’re going to be able to do each day!
One time I found myself at a beautiful camp on the Croatian coast, and it worked for me to take twenty minutes each morning to sit out by the water and pray a rosary. It wasn’t something I had planned to do, but the opportunity was there, and so I turned it into a daily habit.
Hopefully wherever you go you’ll also be able to find these natural wellsprings of prayer and use them as daily springboards; it could be a time of the day that you’re always free, or an incredible view that you pass regularly that takes your breath away – these can be our opportunities for prayer.
4. Pray with a friend.
If you’re with others – maybe a fellow traveler, someone you’re visiting, or just someone you’ve bumped into – then you may like to see if they would want to pray with you. Not only does this make them aware that you may need time out to pray, but it also presents the opportunity to pray with them, and praying with a friend, or among a group of friends, is indescribably special.
I was once visiting a friend in Spain, and one night as we were getting ready to go to sleep, he asked me if I wanted to pray with him, and we did (in Spanish), and it is now one of my most treasured memories.
When we pray with friends we invite God into that friendship which is shared.
5. Call your Mother!
When I set off for a period of traveling my mum always likes to be kept updated about where I am and where I’m going – but I always forget to phone her! (sorry mum). I am quite good, however, at keeping my Heavenly Mother updated!
Our Lady is the ‘Guide of the wanderer’ as one English hymn puts it. Staying close to her is a joy for the traveler. She takes our situations, worries, concerns, joys, plans (or lack thereof) and she places them all the feet of her Son.
How do we get in contact with her? I’d recommend the rosary to the traveler – it’s easy to pray as you go and very efficacious!
6. The Jesus Prayer
This is a new one for myself; a recent discovery which I haven’t fully delved into yet, but of which I have heard so many beautiful accounts of joy, comfort, and consolation that have been found in reciting this prayer.
The prayer is simple and yet immensely powerful – and it can be said whenever and wherever (which is ideal for when you’re traveling). It finds a very strongly rooted tradition in the Eastern church, and for the early Church Fathers it was considered the key to unlocking the intimate interior ceaseless prayer of the heart.
It is to say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner”, and to say it repeatedly silently upon your lips, and in the silent depths of your heart.
My last piece of advice for prayer whilst you travel is to take it all in! Don’t let anxieties take you away from being present to the beauty and the experiences that you will have. The journey can become our prayer as we hold God before our eyes, and as He reveals His mysteries to us.
Hildebrand says in speaking of contemplation that, “Who of us does not know the supreme moments when a great truth, a glorious beauty of art or of nature, or the soul of a beloved person manifests itself to our soul with a lightning-like splendour, gracing our eyes with a vision of ultimate reality and prompting us to exclaim, “O Lord, how admirable is Thy name in the whole earth!”
This is what traveling is all about.