If you’ve missed any posts from this month’s series on prayer, you can find the links below:
For our last week in this series, I’ve asked my good friend, Catherine McNiel, to write about one of her loves: praying with her feet. Catherine is the author of Motherhood as Spiritual Discipline (NavPress, 2017). She is also a gardener, a dear friend, and a lover of finding God’s presence in everyday epiphanies. You can find out more about Catherine at www.catherinemcniel.com.
Into the Labyrinth
I stand at the entrance, looking down at my feet. Taking a deep breath, I pick up one foot and step inside. One step, another step, another. One at a time.
When I think about prayer I imagine myself in a seated position, maybe kneeling, maybe even lying on the floor. I might be standing, reaching up to the sky; or around a table with a group. The prayers, almost certainly, are spoken with my mouth, or pour from my heart.
But not today. Today I am walking through a prayer labyrinth. This time it is my feet leading body and soul in prayer.
For the next hour I walk, one step at a time, slowing and thoughtfully. Around corners, in wide circles, winding back around. Finally, and almost unexpectedly, I arrive in the center. It feels like a sacred place, a sacred moment. Once more I pause, looking at my hesitant feet. With another deep breath I step into the circle.
The Labyrinth is an ancient prayer tool, so ancient we have no idea of its origin. For thousands of years, Christians have used the labyrinth as a way to pray in pilgrimage when an actual journey is not possible. It is a prayerful journey of the soul.
Following the ancient pattern, this winding path is not a maze. Mazes are designed to confuse, but the labyrinth has only one path. The pilgrim begins at the entrance, slowing traveling to the center. When he or she is ready, the return journey unwinds the same steps back to the sole opening. There are no decisions or dead ends. There is only the path, and the journey.
Release. Receive. Return.These are three stages of a labyrinth prayer.
The first comes as we enter: Release. Quiet your mind, release your distractions and anxieties to God. Follow the circular path towards the center and use the pilgrimage to still your heart. Take slow, deep breaths. Focus on the movement of your body, and go at your own pace. Instead of chatting with the Lord, formulate a question or prayer and lift this one sentence to Him as you walk.
When we reach the center of the labyrinth we enter the second stage: Receive. Enter the circle, and sit or stand in this place of reflection and prayer. Stay as long as you like, abiding in Christ. In the safety of this place, receive whatever it is God has for you.
Then as we leave, we Return. Allow the same path you followed to the center to lead you back. The unwinding path integrates and empowers you to take whatever you received from God back out into the world. Accept whatever healing or peace He offers you.
I’m looking at my feet again, lined up, hesitant once more to step. This time I am stepping out, about to leave the labyrinth and renter my busy day.
But I have met Him here. My spirit has been renewed, and His new mercies will be my strength. I have been praying with my feet. And now, my feet will carry me forward, in Him.
Interested in trying a Labyrinth walk? Follow Thalia Soul Care on Facebook for to find out when Catherine is leading a prayer walk!