There are many positions of prayer. From my latest and this humble position, I was given the opportunity to learn to pray better–more focused, more effectively.
Several years ago a local church in my area built an outdoor prayer labyrinth. Later I learned it was an Eagle Scout project by one of their young members. I drove by watching the ground cleared. Eventually, I stopped because I am curious like that, and I realized it was a labyrinth.
I was familiar with the concept of praying the labyrinth but had never tried it. As time passed, I found myself drawn to stop and pray when I passed by. Sometimes to praise Him or work through a problem. Mostly just setting aside the rush and taking the time to get out of the car and commune with the LORD. Pouring out my heart as I headed into that circle, confessing my failure to do this more often.
The nature of the labyrinth is much like life.
Winding closer and then further away, but always trusting the path to bring you eventually to that center place. The difference between a labyrinth and a maze is that a labyrinth is a winding, circuitous route allowing only one way. You never lose your way, and your mind focuses solely on praying.
Confession always leads me to praise and thanksgiving. Remembering how big God is and how He brought me to this place brings the comfort of peace and forgiveness at the center. As I would turn to make my way out, I lift up the needs of friends and family. I leave spiritually refreshed and continue about my day.
Debate swirls on both the benefits and drawbacks to a prayer labyrinth. This is a valid concern, but after some study I see the labyrinth as merely a tool of focus. In paganism, it focuses on one’s self. Used for Christian prayer it is a focus on God.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~John 14:6
There is something about the circular nature, following a path which calms and helps when it comes to disconnecting from the stress and anxiety of the world. The turns of the labyrinth are thought to balance the two hemispheres of the brain. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Where you turn your heart at the center makes all the difference.
I noticed the weeds growing before, but last month they were high enough that I was concerned about chiggers.
This particular day I purposely drove to the labyrinth to focus my prayers for friends and family experiencing distress. Seeing the weeds I was dismayed but began walking anyway. As I stepped over and around the weeds, I thought of how like sin the weeds were and the need to root them out of our lives before they take over. By the time I reached the center I only prayed hard for friends and family who suffered. As I reached the end, I turned back not ready to leave. I wanted to stay, to pray longer.
I crossed straight back to the middle,
sat down and started weeding.
Of course, that was when Satan sprang forth. “You know if you are going to do some gardening … there is plenty to do in your own flower beds and Mark always needs help in the orchard.” But as I continued to weed I rebuked him saying there is always need for more prayer. Weeding the labyrinth and praying for others was like weeding their gardens, tending to their needs, lifting them before the Father. I could commune with the LORD in my own garden, but this was about others. Then and there I committed myself to this effort. I worked for a bit longer and moved on, but promised myself I would come back.
Several days later, as I walked back in I noticed not only how much more work there was to do, but new weeds already began poking their heads up. I entered the same way each time, confessing and praising and once I reached the center I would start weeding. I realized quickly that tools were necessary for the really deep weeds. A weeding tool allowed me to exert more pressure and pull up the root and not just cut off the tops.
I needed bags to hold the weeds, so they did not take root again or serve as fuel for new weeds. I spent most of the time inching backward on my fanny away from the center as I weeded. Back toward the world for which I prayed.
Over the next few weeks I stopped for an hour, sometimes two, but my progress surprised me. I realized the big weeds were actually the easiest to remove. Though impressively tall and spread out, they usually had one tap root to be dug out and removed easily. Other ground covers were smaller but all tied together in an intricate web. With care, you pulled one and it led to the uprooting of others. Sometimes I weeded 20 feet in an hour.
The grass, like weeds, were more insidious.
Each little shoot bound by its own roots. The only eradication method meant raking away the pea gravel and pulling them up. One by one.
Each time the weeds in the middle lessened but they continued to shoot up.
So many lessons I learned while weeding the labyrinth.
After a time someone from the church stopped to thank me and I honestly expressed my gratitude for their sponsoring the labyrinth and encouraging me in my prayer life. This seemed the least I could contribute.
The weeds grow back. Cancer and hurt still live in the world. What did it matter? Was it worth the effort?
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. ~ Psalm 16:11
The extra time in prayer made that place even more precious to me. Sacred not because of the shape or history of the labyrinth, but because of the time spent there with my LORD.Finding a place to pray and then caring for it taught me to pray better.Click To Tweet
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