The purpose of Prayer Walks is to give time for meditation and reflection and they have been part of the Christian tradition for many centuries. Walks can be done alone or in groups and can take a number of forms. The most familiar will probably be a pilgrimage but any time spent seeking escape from the everyday pressures of life in walking has to be good. As you walk you can spend dedicated time in prayerful consideration of all that surrounds you, your life, your family and friends, your community and the wider world. Within the environment in which you walk there will be a multitude of stimuli to provide focus – the beauty of the world, great architecture, the joys and challenges of life, and so on.
IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
There is much to be gained from just being out in the fresh air and exercising body and mind surrounded by wonderful scenery. We are privileged to live in a beautiful place with a variety of footpaths leading us to and through many places of interest and inspiration. A walk could be done as part of a pilgrimage over several days or weeks with a specific destination in mind or be an hour or so of gentle strolling locally on a circular route back to your starting point.
IN THE COMMUNITY
Praying for the community of which we are part become more meaningful when done as we walk our streets. A systematic plan to cover the whole area can be drawn up and actioned over a period of time, either as an individual or in groups, praying for the residents and businesses amongst whom you walk as you go.
A labyrinth is usually made up of a single path laid out in a circle (sometimes a rectangle or square) leading from the outside of the area into the centre and back out again, (unlike a maze which is made up of several paths, many of which are dead ends in which you can get lost). Some more complex labyrinths have more paths intertwined but each still leads to the centre.
There is a long tradition of prayer labyrinths, both indoors and out. Possibly the most famous is the permanent one laid into the floor of Chartres Cathedral. Some permanent ones are made with stone slabs or grass turfs, like the one at Breamore House in Hampshire. They can also be temporary structures made of small stones or other material laid out in a pattern in an open space, in a church or even in a room at home, or cut into an area of grass or cereals crop with a lawnmower, which needs very careful planning before starting the cutting.
Your purpose would be to walk the path into the centre and back out again in prayer and meditation, reflecting on where you are in your spiritual journey, the direction, meaning and purpose of your life and seeking to get to the centre of yourself; before returning, by the same path, to the outside world and your everyday life, but now, hopefully, refreshed and renewed in your discipleship.