I reached the road, and duly waited. I ate an apple, drank some water, and waited even longer. Perhaps I was there for a full five minutes. I had no idea when or even whether a bus might pass by, nor whether it would stop for me in the middle of nowhere, and decided it was futile to wait any longer. Better to press on, through the increasingly heavy rain.
Maybe three or four minutes later, walking high above the road and parallel to it, I heard a familiar sound and glimpsed down through a gap in the trees. Sure enough, it was a bus - a bright yellow single-decker - heading the way I wanted to go. It was precisely what I'd been hoping for, but in my impatience I'd already gone by the time it arrived. 'O ye of little faith', as my father would have said.
Never mind. I enjoyed the remainder of the walk and the opportunity to reflect on the experience.
It wasn't about catching a bus, I concluded. It wasn't about a day's walking in the country. It was a lesson about prayer.
Every so often, we feel the need to turn to God. It might be a time of change or crisis, for us or for someone dear to us. It might be a perplexing situation. It might be a need for guidance. There are all sorts of reasons and circumstances which encourage us to seek God. And just as I reached and waited at a roadside in the hope of catching a bus, so we place ourselves where we think we're most likely to find God.
Perhaps we go to church - maybe even to attend a service or two. We dust off our Bible at home and start to read it. We resolve to pray each day, maybe doing so with particular fervour. We endeavour to sort out those things which trouble our conscience, perhaps through acts of generosity, service or reconciliation.
But it wears off all too quickly, and we return to our former ways - maybe not quite on the right road, not quite walking the way of Christ. Close, but not close enough to (as it were) catch the bus.
Consequently, the answer to our prayer passes us by.
To catch the bus, we need to be in the right place. To hear the answer to prayer, we need to be in the right place: the right place spiritually, attentive and open to the presence and guidance of God. And there's no better way to prepare for that than to be in the right place spiritually each and every day - learning to spend time with God, learning God's nature, learning to discern how, when and where God is leading us.
It is, of course, the work of a lifetime. And the time and place to start is today, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances.