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Prayer Walking – Prayer with a Labyrinth

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

When I finished the reflection of more ways to pray and thought about some of the list at the end of that reflection, I began to think that one other helpful form of prayer is a form of prayer walking, and the use of a labyrinth prayer walk.

We have a labyrinth here at the Convent, and also have some finger labyrinths. So perhaps a few musings about labyrinths might be helpful.

A labyrinth is not a maze. Unlike a maze, which has dead ends and the possibility of getting lost, a labyrinth has a clear path in and out. It sometimes takes unexpected twists and turns, and in this way it resembles the journey of life. It is simply a place to walk and pray, giving us the freedom to walk around while focusing our mind on God, and not worrying about getting lost.

In the middle-ages the labyrinth was used as a way for people to participate in a pilgrimage without the expense or time required in actually going to another place. They were designed to help draw people into meditation by directing their focus toward God. The way in as we walk towards the center helps us to know that God journeys with us and that our intention is to center our life on God and God’s purposes. And the way out as we walk reminds us that we are called to reach out into the world in which we live. It is a form of walking mediation, a physical expression of the interior journey in our search for a deeper relationship with God, with ourselves, with others and all creation. It’s a slow walk, and it gives us time and space to listen and respond to God.

We could really consider that there are really three movements in prayer with a labyrinth:

  • As one moves toward the center of the labyrinth we focus on letting go of worldly attachments or coming to God with a quest or a question.
  • At the center, we come to the center of our relationship with God, and we may like to linger there and spend time reflecting on that relationship and praying.
  • Eventually, however, we will need to return and move out into the world again, and as we leave we walk with God back into the places of ministry as a renewed person

It is helpful to consider reading a passage from scripture or have some other intention in our hearts to set our minds on God’s accompaniment with us during this pilgrimage of prayer. This might help us to name any particular intention that we might have during this walk, as we seek hear and respond to God. As we walk the labyrinth, know that God is walking with us, as we walk at a pace that feels natural to us. With our focus on God we open ourselves to  notice what is happening in our mind and heart – there is no agenda to this prayer walk. We need to be open, let go and trust, focused on God. Distractions may come, our minds may wander, simply name the distraction and lift it up to God and guide our mind and heart back to God. Persistent distractions are perhaps asking us to explore them with God.

Reaching the center is an important time to give thanks, thanks to God for having walked the path with us. The way out, the path back, can be a reflective time, trying to be open to any insights or enlightenment that may come as we journey out.  Praying with the labyrinth is an opportunity to experience it with an open heart and mind, being receptive to all that is offered.

There is no right or wrong way to experience the labyrinth prayer walk. We bring to the journey the mystery of who we are, where we have been, and where we long to be. It can be a journey of thanksgiving, a walk of discernment, a time of decision-making, an attempt to heal.

There are many ways to come to a labyrinth prayer walk rooted in the questions and circumstance of our lives. The purpose however is the same, to attempt to be open to God, to listen, to talk and to meditate with God, in order to come into the presence of God and allow God to pray through us, to transform us, and to share with God our innermost desires, fears and longings.

The labyrinth prayer walk is meant to be a slow and meditative walk. The very slowness of walking is its greatest gift! Our minds automatically adjust to the speed of our bodies. As our bodies stop rushing, our thoughts also quieten.

I share a labyrinth prayer and blessing with you, written by Barbara Bailey, RSHM

May each step root you deeply in the loveliness of the present moment.
May the twists and turns on the way encourage you to be ever open to the new in your life.
May the still point at the center keep you mindful of that sacred place in your own inner being.
May the path outward and beyond empower you to radiate peace and justice to all.
May the labyrinth journey weave in you a sense of everlasting connectedness with the great journey of life.

Finger Labyrinths

Getting or making a finger labyrinth is similar to a full-sized labyrinth you would walk except it is on a much smaller and more portable scale. The user traces the path to the center using their finger rather than with their feet. There are many different kinds of finger labyrinths differing in size and complexity.

Tracing the labyrinth with your finger can be calming and relaxing, giving you time and space to let go of worries and ‘just be’. There are many ways to use the finger labyrinth. I just offer one suggestion.

Find a comfortable place where you can sit, consider the suggestions above in the musings on prayer walking a labyrinth, quiet yourself and welcome peace.

Offer a pray such as: ‘Lord, here I sit inviting your presence’. Slowly glide your finger through the labyrinth path using your non-dominant hand, allowing for free-flowing unedited thought. Again, consider all that was said in this reflection, for using a finger labyrinth is the same as walking a full-scale labyrinth. And the prayer blessing I shared travels along with the finger labyrinth also.

May this be a help on your way into the heart of God!