Day Nine: Prayer
Written by Christy Close
Praying in Color
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. – James 5:13
I have a confession. Prayer is hard for me. Despite years of faith, I still feel awkward praying aloud with others. I’ve often struggled with prayer on my own as well. Prayer is a discipline I want to cultivate but struggle with. Liturgical prayers often feel forced and sometimes empty. I can ramble on to God, conversationally, but when it is my turn to listen, my mind wanders and my body protests. My eyes never itch unless I’m holding hands with others in prayer. My limbs will suddenly become stiff, begging to to be moved. A few years ago though, I discovered Praying in Color created by Sybil MacBeth, in a group for mothers of young children. One of the “mentor moms”, shared her experiences with us, and modeled what it is to ‘pray in color’. This method of prayer immediately appealed to me. Praying in Color would engage my body in the process. My eyes wouldn’t “have” to be closed. There was a place to focus. I watched as she wrote words, doodled, and shaded, intrigued by the idea of prayer beyond folded hands and bowed head. Through the presentation, I began to realize that to listen in almost any context for an extended period of time I had to take notes or doodle. I was doing that right then, taking notes on what the presenter was saying. Pen to paper had always helped my brain tune in, so why wouldn’t it be the same way when listening to God?
As soon as we were given time to “try it out”, I knew I had found something important. I felt more engaged and was disappointed when our time was up. At home, I started out using my kids’ art supplies and any blank paper I could find, but soon moved to a blank journal & high quality tools. Having my body and multiple senses involved in the process of praying, making it more tangible, made all the difference.
In the beginning, my prayers looked like Sybil describes on her website. Single names or words, with shapes drawn around them, doodles and shade added here and there. Over time though, I’ve personalized it. I may write out a verse or song lyric that connects and color around it. Sometimes, there are no words. I divide the page into sections using wavy lines and color in each section. One Mother’s Day I drew flowers around the name of each mother as I prayed for her.
This method can sound intimidating, like it’s for “artsy” people. I can assure you though that it’s for anyone. I am not an artsy person. As a matter of fact, my fine motor skills are quite lacking and my own handwriting has been mistaken for a child’s more that once. My coloring prayers are messy and full of mistakes, but they are a way I get to use the creativity God gave me to honor Him. I think we were all made to create things, and the value is often in the process, not the product. I assume God treasures my drawings for him much the way I treasure the art my children make for me. I don’t notice the “flaws” because I see their effort, their creativity, and their joy in giving me something they made themselves.
More than that, praying in color gives me a way to engage in conversation with God the same ways I engage in conversation and learning in any other area in my life, and as a result I’ve grown, cultivating a deeper prayer life and a broader definition of what prayer is. Seeing beyond the traditional ideas I had opened me to writing my prayers, praying while taking a walk or riding my bike, and other times when I can engage with more of my body and more of my senses.
Write This Way: Try praying in color! Grab a blank piece of paper, some colored pencils or markers and express your heart to God in a new way.
About the Author
Christy Close is a wife, mother of two boys, and Yorktown native. She graduated from Ball State University with plans to be an elementary school teacher, but God’s plan for her career lead to being a work from home parent in educational publishing. Christy is a long time volunteer turned staff member at Commonway and is passionate about finding the sacred in the everyday.