A pilgrimage prayer: Before setting out

Heather Prince Doss, a Presbyterian pastor who also leads pilgrimages, offers a prayer to use before beginning your intentional trip — whether it is to your mailbox or around the world.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Progressive Pilgrimage offers these reflections to all our travelers before they set out on a pilgrimage. If you are preparing to travel as a pilgrim, these questions might help ground and center your experience both before you go and while you travel. You can close your time of reflection with the included prayer.

Set your intention

There are many reasons why pilgrims set out from their homes. Some travel to commune with the divine. Some travel in search of healing, either for themselves or others. Some travel to experience grace for their sins. Some seek wisdom and clarity in times of decision-making or transition. Some desire to gain inner peace or deeper knowledge of the self.

As you prepare for a pilgrimage, set an intention for yourself. Why are you committing to this pilgrimage? What do you hope to learn? Is there some growth you are seeking? Name your intention and let it guide you as you travel and upon your return.

Who is supporting you?

Medieval pilgrims often had patrons who financed their pilgrimage. In a hierarchical feudal society, they also needed permission from a lord or priest. While you may not need such traditional forms of support, there may be people who have encouraged you to participate in a pilgrimage or who are taking on some extra responsibilities so that you can travel. Pause to think of everyone who is helping make your journey possible. Thank God for them.

What are you leaving behind?

In ancient times, pilgrims knew their journey would be long and dangerous. Most prepared for the possibility that they might not return home safely by getting their affairs in order and exchanging kind words with loved ones.

Your pilgrimage is far less risky, but still, you must leave responsibilities behind to travel. There may also be things you want to let go of to be more present in the experience. Reflect on these things. Ask for God’s help and guidance.

Who do you carry with you?

Not everyone who wants to make a pilgrimage is able to do so. Pilgrims often carry the dreams and needs of others when they travel. They might bring back holy water or a relic for an ailing loved one. They might promise to pray for their family, friends, and supporters when they reach their destination.

Who are you carrying in your heart as you set out? Who would you like to remember or pray for along the way?


God of past, present, and future,
you called Abraham and Sarah to set out from their home
and journey to the land that you would show them.
In Jesus, you walked this earth
as a fellow pilgrim with humankind.
May you now accompany me
as I set out on a journey of both body and soul.
I offer you my intention that you might sanctify it.
I thank you for all those who are making this journey possible.
Help me surrender what needs to be released, trusting in your provision.
By the Holy Spirit, connect me with those I leave behind
and with all those who have made this journey before me.
As this journey is a blessing to me,
may I, in turn, be a blessing unto others in the name of Jesus. Amen.