Prayer Labyrinth

What is a prayer labyrinth?  

The first time that I encountered a prayer labyrinth was back in 1995.  It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, and I was on a Europe trip with school.  We were in Chartres Cathedral, in Chartres, France.  In the stone floor of Chartres Cathedral there is an 11-circuit labyrinth that was constructed around 1201 C.E.

This encounter was, of course, before I had gone to seminary and before I was a pastor.  I thought it was a beautiful pattern but did not have any idea about its use as a tool for prayer.  

A labyrinth is similar to a maze, but the key difference is there are no dead ends.  The path is meant to bring you into the center and back out again.  Sometimes you come out the same path you walked in.  Labyrinths have been around for thousands of years.

“The labyrinth design appears along the Bronze Age shores of the Mediterranean, most famously amongst the Minoans and Mycenaeans on Crete. Roman mosaics used the imagery. The first evidence of Christian adoption of the labyrinth comes from the basilica at Al-Asnam, Algeria, dated to 324 AD. Perhaps the most famous example was built into the nave in Chartres Cathedral in the 13th century. Labyrinths were walked by Christians in such settings to celebrate Easter’s journey from death to resurrection. They could symbolise the pilgrim’s journey and offer a focus for prayerful reflection upon the travelling to and the returning home from a place of pilgrimage. Possibly this heritage mutated into the puzzle maze during the Renaissance. The 1980s saw several modern labyrinths built into churches and cathedrals as the ancient traditions were revived. A huge resurgence in interest was prompted by the creation of a replica of the Chartres labyrinth in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, in 1991. Now they are found, newly created, across the world. They can be on the grandest of scales, both inside and outdoors, or as temporary as paths mowed into a lawn. Many companies now offer portable labyrinths printed on fabric.” (

Back in May and June I started to envision the process of making my own prayer labyrinth.  I was thinking I could not only use it in retreats that I facilitate but also in my own spiritual walk.  To read more about that saga, I invite you to check out my Rooted in the Word entry from Tuesday, July 12, 2011.

How I walk the prayer labyrinth:

In the path of the labyrinth there are three parts of the journey - the 'inward' journey, the center and the 'outward' journey. The focus of the 'inward' journey embodies letting go of things which hinder our wholeness and inner approach to God. The center, the heart of the Labyrinth is a space for meditation and prayer. The motif of the 'outward' journey is all about relationship - with ourselves, with others and with the cosmos.  These relationships are seen in the light of our relationship with God.

Before I enter, I pause and say a prayer that I will be present in the journey and that the Holy Spirit will guide me, be present with me.  I ask that I will be open to the nudging of the Holy Spirit.

As I walk inward, I contemplate drawing closer to God.  Each step that I take, slowly and thoughtfully, I imagine myself being drawn into the heart of God.  I cast my worries and cares on God by turning them into prayers.  I ask God to help me experience God’s loving presence.  

Once I reach the center of the labyrinth, I pause and rest in God’s presence, basking in the company of perfect love and wholeness, being nourished, quenched, and strengthened.  Sometimes I stay standing.  Sometimes I sit.  Sometimes I fall into child’s pose.  Other times I just lay down.

When I feel moved, I start to head out of the labyrinth, being just as present as I was coming in.  My focus has shifted to how God can use me at work in my community and the world.  I find myself praying for others, asking God to help me to be open to be used.  As I come to the end of the labyrinth I say a prayer of thanksgiving and benediction.

Walking and praying the prayer labyrinth I have found to be a fruitful discipline.  The day I was to be interviewed before the Board of Ordained Ministry to determine whether or not I would be ordained, I spent part of the morning walking and praying the prayer labyrinth.  This experience gave me a peace as I went into the interview.  

I recommend you find a prayer labyrinth near you or you can purchase an individual sized one to be used in your home.  You can also make one in your home or in your yard.

Alternative to Walking the Prayer Labyrinth:

You may or may not have access to a labyrinth or the means to make or purchase a prayer labyrinth.  Another way to experience the prayer labyrinth is via a finger prayer labyrinth.  You can purchase finger prayer labyrinths or you can print a labyrinth design from the internet.  Then you could laminate it and then trace the path with your finger, using the same 3 stage focus.

For online experiences of a finger 

labyrinth, please visit this site:

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