Faith Works 6-16-12
Walking, standing, sitting, kneeling…
How do you pray?
Some prefer to sit and close their eyes; others are more likely to spend their prayer time looking straight ahead since their devotional period is most often while they're commuting to work behind the wheel of their car.
And for the record, I think that counts. If Francis of Assisi could pray while riding a mule, then why not while driving a pickup truck? The potential distractions are not dissimilar.
In his book "Long Wandering Prayer," David Hansen reminds us of J.R.R. Tolkien's words: "Not all who wander are lost." His book has been a guide for me in a form of prayer not often remembered in the western Christian tradition, of prayer walking.
These last few years my spirituality has been enriched by time spent with Native American spiritual traditions, including those of community gatherings known as "powwows." At a powwow, there's a circuit that is "danced," or rhythmically walked, if you like, while the drum's beat and the singers' songs carry you around. It can be a powerful time of reflection, and renewal, and restoration.
The Fort Ancient Celebration last weekend, down near Cincinnati, has used the slogan "We dance our prayers." In contact with many Native people of a variety of tribes, whether out of a traditional spiritual practice, a Christian belief system, or a mix of the two, I can say that the idea of "we dance our prayers" is a reality.
Two weeks ago, as a "Sacred Walk 5K" on Sunday morning with a local powwow at the Great Circle, we set out from the opening of that portion of the Newark Earthworks, if located itself in Heath, and crossed back into Newark itself and visited a number of portions of our 2,000 year old earthwork complex while promoting both physical health, and spiritual wholeness.
This afternoon, at 1:00 pm today, we will walk that same route, some 3.2 miles, or 5 kilometers, starting at the Great Circle Museum off of the Rt. 79 parking lot. We will see places that even many life-long residents of the area aren't aware are still visible, of this once four-and-a-half square mile complex of geometric earthworks. Our walk is largely on sidewalks and along modern city streets, but is designed to try to help us envision two millennia old alignments and passageways.
There's so much we don't know for sure about the original plans and purposes of the Newark Earthworks, but one thing is clear to a casual viewer of maps depicting this landscape. People who built this, walked this. There are lanes and defined passages for walking from one element to another, a mile at a time.
Hansen's book on "Long Wandering Prayer" is much more explicitly Christian, but it gets at an element of how we are made as creatures in this world. We are designed, in so many ways, to move; we are oriented to motion and understandings that blossom out of transition and travel. Prayer may be effective seated, or even standing but still; none of which overwhelms the idea that prayer, a communion with the Creator of the world that unrolls before us in the powwow arena's circle, or down the streetscape of modern day Newark, is a rhythmic pattern of life that starts to help our hearts to beat in tune with the drummer behind the Great Dance itself.
Please consider joining us then, this afternoon, whatever your spiritual disciplines or practice, if you would like to work with prayer in motion, if you would like to learn more about walking, and meditation.
If you just would like to learn a little more than you do right now about the Newark Earthworks, you're invited as well . . . but who knows what some thankful walking might do within you?
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; tell him your story of prayer in a different sort of format at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.