13th December 2016

Prayer Labyrinth




“What is a prayer labyrinth? Are prayer labyrinths biblical?”A labyrinth is a path which leads, via a circuitous route, to the center of an intricate design and back out again. A labyrinth’s route is unicursal; that is, it has only a single path. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is designed for ease of navigation, and it is impossible to get lost within one.A prayer labyrinth is a labyrinth used to facilitate prayer, meditation, spiritual transformation, and/or global unity. The most famous prayer labyrinths today include an ancient one in the cathedral of Chartres, France, another in the cathedral of Duomo di Siena, Tuscany; and two maintained by Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church in San Francisco. While prayer labyrinths have been used in Catholic cathedrals for centuries, the past decade has seen resurgence in their popularity, especially within theEmergentChurch and among New Age groups and neo-pagans. Labyrinths have been used by a wide variety of cultures for at least 3,500 years. Evidence of ancient labyrinths exists in Crete, Egypt, Italy, Scandinavia, and North America. Ancient labyrinths had what is usually called the “classical” design of seven rings, or circuits. They were decidedly pagan in function: many labyrinths were dedicated to a goddess and used in ritualistic dances. The Hopi Indians saw the labyrinth as a symbol of Mother Earth, and the hundreds of stone labyrinths along the Scandinavian shoreline were used as magic traps for trolls and evil winds to ensure safe fishing.In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church adapted the labyrinth for its own purposes within its cathedrals. The classical form gave way to a more intricate design of 11 circuits in 4 quadrants, usually called the “medieval” design. Within Catholicism, the labyrinth could symbolize several things: the hard and winding road to God, a mystical ascension to salvation and enlightenment, or even a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for those who could not make the actual journey.The modern “rediscovery” of the labyrinth and its use in church settings is celebrated by groups such as The Labyrinth Society and Veriditas, The World-Wide Labyrinth Project. According to these groups, the labyrinth is a “divine imprint,” a “mystical tradition,” a “sacred path,” and a “sacred gateway.” The stated purpose of Veriditas is “to transform the Human Spirit,” using “the Labyrinth Experience as a personal practice for healing and growth, a tool for community building, an agent for global peace and a metaphor for the blossoming of the Spirit in our lives” (from the official Veriditas website).According to Veriditas, walking a prayer labyrinth involves 3 stages:

purgation (releasing), illumination (receiving), and union (returning).

Purgation occurs as one moves toward the center of the labyrinth. During this stage, one sheds the cares and distractions of life and opens his heart and mind.


Illumination occurs at the center of the labyrinth; this is the time to “receive what is there for you” through prayer and meditation.


Union occurs as one exits the labyrinth and involves “joining God, your HigherPower, or the Healing forces at work in the world.” Proponents of prayer labyrinths speak of using the labyrinth to become enlightened,

realigned with the universe, and

increasingly empowered to know one’s Self and to accomplish the work of the soul.

Some, such as Dr. Lauren Artress, president of Veriditas, also speak of the “many levels of consciousness” which touch the worshiper in a labyrinth, including the consciousness that he is “one of those pilgrims walking in the early times.

It feels like it’s from another time; it doesn’t feel like it’s in this life” (from an interview with Dr. Lauren Artress on the official Veriditas website).Perhaps as a throwback to the old goddess worship, many prayer labyrinths contain feminine symbols in the center.

Dr. Artress recognizes the symbolism and speaks freely of connecting with the “sacred feminine” in a labyrinth and of the need to view God as both a “he” and a “she.”Are prayer labyrinths biblical? No, they are not. Not only are labyrinths never mentioned in the Bible, but they also conflict with several biblical principles of worship and prayer.1) God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth


John 4:24;For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Philippians 3:3For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, Psalm 29:2.Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

Proponents of prayer labyrinths speak of “body worship” and the goal to employ all five senses in worship. But body worship is not a biblical concept.

We live by faith, not by sight, and Worship is not a sensuous, physical activity; Worship is a matter of the heart, expressed in praise and service to God.

For the New Testament believer, worship has nothing to do with external trappings such as lighting candles, kneeling at an altar, or walking in circles. 2) Prayer is not to become ritualistic

Matthew 6:5-8“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!

Dr. Artress says that “ritual feeds the soul” and recommends repeated, regular trips through the labyrinth. If ritual were truly food for the soul, then the Pharisees of Jesus’ day should have been the best-fed souls alive—after all, their religious system abounded in ritual and tradition. Yet Jesus rebuked them on more than one occasion for the deadness and hypocrisy of their religion Matthew 15:3Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?Mark 7:6-13 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce,for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death. But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”


3) Every believer has the mind of Christ

1 Corinthians 2:16.For“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?Who knows enough to teach him?”But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

Many who walk prayer labyrinths are seeking special insight, new revelation, or a discovery of “the God who’s within” (Dr. Artress, op cit.). Such an emphasis on mysticism and esoteric knowledge comes dangerously close to Gnosticism and New Age thinking. The Christian has no need of mystical experience or extra-biblical revelation:


1 John 2:20But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth

4) God is near to all those who call upon Him in truth


Psalm 145:18The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.

Acts 17:27“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.


No ritual, including walking a labyrinth, can bring anyone any closer to God. Jesus is the way


John 14:6Jesus told him “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.


Repentance and faith are what is required

Acts 20:21.I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.

5) The Bible is sufficient to make the Christian holy, wise, and completely proficient for his work in this world


2 Timothy 3:15-17You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work..


To say that, in order to find real power, we must add mysticism or tradition to the Bible is to denigrate God’s Word and the Spirit’s work through it.Historically, labyrinths were rooted in paganism and incorporated by Catholicism. Now they are promoted by the EmergentChurch and others who seek an open spirituality apart from the Bible. Paul’s warning to the church should suffice to keep us focused on Jesus and avoid empty ritual:


Colossians 2:8

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ

There are many ways to describe a labyrinth.

It is a path of prayer,a walking meditation, a crucible of change, a watering hole for the spirit and a mirror of the soul.

Self kan jy niks doen om nader aan God te kom nie.

Hy kom af, of nader na jou toe,en of jy nou rituele, klanke, reuke, bewegings of geluide gebruik wat jou ‘n euforiese belewenis laat ervaar nadat jy klaar is,Hy nie noodwendig nader aan jou gaan wees nie .

En as jy jou spritualiteid gaan meet aan die betrokkenheid van jou sintuie, dan sal dit soms fliksueer na gelang van jou gemoedstoestand en jou fisiese en emosieele ervaring sal dan bepaal hoe spiritueel jy is.

Gevolglikgaan jou intieme gemeenskap met God afhanklik wees vanjou gevoel, die belewenis en die emosionele erfaring wat jy op staat maak.



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