A descriptive word that emerges to describe Jesus’ prayer life from a study of Luke’s gospel is “intentional.”
Jesus may have done a lot of praying “on the fly” but Luke portrays a Jesus who was intentional about setting aside time to pray. He was as intentional about going to a specific place to pray as many of us are about going to a specific place to eat, shop, or spend the weekend.
Religious pilgrimages are not completely foreign to us. We go to children’s camps, youth camps, marriage retreats, mission trips, and occasional retreats for men or women in our churches. But how many of us as individuals are disciplined enough to set aside an hour, an evening, a day, or a weekend to focus our energies on listening and taking to God? Jesus excelled in this area.
Recently our church brought in a 36-foot prayer labyrinth to assist people in their praying. A labyrinth is an ancient circular pattern found in many cultures around the world. Unlike a maze that has many dead-ends, a classical labyrinth is one concentric circular path where there is no possibility of going astray.
If you have ever prayed and struggled with feeling distracted, walking a labyrinth might be a great experience for you. The labyrinth helps to engage the body, mind and spirit as you walk its twists and turns. Labyrinths are used for calming and releasing distractions, for ritual, for celebration and for gaining spiritual insight as you pray.
For two Mondays the labyrinth was at the Jackson EMC auditorium for seven hours each day. Less than thirty people took advantage of using the prayer labyrinth, which indicates that we are not used to setting aside an intentional time to pray and that we are a bit skeptical of opening our lives up to experiencing God in new ways.
However, when we open our hearts to God and seek God, whatever the form prayer takes, God meets us and speaks to us, often in ways we did not expect. Here are some excerpts of the journal entries of those who walked and prayed the labyrinth:
“I noticed shortly after entering that even though my mind was asking questions, God showed me there are times in my life when He will bring me closer to Him and times when I will go further away from him. All this time God is still walking with me.”
“Reaching the center was very moving. I really didn’t want to leave the center—but as I did my spirit felt lifted. The labyrinth enhanced my concentration in prayer (something I have a problem with). Very glad I came.”
“I worry that my prayers are not conveying my heart. Walking the labyrinth kept my head and my heart focused upon God. Putting one foot in front of the other gave me the insight that is the only way I will make it through the tough times.”
“Father God, it is easy for me to misstep, even with my eyes open to your ways…Please continue to guide me one step at a time. “
“A peaceful, soothing communication with God. A physical and spiritual reminder of who holds my hand.”
“This was such a beautiful experience. I was able to concentrate on each thought and pray sincerely at my own pace. God laid so many things on my heart during this walk.”
“What a great way to focus on your prayer time. Each turn, I stopped and thought of another prayer.”
“It was peaceful. The walk helped me focus my thoughts and reminded me that this life is a journey. Each day is a journey. God is a part of each day but because I don’t pause to pray I don’t recognize His presence or feel His peace. The labyrinth reminded me that Jesus should be in the center of all my journeys.”
If you would like to experience praying using a labyrinth, there are many places in large cities that have outdoor labyrinths. If you are unable to find one, an alternative is to purchase a finger labyrinth. Most have a tool to use to trace the grooves of the labyrinth as you pray. It’s not quite the same as walking one, but it’s sort of like a virtual journey, which will still help keep your mind focused. Find a quiet, peaceful place, and use this tool as a way to journey with God.
For a free copy of my first book, “Finding Our Way Through the Labyrinth of Life,” send $4.00 to cover postage and handing to Michael Helms, 221 Melvin Dr., Jefferson, GA, 30549. You may also give a donation to the Bricks for Ricks Foundation, Inc., through my website and I will send you a book.
For more information on labyrinths, see www.wisdomwayscenter.org