The work of the Messiah is described by His forerunner in Isaiah:
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. (Isaiah 40:4)
…I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. (Isaiah 42:16)
When the Messiah would come, the prophets foretold, He would turn the crooked paths –those distorted and perverted paths– into straight paths for men to walk so as to find salvation only in Him.
Later, John the Baptist used Isaiah’s words to introduce the ministry of Jesus:
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:5)
Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus fulfilled the prophecies by changing paths made crooked by legalistic religion and worldly values into straight paths that brought people straight to Himself!
In light of this wooing characteristic in Our Lord, why are many modern prayer ministries encouraging a method of praying that employs crooked paths?
I was recently motivated to learn more about St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City. In 1766 the newly inaugurated president, George Washington, lead a procession of political leaders to a location in lower Manhattan for a prayer of dedication for our nation. St. Paul’s Chapel, part of Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church, is located on that spot and is the oldest building in New York that remains in continuous use.
St. Paul’s Chapel has survived over 200 years of turbulent history of this country. The most recent of which was the terrorist attack on the towers of the World Trade Center in 2001. Although much was destroyed at Ground Zero, this chapel survived!
As I read about this chapel, my eye caught an interesting highlight on their web site that promoted their labyrinth. A labyrinth is an ancient, pagan work of art that traces its history back to Daedalus of Crete. Although revived and “christianized” by the Roman Catholic Church during the dark Middle Ages, there is nothing Christian about the use of a labyrinth! St Paul’s Chapel web site states: “a labyrinth walk is a symbolic pilgrimage, a cathartic act that leads to salvation, enlightenment or consolation.”
I could not believe what I read: “a labyrinth walk is…a cathartic act that leads to salvation.” They were offering a salvation that is man-produced instead of Christ-redeemed through His crucifixion! Instead of a “straight path” to the Messiah, the “crooked path” of their labyrinth is leading many to a counterfeit salvation.
Recently our daughter’s family visited a strong Southern Baptist church in their community. They inquired about the prayer ministry of the church and were told that it is a “cathartic ministry of the church”! Webster describes a catharsis as a purification of the emotions primarily through art forms.
Many denominations and churches have long left biblically sound prayer ministries that serve as a straight path to the Messiah and His purposes. Inspired by something novel and often following the writings of false prophets, they have chosen to employ pagan-originated prayer walks and labyrinths to massage the emotions. Visually they can see the gnarled, distorted, and twisted image of the labyrinths! Often what they cannot see is the subtle message that salvation and healing are man-produced. Their crooked path hinders the Messiah and His purposes! According to Isaiah 59:8, their crooked path will not bring peace!