J.R. Briggs

Attempting to behold the miracle long enough without falling asleep

  • The Prayer Labyrinth at Stony Creek Park

    April 30, 2010

    A while back I wrote a five-part series on prayerwalking on the blog (see here, here, here, here and here if interested). I’m just not that spiritual to simply bow my head, close my eyes and pray for an hour. I just can’t do it. I tried doing that for years and got tired of beating myself up for not being able to be super-spiritual in long extended times of prayer like that. Maybe you can do that, but not me.

    For me, I have to pray with my pen or my shoes. I prayerjournal and I prayerwalk. Those are the best ways I connect with God.

    One of the best places to prayerwalk in Lansdale, especially when the weather is nice, is at Stony Creek Park. Stony Creek is a relatively new park that the Lansdale Parks & Recreation Department manages. It’s very eco-friendly, is easly accessible and offers a playground, a pond, a pavilion and picnic tables and walking trails in the woods. We love going to Stony Creek as a family.

    But my favorite part of the park is the prayer labyrinth.

    For those who are unfamiliar, a Prayer Labyrinth (“maze”) is a large meditative walking circle that allows an opportunity to connect with God. Throughout the centuries, labyrinths have been used for new age practices and were originally rooted in Greek mythology (even the explanation of the labyrinth on the sign at the park is saturated with language of new age mysticism) but several centuries ago the practice was redeemed by Christians who intended to use it as a meditative tool to connect with Yahweh. Most labyrinths are circles, although there are alternative shapes. Some organizations have even developed CDs that you can listen to as you walk to guide you in a time of contemplation.

    Many famous cathedrals in Europe have labyrinths. A few churches in our region have labyrinths as well. Someone in our Renew Leadership Community built one in their backyard in North Wales, PA. It’s a practice that has been helpful for me to connect with God. Maybe its a practice you might consider trying.

    I’ve used the Stony Creek labyrinth many times (in fact, last year we had our Renew Good Friday Experience at the labyrinth). Here is a picture I took near the pavilion with my phone a few days ago. It’s large, beautiful, peace and well groomed (well done, Lansdale Parks & Rec!)

    How does it work? you may be wondering. The purpose is to slow down, to listen, to reflect – to just simply be with this big, mysterious, loving and compassionate God.

    There are four elements to the labyrinth:

    [1] Stand at the entrance of the labyrinth in stillness and silence, asking God to meet you as you go through the exercise. When you are ready, simply begin walking the path (the same path that leads you in is the same path that leads you out. If you stay on the path you won’t get lost).

    [2] As you begin, walk towards the center sloooooowly and consistently. As you walk inwardly toward the large rock, ask God to search you in your inward parts, to reveal things to your heart that need to be revealed – promises, truths, areas of sin, etc. It could be a time of thankfulness, confession and repentance or simply asking, “God, what is it that you want to give to me today?”

    [3] As you get to the center, sit on the large rock and be still. God is described as the rock of our salvation. How can you take refuge in a God who describe himself like this large rock? Simply sit and “be” with God. Stay as long as you like. Just simply enjoy his presence. If this is the first time doing this, you may find that silence and stillness are difficult. If your mind wanders, ask God to help you focus.

    [4] When you are ready, begin working your way outwardly on the path to lead you back to the entrance. As you’ve looked inwardly and spent time being with God, ask him what he wants you to do with those around you. Pray for the outward world: your family, your neighbors, your friends, your enemies, your community, your country and your world – whatever comes to mind. Simply ask what role God wants you to play in the being a redemptive agent of healing in the world.

    The entire process can take however long you like, but you should plan for at least 25-30 minutes (depending on how quickly you walk and linger). You can try it alone or you can participate with a group of people and when you’re done, process with others what was revealed to you and what you plan on doing with what God gave to you.

    If you want to try a new way to connect with God, consider participating in the prayer labyrinth at Stony Creek Park – or whatever area you may live in that has a labyrinth. If you are unsure if there is one in your area, check out this resource: Labyrinth Locator.

    Also feel free to email me questions if you have any.

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