From God's fullness we have all received, grace upon grace
“Walking and Praying the Labyrinth”

“Walking and Praying the Labyrinth”

The year is turning. Days are getting longer and the weather milder. Spring flowers are already blooming in profusion at Killerton. But there is still the possibility of a cold snap, another Beast from the East. Progression is not smooth. The year turns again.

So in life. So in the life of prayer. There are set backs. Or rather, there are times that feel like set backs. But there are never any dead ends. Time always flows forward. Nothing is lost and wasted in life and prayer. This is the difference between a labyrinth and a maze: for all the twists and turns, and the doubling back just when you thought you might be nearing the centre, in walking a labyrinth there is yet only one way before you and one wake behind you.

Praying a labyrinth is a journey to the centre. It is akin to walking a winding pilgrim path, taking time to reflect and ponder our interior landscape. Walking slowly, placing our feet deliberately, feeling them touch the ground, helps us to focus our conscious minds and free our deeper minds to meet with God. It can bring new insights into issues we face, patience with obstacles, perseverance with set backs.

Many follow the route into the centre and then retrace their steps back to where they started. The journeys within and without can offer different perspectives. As TS Eliot wrote in ‘Little Gidding’, “We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”

Alternatively… at St Columba’s Bay on Iona, there is often a labyrinth to be found outlined in stones on the turf. On one occasion, when I reached the centre I was facing away from the beach and towards the path back to Iona Abbey and the rest of my life. Rather than retrace my steps, I broke the constraints and stepped forward across the boundaries to seize it.

So there is no right way or wrong way to walk. Each person will have a different approach to this prayer and have a different encounter or receive a different gift, and on the next occasion you may find that everything has changed.

There are several labyrinths nearby: at Devon Wildlife Trust on the Quay; on the cliff top at Seaton; at the Sheldon Centre near Doddiscombsleigh. The Cathedral is inviting visitors to wonder and wander on several Saturdays in 2023. The next is on 1st April, from 10am-2pm.

Or you could make your own. You may have a lawn and plenty of stones, or be creative with a lawnmower. At there is a worksheet showing how to draw a classical labyrinth. The act of drawing is also an opportunity for prayer and reflection, then once you have your labyrinth, you can trace it with your finger as you pray.


This is one of a series of articles appearing in Exeter Cathedral’s monthly news, complementing the material I contributed to the “Explore Prayer” section of the Cathedral website. I hope you find them helpful.