Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Praying in the Labyrinth

All of us adopt different postures when we pray. Some of us prefer to pray kneeling, some prostrate, while others either sit, stand or walk. Prayer walk has become commonplace as we adopt the spiritual warfare teachings.
However contemplative prayer walk is not common. Walking and praying the labyrinth is a structured form of contemplative prayer walk.

The labyrinth has its roots in antiquity. However the Christian Church Fathers and Mothers had adopted it as a prayer form. The labyrinth is like a maze. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth does not have blind ends. One can follow the pathway of a labyrinth easily to the centre and then out again.

There are no fixed rules in how anyone is to pray in the labyrinth. We can imagine walking the labyrinth as a pilgrimage. We move slowly and prayerfully towards the heart of our worship. There we spend as much time as we want in His presence. After that, we retrace our steps slowly back into the world. We can stop as frequently as we want to stop, pray, meditate or read the Scriptures or some spiritual books. People normally stop at bends and curves of the labyrinth. The labyrinth is especially suited for praying the Stations of the Cross at Lent. Those who contemplatively prayer walk the labyrinth found it a profound spiritual experience.

There are many designs of the labyrinth. The most well known is the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France. The Chartres labyrinth is an intrinsic design measuring 12.9 m (42.3 ft) in diameter. It has 11 concentric circuits which leads to a rose petal shaped centre. There are 34 turns as one journey in.

However, we are free to design smaller ones in our gardens or retreat centers. Many other religious traditions also use the labyrinth as a spiritual tool. There are also people interested for health and other reasons.

The labyrinth can be a powerful means for contemplative prayer walk.

Soli deo gloria

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Blogger Sivin Kit said...

do I over hear someone saying "But isn't this new age?"

9:50 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...


Good comment and almost everyone ask that. Many spiritual discipines or tools date back beyond "New Age" or even Christianity for that matter.

Disciplines like prayers, meditating on sacred books, fasting, rituals etc. It is a reflection of our spiritual need to connect with the transcendent.

When Christianity came along, it appropriate the spiritual disciplines and sanctified it for Christian use. One example is Christmas (winter worship). Another is Sunday as a worshp day (Sun or Ra-the sun god). Even the word Logos was taken by John from the Greek religious belief system and applied to Jesus Christ.

So no, prayer walking the labyrinth is not "New Age". The ancient church has used it and the Roman Catholic Church and some evangelical church are still using it. Nowadays, even people who are not aligned to any 'religions' are using it.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Bob K said...

Sanctification of pre-Christian practies and rites. Hmmm .. brings up a lot of possibilities.

A lot of these practices have their roots in Occidental rather than Oriental antiquity. Makes one wonder if there are any possibilities in contextualising spiritual practices from our own cultures? (I think I can see some folks cringe already)

Just thinking aloud.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

bob k,

nice thoughts. And I don't see why not (more folks cringing...) :)

Some churches are already using the mooncake festival as an avenue for evangelistic outreach. Celebrating Deepavali as a festival of the Light of the World?

Spiritual disciplines like fasting from meat (vegetarian diet)and praying in a certain posture(lotus position)may be other examples.

3:58 PM  

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