A labyrinth is a complex path that doubles back upon itself, leading to a center in a way that is not obvious. There is a tradition in the Christian church of walking this path while praying. The labyrinth can be thought of as a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or a symbol of the Christian spiritual journey, which is always seeking God. Sometimes, in our lives we have times of feeling close to God and yet, at other times, we feel farther away. Because the path does not spiral in but is folded, the walker is sometimes close to the center but then is farther away before ending up in the center, the labyrinth can help us meditate on our lives. There are long gently curved passages that are easy and quick to walk. Then, there are other places where we have to slow down because we come to a sudden turn in the road.
Sometimes while praying and walking and turning, we can become disoriented and think that we are lost. But the labyrinth is not a maze. We cannot get lost. There is one way in and one way out, retracing our steps.
There are several different labyrinth shapes. This is one of the oldest, found on the Isle of Crete. Thus it is called a Cretan Labyrinth or a seven-circuit labyrinth. It is also called a Celtic Labyrinth. Although the Cretan Labyrinth predates Christianity, the Christians saw that it was based on a cross. This became for many Christians an important part of their prayer life.
There are many ways to walk a labyrinth. It can be thought of as the journey within, searching for God’s purpose or God’s word for our lives today. Some people walk in, unloading burdens or asking what burdens they can let go of. After pausing to be with God in the center, then, they walk counting their blessings, being thankful for what God has given.
This labyrinth was made from two ropes. We played Taize music in the background. If the music bothers you, turn it off and walk in silence. The labyrinth walk on the day represented above was paired with a mission project of bringing new and gently worn shoes for a local clothes closet. These shoes reminded me of people who have walked this Christian life before me and those who will come after me. Many people have walked this path of faith, praying as we have this weekend. This was a holy time.
We provided a guide with five ways of walking and praying. An invitation to sit in the chairs and reflect before or after the walk was extended to all.
1. Listening for God’s Word to You This Day
Begin at the entrance and focus. Quiet your mind and center your thoughts on God. Enter. Walk purposefully and be attentive. Exit and finish your prayer. Reflect on the thoughts that occurred to you while walking. Record them in a journal.
2. Confession, Repentance and Forgiveness
Begin at the entrance by asking God to be with you. As you walk, do your personal reflection and confession. You may wish to pray, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.” Pause at the center and remember the promise that “If we confess, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins.” Ask for guidance and direction. Walk out, listening for that still, small voice. Pause at the exit and give thanks. Record the experience in your journal.
3. Getting Rid of Worries and Burdens
Walk and lay down your burdens. Some bring stones to lay down as symbols of their worries or burdens. Christ has said, “Come to me all who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” In the center, pause and pray, thanking God for releasing you from burdens. On the way out, count your blessings, thanking God for all that you have been given. You may wish to have silent time afterward to continue to listen for that still small voice.
4. A Walk of Discovering Your Vocation (Calling)
You can think of the journey in as dying to self or as going inward to hear what God’s message is for you. If you have gifts you need for serving God, ask on the way in. Rest in the center giving thanks for all God has given you. In the journey out you are being equipped for service and living for Christ.
5. A Walk of Discipleship – Going to Jerusalem
On the way in, pray and tell God of your hopes and dreams as you imagine you are traveling on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship God. In the center, praise God and thank God for the gift of those who have gone before you. On the way out, feel the joy of being loved by a loving and creative God.
Many people find prayer with movement is very meaningful. Our hope is that you will find it meaningful as well. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy God forever. May this tool help you to achieve this goal.