My friend Cindy let me borrow a book that I absolutely LOVE now. It’s called Praying in Color and it is now a favorite book of mine because of the way it’s affected my prayers.
The author of the book, Sybil MacBeth, says “We can listen and concentrate best when we are seemingly distracted by other activity – in other words, when we are allowed to play. The fact that our hands are busy does not mean we aren’t paying attention.” MacBeth describes the way she uses drawing to enhance her prayer time, and she discusses different tools you can use (different papers, pens, etc.).
The first few chapters spoke deeply to me. Before I even finished the book, I grabbed some fun pens, black paper, and set to work illustrating my prayers. I started with God in the center of my art, then drew names of people I’m praying for. Names that carried extra gravity for me – or people I prayed about for a longer period of time – were drawn bigger or in a different writing style. I was amazed at how my prayer time went from worrying to just raising that person up to God’s will and presence. Here’s the first Icon (as the author calls them) that I completed. I lost a few names when I scanned the page, since my paper was bigger than my scanner’s bed. But you get the idea…
The author writes, “The entire prayer time was silent and wordless. I felt no need to supply a pious or pleading monologue. The feeling of despair and discouragement and my usual urgency to flee from the sickness and distress of others were absent. I had thought ‘of’ each person as I drew, but not ‘about’ each person. The details of their prayer needs were spared, and I could just sit with them in a variation on stillness.”
I do believe she was writing that about ME and my prayer time!
I completed my third Icon this afternoon. I started it a few days ago, and slowly added to it as I read my Bible. I started with Psalm 103, then went backwards page by page to Psalm 78. As I went, I jotted down all the names and words that describe God – either in my mind or in the Psalms I read. I ended up with this art, plus a heart full of praise for Someone who is so steadfast and yet so changing to me.
I tried a different technique for my second Icon, which is a little too personal for me to share here. The technique wasn’t mentioned in the book. I took a pen and piece of paper and just started writing a prayer in cursive handwriting. I didn’t allow myself to use spaces between my words, so the prayer looks like one REALLY long word. This technique was interesting because in cursive, you have to know what letter or word comes next so you’ll know what shape to make with your pen. The result was I had to turn my brain off and stop overthinking the prayer, and just let the words come through my brain without a filter. It was pretty cool.
The book has chapters explaining different prayers and subject matter to use (praying the Scriptures, using Lectio Divina, using a calendar, and even using a computer). There are all kinds of examples throughout the book, drawn by the author and other people she knows. It’s a really great book! (Thank you, Cindy!)
Praying in color has refreshed my prayer time by letting the analytical side of my brain focus on specifics while the meandering, creative side of my brain filters those thoughts into something tangible. I can’t wait to spend more time with God and my colorful prayers!