One of the most important and helpful tools of spiritual formation is prayer. It is one of the chief ways in which a disciple connects with God to nourish the inward life of faith and trust. Prayer is simply a conversation with God. It is both speaking and listening. It is bringing the concerns of the heart to share and express. It is a time of confession and honest reflection. It is expressing the joys and celebrations of the day in thanksgivings. It is listening in silence to the inner heart beat of God’s Spirit expressing love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. And prayer is the energizing and renewing voice of challenge to change, risk, and serve. A honest seeker of God cannot and will not find God without prayer.
We hear it said that a man will suffer in his life is he does not pray; I question it. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God within him, which is nourished not by food but by prayer…Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished. –Oswald Chambers
Prayer is one of Grace’s Seven Habits of Effective Disciples. We strive to grow our abilities to pray to the point that it can be a normal everyday habit and we reach the goal to “pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) One of tools we have at Grace to grow the habit of prayer is our Prayer Labyrinth. Built by Chris Sluis as an Eagle Scout project, it is a unique gift to both our church and the community.
What is a Prayer Labyrinth?
Prayer Labyrinths have been around for a long time! They are found in many cultures dating back as much as 3,500 years. Unlike a maze, the labyrinth is unicursal, having a single path leading to the center with no loops, cul-de-sacs or forks. They all share the basic features of an entrance, a single circuitous path and a center or goal.
The Prayer Labyrinth was adopted by the Church across Europe during the medieval times, being often used as a means to meditate, pray and connect with God in a different way. If you visit some of cathedrals in Europe you will find prayer labyrinths embedded into their floors. One of the reasons why Prayer labyrinths were so popular was the fact they were viewed as a journey to Jerusalem and were even called Chemin de Jerusalem (Road of Jerusalem) serving as a spiritual pilgrimage for those who could not afford to travel to Jerusalem, the center of the world.
With the practice of walking the prayer labyrinth becoming popular again in contemporary Christianity, many Christian denominations from across the theological spectrum are again adopting the practice of walking the prayer labyrinth. Some churches opening their labyrinths to any pilgrim in need of contemplation and prayer. The prayer labyrinth is not a maze in the popular sense, and rather has one path on which one cannot get lost, serving a powerful symbol of individual life journeys and pilgrimage in faith.
How do I pray the Labyrinth?
There is no “right” or “wrong” to prayerfully walk the labyrinth. The beauty of the labyrinth is that you can approach the experience on your own terms. However, at Grace, we can suggest your approach in these stages.
MOVING INWARD: (also referred to as shedding or purgation.) You begin walking at the entrance of the Labyrinth that leads around the many turns toward the center. It is helpful to try and empty your mind and heart as you walk to strive to acquire a relaxed and peaceful state, far removed from the hectic pace of your life. Imagine each turn of the path as different “turn” of your life, or your day, or your spiritual life. Stop frequently to pray, thanking and sharing what is in your heart.
CENTERING: (also referred to Illumination) This is time to rest in the center of the Labyrinth. It is a time of openness and peacefulness. Do not be in a hurry as you experience, learn or receive what this unique moment offers. Since the center of Grace’s Labyrinth is a cross, take time to contemplate the richness of God’s mercy shown to you in the death of Jesus. He loves you!
MOVING OUTWARD: (also referred to Union) As you now start to retrace your steps outwardly, you are invited to review and consider what occurred in the center and how it may be applied in your life. As you complete the Labyrinth, you now step to return to your life in the everyday world The question as you leave is how your experience or illumination is carried into and affects your everyday life.
There are different types of Prayer Labyrinth experiences:
INTENTIONAL WALKS: you pray as you address a specific intention, issue or concern.
Intercessory walks: you offer prayer for people or needs. A suggestion: praying for a different person at each turn on the path.
Meditative walks: you meditate on a specific word or passage of Scripture or Psalm, or pray repetitively, such as the Jesus prayer (Lord have mercy…) or the universal prayer for world peace. (Let peace Prevail on Earth)
It is our hope and prayer that the Prayer Labyrinth may be a helpful tool for you to connect with God in a meaningful and renewing way