Lessons from a prayer labyrinth


We drove up the windy road to the top of Monte Sano Mountain. Here it was still. Hushed. Beautiful.

For months we’d been meeting inside, down in the valley. For an hour once a week, we gathered to talk, to laugh, then to pray in silence, centering ourselves in God’s presence, consenting to his will, not ours.

But our field trip this morning was getting us out. Up.

Not to sit, but to walk.

At first glance, the prayer labyrinth seemed small. And confusing. More like a maze to get lost in rather than a journey to get found. The grass slightly obscured the rock sides and I wondered if I’d see where the turns were.

One sister stepped in. We waited. Then another sister. One by one, we each entered at our own pace, quietly, methodically, walking in between the stones, turning in and out as they directed.

It seemed so orderly to have been birthed out of chaos.

Out of a deadly tornado actually.

On Palm Sunday 1994, Reverend Kelly Clem was worshiping with her church family in Piedmont, Alabama, when hail began falling outside the sanctuary.

Then it got worse. A tornado swirled in, ripping the roof off the sanctuary and slamming it back down on the north wall.

Twenty people were dead.

Including little Hannah, the four-year-old daughter of Kelly and Dale Clem.

Much grief followed. Pain. Even now.

But as healing began to rise out of the suffering, so did a desire to help others walk through their own circumstances in life.

Years later, the idea for the prayer labyrinth was seeded, planted, and now full-grown by the Clems on the mountain outside the church building where Reverend Dale Clem ministers.

As I now walked it with my friends, I silently thanked God for my own healing—some I could recognize and some still in progress. I asked to accept pain I still wrestle with, and praised for chains he’s broken off (hallelujah!).

The prayer labyrinth was showing me the path from suffering to sense can remain a mystery. That’s okay.

I don’t have to explain every answer. I don’t have to force beauty from ashes. I don’t have to see over the weeds.

I can love God when I see something good come out of bad. And when I don’t.

Because in this moment—in this step—is where his Spirit is.
And together we keep walking.

* * *

17 thoughts on “Lessons from a prayer labyrinth

  1. Dianna

    Beautifully written, dear Lisa! What a peaceful walk …and what peace the walk brought!

    “I don’t have to explain every answer. I don’t have to force beauty from ashes. I don’t have to see over the weeds.”…isn’t it such a liberating feeling to know we don’t have to force anything? That in itself IS the beauty from ashes! Love you!

  2. Nancy Sturm

    Oh, Lisa, I can so relate to this post. In 1999, our beautiful church, built by the congregation, was destroyed in a tornado. Fortunately, no one was in the building, so no lives were lost. On the journey of rebuilding, however, we learned so much and grew as a congregation. Every year, in memory of that day and all the blessings we received, we give a Great is Thy Faithfulness offering to another church that has experienced physical damage to their building. What a lovely idea to create a prayer labyrinth after the chaos of the tornado! Thanks for sharing this lovely, inspiring post.

  3. Caleb Suko

    It always amazes me how these things come out of the pain in our life. God uses tragedies to draw us closer to to Him if we allow it. How often I have wished that I could just slide through life without the pain but then I realize that we live in a fallen world and even Jesus experienced great pain in His life so why should I be an exception. The important thing is that I let the pain draw me closer to God.

  4. Jerralea

    Interesting post, Lisa! I loved your statement of not having to know the answer to every question. That seems to me to be the epitome of faith, for if I knew the answer to everything, I wouldn’t have faith, I’d have knowledge.

    To love Him even when we don’t have the answer – that is true love!

  5. tcavey

    How beautiful! God does make beautiful things out of the chaos of our lives. It can be hard to understand and even to trust at times, but God is with us even when it doesn’t “feel” like it.

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s a great post.

  6. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! This photo just speaks to me. I love the idea of a group of prayer friends doing this together. How meditative and reflective it must have been… And the history of that site, wow. How powerful! I wonder what insights have come to the many who walked it.

    And you used your time for praise and thanks. Those are the best prayers, I think.

    Thank you for sharing this today. I’m going to remember that photo for a while.

  7. Nancy

    I have heard of prayer labyrinths, but I have never experienced one. I loved reading about your experience and your description.

    I remember that tornado and the sadness that we all felt over the church’s and the pastor’s loss.

  8. Mia

    Hi Lisa
    I have walked such a labyrinth a few years ago at Hogsback, the village that inspired The Lord of The Rings. I had two little girls walking with me and we had so much fun together.
    Blessings XX

  9. Nancy Franson

    I attended a retreat once where there was a labyrinth on the grounds. I walked it, but didn’t really get it.

    I wish I could go back now, now that I’ve learned more about the practice. I’m glad you told the back story behind this labyrinth. The gospel always preaches–sometimes in very tangible ways.

  10. David Rupert

    I first encountered one of these at a Christian camp and I didnt really get it. I thought it was an Eastern or mind-control mechanism that had no place in God’s world. BUt after spending some time at it in subsequent years, i’ve learned the purpose is to focus and to keep my praying without wandering.

  11. Joe Pote

    “…the path from suffering to sense can remain a mystery. That’s okay. I don’t have to explain every answer. I don’t have to force beauty from ashes.”

    I loved this! I find such peace in this realization, both for my own sorrows and for others. I don’t have to understand it all…nor do I have to try to explain it all.

    It is enough to trust that God has the answers…and to rejoice at the glimpses He shares with me!

    Thanks for sharing this, Lisa!

  12. Dolly@Soulstops

    I could feel the peace as you wrote about your prayer walk…I love prayer labyrinths….and there is such freedom in accepting, one doesn’t have to explain or have an answer in the midst of the suffering…it is enough to know God is with you…praying you continue to find peace…and for the Clem family….sorry for their loss…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *