'Praying in Color'
In her book, An Alter in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “I would rather show someone my checkbook stubs than talk about my prayer life.”
I suspect that she is not alone.
Prayer is an essential part of a life of faith. It is an important way that we communicate to God and God to us. Prayer keeps us connected to God and it is a discipline through which God transforms us and we (co-laborers with God) transform the world. As Taylor also comments, “To say I love God but I do not pray much is like saying I love life but I do not breath much.”
But developing a disciplined habit of prayer can be difficult. Perhaps in part because there are so many other things clamoring for our attention that prayer easily gets lost in the shuffle. I also wonder if prayer is difficult because we struggle to know exactly how to or what to say; when we pray. Or also because we think that prayer only happens in one language and in one way: hands folded, head bowed, sitting in silence.
This week I discovered a wonderful resource by a women named Sybil Macbeth called “Praying in Color.” Sybil found herself exhausted by the words of her prayers and frustrated by her lack of ability to focus. One summer day, she retreated to her back porch for a session of mindless doodling with an assortment of her favorite colored markers.
As she drew, she found herself writing the name of a friend and then adding lines and shapes around it, filling in with color, and then adding the name of another friend, doing the same. Before long, the page was filled with designs and names of those she loved. Looking at the paper Sybil realized that it wasn’t just artful doodling, but prayer. The action of drawing was a wordless offering of friends and family into the care of God. Thus developed her method of “Praying in Color” in which she invites people into a new practice of prayer through “doodling.”
I love this idea. Prayer need not come in one form or method. Prayer need not be boring. Prayer can be creative and embodied. Looking for a new and fresh way of bringing prayer into your life? Your children’s lives?
Try Sybil’s directions for Praying in Color
1) Write your name for God on a piece of paper. Draw a shape around it or just start to doodle. The drawing becomes a prayer space, a small prayer closet.
2) Add marks and shapes. Focus on the name you chose. Ask God to be part of your prayer time with or without words. If words come, pray them; if not, enjoy the silence.
3) To pray for a person, write their name on the page. Draw around it. Add color, if you want. Keep drawing as you release the person into God’s care.
4) Add other people to your drawing. Think of each stroke of your pen as a prayer for them. Take a breath or say “Amen” between each person.