Monday, September 23, 2013

Prayer walk on the shore

Several years ago I participated in a week-long retreat for “Personal Growth in Christ,” sponsored by Twin Rocks Friends Camp. Most of the week was actually spent in silence, but every morning the directors would present a spiritual discipline for us to try out during the day. It was there I learned about prayer walks, a practice common in rural monasteries. It seems each monk chooses a route through the surrounding countryside. At set locations, the monk stops and prays in specific ways, repeating the process each day. These are prayers for personal growth.
We were encouraged to try it on the beach, imagining walking the path with Jesus and directing our prayers to him in conversation. We were encouraged to memorize the path and the prayer sequence, so that when we went home after the retreat, we could continue the practice in our imaginations. Since my imagination is alive and well, and since I love the ocean, I tried it, and it’s become a prayer exercise I frequently come back to. Photos of my “prayer stations” help. Here’s the exercise as I developed it:
Preparation: As I walk the path to the beach, I read a portion of Scripture and prepare my heart to meet Jesus. I joyfully anticipate our meeting.
Station 1: A bench with a view of the ocean. As I approach the bench, I see Jesus coming to meet me. We are both smiling. We greet, hug and sit down together. We don’t talk much at this point. We both sense a quiet joy in being together. If needed, I confess whatever I need to, receive his pardon, and then just rest in his love.

Station 2: We get up, and walk slowly down the beach to a log, where we again sit together. He asks me what gift I would like him to give me. I repeat my theme verse (2 Peter 3:18) and tell him I want to grow in grace and in my relationship with him. I ask him that I might more and more live out my core values of gratitude, wisdom, compassion, poetry and humor. We linger for a while, and get up and approach the surf.
Station 3: At the edge of the water, I pray for relationships. I present to Jesus my key relationships and ask his help in being the person I need to be for the people he has brought into my life. I present myself as wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, friend, elder, and in any other relationships that God is currently placing in my path.
Station 4: Then we continue walking down the beach, hand in hand, until we reach the river, coming down from the mountains. We sit on another log. As the river runs into the sea, I focus on the various ministries God where has asked me to partner with him. I consider myself as a writer, teacher, intercessor, elder, and however else God may want to use me. I ask help in being a good team member, able to value and encourage the contributions of others. I ask to grow in my ability to hear God’s voice and work as a co-laborer in God’s mission. I take my time.
Station 5: We arise, walk back to the surf and follow the water home. We are silent. My heart is full of praise. I glory in the beauty of the sea and the sky. I glory in the presence of my Lord and friend, amazed that he is both. I carry the beauty back with me into the world. Amen. Amen.



  1. Beautiful, the beauty of holiness. But, this experience isn't any more spiritual than your willing suffering in La Paz, right? Because I know the labors of love that flow from, reflect, are the embodiment of your intimacy with God, these beautiful dates with God are invitations and reminders and cause for gratitude. The temptation to make such experiences ends in themselves, to make these the marks of genuine spirituality, seems to lurk around in the literature. I'm not trying to detract from the grace of your time with Jesus--I read the blog while Nairobi and Syria and Pakistan were in the news and I wondered what spirituality looked like for the Christians there, what spiritual disciplines they are practicing. I know you'll understand my wrestling. I pray that the beauty you describe in this blog will be possible in dark places as well. Yes, the valleys and still waters and full tables appear in the same chapter as the valley of the shadow of death. Look forward to your response.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful observations and questions, my not-so-anonymous friend. You're right in writing that our spiritual exercises should never be ends in themselves. Our spirituality is closely linked to our partnership with God in his mission in the world. In that light, my "beach prayer walk" doesn't seem related to a violent world, but it is, although it might not be what a Christian in Kenya or Pakistan would gravitate to at this time. Pondering that question certainly stretches me. I am currently tutoring a student in El Salvador who is researching spirituality in contexts of violence, and I realize I have much to learn from him. This morning I've been meditating on Jesus' public ministry in Galilee as fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy that "the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." I think of Kenya, Pakistan, Syria and Rwanda as land where the shadow of death is a daily reality, and I ask how Jesus, or his body, the church, is fulfilling this prophecy. At this point, all I can do it hold up the image and plead for God to let it be. Thank you for provoking these thoughts. I'll blog on it, as writing is one what I reflect and work out what God might be saying to me.

  3. You could not know how significant this response would be today. I've been pondering light, the One who is Light, in whom there is no darkness at all (John 1, 1 John 1). And I am attempting to respond to the challenges within Ephesians 5:11-14. The darkness I am encouraging students to expose to the light is often so dark that I don't even want it to become part of my imagination and "it is shameful to mention" some of the things people have experienced. And yet, I am coming to believe that "everything that becomes visible is light". However, the exposure itself is not transformative (see tv talk shows). When, how does darkness become exposed to the One who is the Light so that it can be transformed? Just need you to pray and guide on this as well. Thank you, Mary