January 9, 2017

The Power of the Prayer Labyrinth

When I first heard about the prayer labyrinth in Searcy, I was ecstatic. Quotes from my favorite Jim Henson movie filled my head, and I felt like I could audibly hear David Bowie singing “The Babe with the Power”. I simply had to go and check it out. So, I gathered a group of my closest friends, and we drove to the corner of Apple and Race Streets, right next to the First Presbyterian Church, to walk the labyrinth. Yet when I arrived, I couldn’t help but feel that Jim Henson and David Bowie had it all wrong. This was not a maze filled with tricksters and thieves; it was a sacred and holy place, a place that had been graced by the presence of God.

When I spoke with Reverend Kade Curry, this became even more evident. Reverend Curry began his ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Searcy in July 2012. After a year in service, he wanted to find a way to give back to the community of Searcy, so in 2013, the church voted to buy the vacant lot next door and begin building a prayer labyrinth.  The project was funded by Synod of the Sun, which Reverend Curry explained is made up of all the presbyteries in the southern region, including churches from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and of course, Arkansas. Once the church received funding in 2015, they began construction. The prayer labyrinth was a labor of love, built completely by volunteers from the church. The group of 12 spent three consecutive Saturdays building the labyrinth. The cross in its center was added a few months later by Circuit Court Judge Mark Pate, who is also a member of the church.

The prayer labyrinth seems to get quite a lot of use. Reverend Curry shared story after story with me about the people who have walked the labyrinth’s winding curves. He spoke of one man who has shared that he walks through the labyrinth praying for himself. Once he reaches the cross in the center, he spends time thanking God for his blessings, and as he leaves the labyrinth, the man prays for our country and for others. Reverend Curry also shared a story of a woman who he witnessed walking through the labyrinth one day. When she made it to the center, she laid a rock at the foot of the cross and left, stepping over the labyrinth’s barriers. Reverend Curry learned later that this woman had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and when she laid down the rock, she promised God to return to the labyrinth once she had finished her cancer treatments, this time with prayers of thanksgiving.

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The labyrinth is symbolic of the Christian journey. As a person walks the labyrinth, at times they will find themselves drawn toward the center, and at other times, they will find themselves being pulled away. This mirrors our own relationships with God, the times when we’re drawn closer to Him and the times when He feels miles away. Still, we know that we will eventually end up in the center of the labyrinth, and once we gather our strength there, we must return to the world and lift up others.

Though the labyrinth symbolizes the Christian journey, each person finds a different meaning within it because each person’s journey is different. This is where the labyrinth gets its power. For the woman with cancer, it was a way of putting her trust in God. For the man, it became a journey of quiet meditation and prayer. As for me, the labyrinth is a reminder of the babe with the power who entered our world so many years ago and forever changed it.

Kayla Dean

Kayla Shown-Dean is a tutor and adjunct English instructor at Arkansas State University in Beebe. She is also the author of Muted and Autumn Leaflets: a Collection of Poetry. After graduating from ASU with her M.A. in English, Kayla and her husband, Preston, moved to Beebe where they live with their son, Lukas, and dog, Oliver. On her summers off, you’ll most likely find Kayla and her son playing in their backyard, going on long walks with their dog, or working in their vegetable garden. Kayla also often enjoys barbequing and playing board games with her friends. You read more of her work on her website www.kideanaround.com or follow her column in Searcy’s The Daily Citizen.