The Prayer Journey

Tonight we celebrated Jesus' Ascension (last Thursday marked the day). Jesus is with the disciples for forty days after His resurrection. He tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit is poured out. He tells them that power will come upon them and they will be His witnesses. Then, almost out of nowhere, He rises up into the clouds and is gone.

The disciples, apparently, do wait in Jerusalem. In the upper room. Praying. Waiting prayerfully until the Holy Spirit was poured out.

And so tonight at church we prayed. Our friend Heather, who was leading tonight's teaching, set up three different prayer stations. One was praying out loud together, one was listening prayer, ad the third was walking through a labyrinth. I chose the labyrinth (partly because we had been driving back from Wisconsin all day, and it was an opportunity to not sit more; partly because I had been at a family reunion in Wisconsin and some quiet time to myself sounded nice).

I have walked a prayer labyrinth before on a few occasions. One of my first was when I was a counselor at CHIC, our denomination's national youth conference, several years ago. It was a multi-sensory experience with several stations that you interacted with through the walk (a labyrinth is different than a maze in that it only has one path with no dead ends; it reflects a journey inward and outward). On the way in, the stations helped you look at your relationship with God. The center of this labyrinth involved several pillows on the floor around a three-
wicked candle with bread and grape juice, where you could experience communion with God. The path out of the center focused on the journey into the world.

One of the last labyrinth experiences was in Alberta several years ago at a retreat. I haven't looked for my journal that would contain the details of it, but I remember at one point talking with one of the spiritual directors about the labyrinth. She was a wizened woman who suffered from a limp caused by polio, I believe. I think she mentioned something about feeling like a child (in a good way--like a child of God) going through the labyrinth. I had this image of a child running through the labyrinth--for that's what one would do, they would play in it. So I tried it. I ran (which wasn't easy with all the sharp twists and turns). It was freeing (and tiring). But it wasn't prayerful in the traditional way.

As I walked the labyrinth tonight I imagined being there when Jesus ascended back into Heaven and walking back to Jerusalem. I imagined the questions the disciples had after Jesus left--wondering what was going on, wondering what this power would be that was promised and what to do with it, wondering what was next. It was also the first time I'd walked a labyrinth in close proximity to others. We stopped and bowed to each other when we would pass on the same or an adjacent path. It was, admittedly, a little awkward. But it was also a good reminder that we travel not alone. As I walked out of the labyrinth, I was assured of Jesus' promises--both to give us the Holy Spirit's power to be His witness and of the assurance of His return.

Our experience tonight (having three different prayer groups at church) is a reminder that there is no "right" way to pray. God wants us to talk to Him, to listen to Him and to walk with Him. We do it on our own and corporately. We do it at set times and randomly. We do it because we want to and because we need to. Prayer is not just a time to go before God and tell Him what we need. It is a time to go into His presence and be transformed as we journey into knowing who God is and who we are to Him.

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