I once had a tiny office on the third floor of a downtown church when I worked for a non-profit, and they had a labyrinth marked out on the floor of their 2nd floor gymnasium. I never bothered to go down there (ok, once… but that was for a rummage sale) because I had never walked a labyrinth and did not know what it was all about.
The labyrinth is open for public use during the day, and I’m hoping to start taking advantage of it. There is also a labyrinth in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood, and rumor has it an outdoor labyrinth is in the planning stages for our local children’s hospital.
But even if you don’t have a labyrinth near you, or if walking in winding circles makes you dizzy, you can create patterns of walking prayer.
The labyrinth model we followed at our weekend retreat was purgation, illumination and union (releasing, receiving & integrating). But the labyrinth is not just about releasing & healing, we can bring questions, we can bring joys, we can bring frustrations.
Sometimes prayer falls naturally from our being and we easily acknowledge we are in the presence of the living God, our communication flows from our heart and our ears are open to receive. Sometimes, however, we don’t have the words to speak. Sometimes, we’re too angry, too hurt, too confused, or maybe even too ecstatic to bring the words before God.
Walking a path or using some kind of physical experience to enter into prayer can work much the same way as participating in a common liturgy. When we are given a pattern to follow, the structure can actually allow us to get out of the way of the spirit. Rather than focusing on being in control of the conversation, we follow and we listen, inviting the spirit of God to speak to us and through us in ways we could never ask or imagine.
This was made clear to me most recently on Sunday morning, through the sermon of one of my pastors and friends, Jerusalem Greer. We are reading through Common Prayer this year at R Street Community Church, and our pastoral team is teaching from the scheduled passages. Though Jerusalem initially bristled at some of the passages that fell on her assigned date, she ended up weaving together a beautiful picture of God bringing us into, through, and out of the desert, which I found to also echo what I was learning about patterns of prayer and spiritual growth.
Over the next few days (or more… we’ll see how this goes) I will share some ways I’ve thought about incorporating labyrinth inspired models of prayer into our local circumstances.