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Walking the Labyrinth

A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze intends to trick, deceive, or trap the participant. A labyrinth is the opposite. Walking a labyrinth is meant to bring the participant along a path leading solely if not straightly, to the center, the hub, the heart of existence, of creation, of God. The same path, with the identical twists and turns, leads the participant out again to return to everyday life, but with a new peace or understanding and perhaps without a burden or stress.

The labyrinth is a prayer practice used by many as a discernment activity, intercessory prayer, or a centering tool. Walking the labyrinth can take many expressions. On the path inward, the participant may choose to shed traits or habits they feel are holding them back from a healthy life and a deep relationship with God such as anger, hatred, selfishness, jealousy or a critical nature. When reaching the center, a time of quiet waiting, perhaps with arms open and hands faced upward helps us become receptive to the blessings and grace God longs to bestow. Some may wish to kneel or even lay flat in the posture of complete submission and reverence. The center is a holy, sacred place where the participant may spend as much or as little time as needed.

The walk outward from the center often includes a time of reflecting on the time spent in the center. Perhaps the participant will “put on” the traits they feel will help them live a life better tuned to God such as compassion, peace, unity or love.

Other ways to utilize the labyrinth include praying intercessory prayers. The complete walk can be focused on your prayers for a person, an upcoming event, a circumstance or an organization such as a church or school. Or as you complete each course or turn, the prayer can change to another need. At the end you have prayed through your entire prayer list.

Or a quite opposite labyrinth walk is to complete the courses without a prayer focus, simply making each turn and twist being aware of God’s presence and needing and wanting to be in that presence.

Because many labyrinths are constructed outside, this form of praying allows the participant to use four of the five senses. Walking a labyrinth in nature allows the sound of birds, the crunch of leaves, the smell of flowers, the sight of sky, and the feel of the wind become prayer. Walking a labyrinth is a way to pray, to walk, to be active.

Other labyrinths are permanently painted or inlayed on floors of church buildings, or movable by being painted on canvas. Finger and lap labyrinths are available to be used individually by persons not able to walk a labyrinth or for those who do not live near a labyrinth.

You may click on the link below to download a finger labyrinth. Consider including this prayer practice in your daily prayers, or use it to focus or center with God at different times of day.

The following web pages will give you additional information, history and further sources for the prayer practice of walking labyrinths.

—written by Betty Kay Hudson

Permanent link to this article: http://www.umcsc.org/home/ministries/lay-leadership/spiritual-formation-task-group/spiritual-practices/walking-the-labyrinth/