Prayer and the Labyrinth
Prayer is communication with God at its essence, whether it’s a quick plea for patience with your kids, praying for a friend in a hospital, begging God to change the circumstance or help you handle them. Prayer connects us to our Creator, sometimes in soothing ways, sometimes in life changing painful ways, but it connects us with the opportunity to face the truth about ourselves, our lives and who God is. Prayer transforms us because we cannot exist in the presence of the Almighty without becoming more of who we were created to be.
However, finding places and time for prayer is hard in our modern age. Between work, activities, children and the general busyness of our culture, its hard to get alone, hard to focus, hard to do much of anything but fall in bed exhausted. Sometimes it feels like there is very little sacred space set aside for God, much less space we can get to and inhabit. Modern labyrinths seek to resolve some of those issues.
At the essence is an understanding of what prayer is. Spending time in the presence of God and communicating with our Creator. This isnt just talking to God and asking for problems to be solved, but listening for God’s voice and interacting with the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It is both submissive in looking for guidance and active in testing the promptings for truth against the nature of God and biblical teachings so as not to be mislead by the desires of our heart. The instruction of God is counter to our sinful nature and we are often reluctant to pursue it, but brings us into alignment with Christ and the triumph and transformation He bought us on the cross. This transformation, or sanctification of the believer brings us freedom in Christ from the pain that sin captures and binds us with and releases us to enjoy the joy in life that’s been hidden.
“The person who meditates and turns his mind to God, who is the mirror of his soul, seeks to know his faults, tries to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order.” Saint Padre Pio (1887–1968)
Prayer is usually thought of as vocal prayer – praying out loud to God either in a group or as individuals, petitioning, intercessing, blessing, confessing, praise and lamenting with our Creator. Once we move past our words, we enter the second type of prayer – meditative prayer. Meditative prayer focuses on scripture or various aspects of God or the Christian life and seeks to deliberately initiate a conversation with God for the purpose of furthering our understanding and transforming our lives around the truths the Holy Spirit reveals. From this reflective and deliberately studious form of prayer we learn to practice our listening skills and seek the presence of God, moving next into contemplative prayer – where we practice the presence of God. We are deliberately seeking to let God choose the topics of discussion and transform us in whatever ways the Holy Spirit so chooses. Being in the presence of God daily, whether with vocal prayers, meditative prayers or resting in the presence of God through contemplation is essential to Christian growth.
What does a bunch of circles and squiggles ( a labyrinth) have to do with prayer?
A labyrinth is a tool for prayer. The path provides us with boundaries; it gives us a place to quiet our body through the rhythmic meandering, a time span that begs us to stay in the path with its fixed length from start to finish, and a Holy Ground a place where we can dedicate ourselves to meeting with God, shed the shoes of our busy lives and stand barefoot in awe of the burning presence of our Creator. The labyrinth lays a groundwork for looking at the symbolism of our lifepath, the turnings and twists of our choices and circumstances simplified into a metaphor we can examine from the perspective of our walk towards God and then review as we walk out looking at it from Gods perspective as we try and carry the wisdom we gain back into our busy lives. It can be prayed with vocal prayer, but often transforms into meditative or contemplative as God responds to our dedication of time and space for the Holy Spirit. It is a public experience when laid in a park or church but a private discussion with our Creator and our fellow travellers often become the virtues and topics God uses to talk with us about our own transformation. Children especially often embody the lessons God brings to our awareness and their attraction to labyrinths remind us to take joy in walking with God.