Walking as a way of prayer:
I walk every day. Sometimes there is a direct purpose: shopping to do or a meeting to attend. At other times I choose to walk for the simple good it does me. I find that the physical activity of the body through walking helps to still my anxious thoughts about what has been and what is to come. I lose myself in the rhythm of my steps and become more alive to what is around me.
Without trying too hard I discover I have wandered into the presence of God.
In monasteries the cloister links areas of work, rest and prayer – it serves as a physical breathing space where community members walk between different phases of activity. We too may already have a regular walk that marks a transition within our day: the journey to or from the train station, the time we walk the dog, a familiar circular walk we choose to make as a ‘breather’ within our day, a visit to the local park or the daily wander around our garden.
Here are some possible ways of making such ‘cloister’ walks times of prayer:
Stay in your senses:
God is in all things; all creation sings God’s song. You too are made in God’s likeness. Ask God for the gift of awareness of his presence.
As you walk stay in your senses, more than in your thoughts.
Take in the landscape around you: – the patterning of sunlight and cloud, the shapes and colours of leaves and trees, the play of shadow and light over buildings, the flight of birds against the sky
Feel the warmth of sun …touch the bark of trees…listen to the wind blowing leaves or the sounds of the city
Relax into the rhythm of your walking. If a sight or sound draws you, stay with it.
You may find words of prayer come to you – or you may find it enough to be still in God’s company, in wonder at God’s world
Using an arrow prayer / ‘mantra’ or song
As you walk repeat a short prayer in rhythm with your walking
· Bless the Lord O my soul
· Draw me to you
· Your kingdom come in me
Or you might use the words of a poem, the ‘Our Father’ or the 23rd psalm.
Alternatively use a verse from a hymn that expresses what is in your heart.
A walk with Jesus, reviewing the day
As you walk ask Jesus to guide in your reflection on the day that has been.
· What does he show you about the things you saw, heard, felt or understood today?
· In what ways did you sense his invitation to follow him as you went through the day?
· Where there any difficult times that you want to let go to his care?
· What were the gifts of this day? Give thanks for them.
You can also use a walk in a similar way at the beginning of the day – sharing with Jesus about what is ahead of you and how you feel about it. As you walk, rest the day in his care, and ask for his guidance and help.
A walk of intercession
You might use your cloister walk as a time of intercession. Bring to God those people and situations that are on your heart. Ask God to help you to pray for them. Release those you pray for into God’s care.
Resting in God
Somewhere along your walk, a seat may invite you to sit down for a while. One of the ‘Desert Fathers’ described his simple way of prayer:
I am sitting there in God’s presence, and when I put my leaves in to soak and when I weave a rope I say, Lord have mercy’ – is not that a prayer?’
As you sit, you do so in the presence of God. Don’t strive too hard for words or thoughts; instead rest there in God’s company expressing your needs, feelings and desires in whatever way comes naturally – with or without words.
Rest in that place, open to receive whatever God desires to give you.