Wednesday, 15 May 2013

1: Labyrinth

Welcome to The Teenage Prayer Experiment!

This is a collaboration between my son and me, to try out different ways of praying and see which work best for a young teenager. (He's actually 12, but there isn't a name for that). We will be blogging alternately: I will come up with a prayer idea, then he'll review it.

You can find out more by reading 'The Project'.

For our first week, I thought we'd start with a labyrinth. Why? Because it is hands-on, interactive - and I happen to have one lying around.

I have an oak finger labyrinth, bought from Pilgrim Paths, and I'm going to suggest that Noah tries tracing the path first with a marble, and then with just his finger.

A labyrinth differs from a maze, because it only has one path. The path winds round and back on itself, so you can seem suddenly very near the center, then very far away. But you know you can't get lost, and all you have to do to get to the center is simply keep following the path.

Labyrinths have been used since ancient times as symbols of the spiritual life, and since at least medieval times as symbols of the Christian path. They were perhaps used as an alternative to costly and impractical pilgrimages for people who couldn't easily travel. The center might represent going to Jerusalem, or meeting God face to face, or reaching the end of life.

There are various ways to use a labyrinth, but the pure method is simply to slowly follow the path to the center, rest there a while, and then slowly follow it back out. It is a method of praying using your whole body. You don't just sit there and think, your body actually makes a journey. In my experience of walking full size labyrinths, I have found that my mind follows that physical journey, and is able to make some connections that I'm not sure I'd have made if I were just sitting still.

An alternative is to think about a particular question, or a scriptural quotation, on the way in, and perhaps another on the way out.

Full size labyrinths are big, and expensive and time consuming to build: though maybe if this goes well that could be a project for the youth group? Finger labyrinths like this one are more practical, and also take less time to 'walk', important for a beginner.

Since we are just beginning, my hunch is that having some words to focus on might make contemplation easier. So I'm going to suggest that on the way in, Noah thinks about the words 'I am the way, the truth and the life'; and on the way out 'Follow me'.

Watch this space to see how it went from him....


  1. I love the concept of this blog so much. Have a look at the proost website, there are some other labyrinth ideas. I have previously run the proost labyrinth over a 12 hour period at church. Please contact me on twitter @resourcethechur or for more info as I would love to talk more about this.

  2. I love labyrinths and wish I could physically walk one on a regular basis. I love your prayer project. We are at the uncomfortable phase with our children where faith is okay as long as we (the parents) are not involved. So we stand back and let them explore on their own. I long to join in but know I cannot just yet.

  3. Look forward to following this series.

  4. Perhaps this is a God-incidence. I had seen a walking labyrinth but not understood how to use it. This could be a very useful new way of praying. Thank you.


We welcome your comments, especially if you have tried the week's exercise yourself! Give it marks out of ten, or just let us know what you think. Please be aware we may quote you if we ever do write this up as book!