Walking a prayer labyrinth is an ancient mystical tradition that actually dates back prior to the time of Christ. It has been used in many different religious traditions for thousands of years and was picked up by Christians early in the history of the church. It is typically laid out on the ground for walking and has a circuitous route to a center. It is different from a maze in that a labyrinth has no wrong turns; there is only one route, the same way in towards the center and then turn around and go the same way out. It is designed for meditative prayer, and while there are many different ways to complete the labyrinth typically it involves three distinct phases. One enters and goes towards the middle asking God to purge them of their cares, distractions, and sins. In the middle one prays for illumination or a message from God. And then one heads back out asking God to fill them for work in his Kingdom. After being used often during the middle ages, the practice of walking a labyrinth was mainly lost during the time of the Enlightenment, however, it has gained in popularity in the last twenty to thirty years.
I recently had the opportunity to walk a labyrinth. I’ve had some opportunities in the past and never walked one before, mostly because I did not understand them, but I took advantage of the opportunity recently and it was an interesting experience. I entered the labyrinth not really sure what would happen. I was walking slowly, trying to meditate, and quickly realized that I was spending more time thinking about the pace and whether I was doing it right than I was focusing on God. I was frustrated because I wanted to be with God but I was distracted by so many things. And then it happened, I got a strange feeling that I should just stop. I stood with my eyes closed in one spot waiting, waiting waiting. I’m not sure how long I stood there, but I stood still until I got the feeling I should restart my journey. However, this time I wasn’t concerned about doing it right, I was simply enjoying my time with God.
It’s interesting how often we become so distracted in life that we miss the journey with God. We focus on our jobs, our responsibilities, our future plans, where we hope to be in a few years, an upcoming vacation, some bills that need paid, or any number of distractions. Or we focus on trying to do things right, trying to get our spiritual lives correct, trying to make sure that we don’t make any Christians mistakes that we forget that while making Godly choices is important, God ultimately desires our love through a personal relationship. We keep looking for the next big adventure, the next goal to be fulfilled, that while we are on the way to the goal we miss the journey with God along the way.
Most of the things that distract us are not wrong or evil, it’s just that they take our attention away from enjoying God through the journey of life. Maybe a better goal might be that instead of focusing on the next big thing, the next important goal we need to accomplish, we might try to put our attention on seeing the journey as an opportunity to grow closer to God and an opportunity to live as a member of the Kingdom of God. Maybe instead of being so consumed with some hoped for goal, we can spend more time enjoying the journey with God.
I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to walk a prayer labyrinth again, but I’ll probably take advantage of the opportunity when I can. However, what I do know is that I’m going to try and enjoy the journey with God in all of life, one moment at a time.