The Beauty of the Prayer Labyrinth

 We are focusing on the spiritual practice of praying with a labyrinth this month.

"Prayer labyrinths are an ancient form of prayer that invite our bodies to participate in the process as we follow a path that mirrors the winding and circuitous journey of faith, existing mostly in gardens and churches. A finger labyrinth...invites you into a portable but equally meaningful version of the experience. As your finger moves from the outside entry point and traces along the path, notice any interior movements that indicate your response to God." - Jenn Giles Kemper, in the Sacred Ordinary Days planner

The planner has the above brief introduction along with an actual finger labyrinth you can use, but this month we want to extend a broader invitation, explore together and offer some guidance so you can go farther and deeper with this spiritual practice. 

We invited members of Common House, our ecumenical online community, to share experiences they have had with the prayer labyrinth and we are sharing some of this with you, too, with their permission. 

Laura Knowles Cavanaugh: The Beauty of the Labyrinth

Indian Heights Labyrinth

I tend to be such a linear thinker. I imagine this path I'm walking on life's journey as a straight line, the shortest distance between two points. When I come to a bend or an angle, any slight degree off what I imagine to be the shortest, most economical, most correct way forward, I freak out.

I try to somehow make the next step I take straight even though the path I'm walking is not.  Suddenly, I'm not participating in the work God is doing by simply showing up and allowing God to do the work. Now I'm the one working hard, all the while rejecting the way forward because it does not fit my limited expectations.

When I sense my discomfort with the unexpected that I am being called into, I find myself drawn to the labyrinth.  At these moments, the labyrinth becomes for me chiefly an embodied prayer.  The metaphor is clothed in tangible reality.  I take actual, physical steps with my flesh-and-blood feet along a real-life path.  I breathe slowly and deeply.  I slow my pace to match my breath. 

As I walk the labyrinth, I gradually realize again and again that the invitation of the labyrinth is to embrace the nonlinear journey: full of twists and turns and doubling back, circling right back to the starting point––but not quite. Although I feel like I'm back in the same place again, I'm actually still moving forward along the same path, the only path, the only way to the center­­––where the presence of God is waiting.

Time and again I surprise myself that I still walk with the expectation that my destination is the center.   The center itself is not the goal, not the destination, not the end point. In the labyrinth walk, the center is only halfway.  A pause along the journey, a moment of rest, a breath.

Then begins the journey outward, walking the path again, placing footsteps upon footsteps, back and back again to where I started.  Back to the beginning––back in the world, crossing the threshold once more into the space of ordinary walk.

Except this time, I'm changed in some way.  This time I carry with me all the steps I've taken along the twisting way, all the breaths I've breathed, all the precious moments in the center and along the path of my intentional walk.

The beauty of the labyrinth practice, for me, is that its wandering, meandering, nonlinear path toward and then away from the center constantly draws me back to grace and invites me to make room for compassion with each step, each breath.

Walking with compassion means allowing myself to be in a place I'm disappointed about, to accept myself as I am and where I am in this moment, to stop trying to be where I'm not.  Walking with compassion means releasing control and choosing to stop striving so there is space again to receive and rest in God's grace––always sufficient, always more than enough.


Laura Knowles Cavanaugh has been a writer all her life and treasures the sacred story woven through ordinary daily life. She has studied English literature and creative writing, theology and art, and spiritual direction and is especially interested in contemplative spiritual practices and body theology. While growing her spiritual direction practice, she works as a remote office manager and writing tutor/editor and also volunteers as a conversation partner for non-native speakers. Laura and her husband have moved several times for his job and are currently in the Kansas City area with their rambunctious rescue mutts, Starbuck and Eleven. Although her roots are Presbyterian, she has since participated in a wide variety of Christian denominations and also appreciates learning from eastern practices. Laura loves sharing deep conversations over a hot cup of tea. 

You can find her in Common House and online at Sacred Pilgrim. She is a spiritual director and produces a daily lectio divina podcast that you can follow with iTunes or Stitcher


Do you have an experience with the prayer labyrinth that you would like to share? Head over to Instagram or Facebook to share and tag us @sacredordinarydays, please! Or, join the conversation inside Common House, our ecumenical online community.

We are focusing on the spiritual practice of praying with a labyrinth this month. You can find the latest on our blog and on our prayer labyrinth resource page.  The planner has a brief introduction, but this month we want to extend a broader invitation, explore together, and offer some guidance so you can go farther and deeper with this spiritual practice. 

But, the short and sweet is that our goal for this series is to help you...

  • LEARN about the spiritual practice of the praying with a labyrinth. You will learn about why we included in in the Sacred Ordinary Days planner and about how you can use the one in your planner or anywhere else.
  • EXPLORE a practice of prayer that includes physical movement. Whether it is your finger, your hands, or your whole body, praying with the labyrinth involves movement. Discovering new ways to pray has been a gift to me and I want to invite you in!
  • SHARE your experience with people who speak the same language. You'll get our guidance along the way, plus you'll get to know the other members of our community, by following along on Instagram or Facebook or inside Common House, our ecumenical online community.