My friend Ruth kept telling me about the book Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth.
“I just love it!” she said many times over, her eyes all lit up from the inside and a soft smile with a shake of the head when she tried to explain it.
I could not imagine a prayer in color so I nodded and smiled back even though I couldn’t imagine what on the green Earth she was talking about.
In the meantime, I kept meeting with her and several other people every Sunday as we wrestled with the Bible, with what we believed and with the trouble we all have in our daily lives.
At the end of each meeting, we ask each other for prayers. Sometimes these prayers are for friends and loved ones with problems and, at times, the prayers are for joys. I dutifully looked at the list of my friend’s names, closed my eyes and tried to pray. Sometimes I wrote these prayers in a journal. They always sounded something like: “Please, God, be with so and so. Take away her pain. Let him be healed.”
This all sounds good and like what I was supposed to do but was often very quick and then I would forget. It also felt an awful lot like worry for or gossip about the person. I thought all about the issues and often felt no connection to any higher order of good afterward. Just anxiety.
Finally, I gave in and got the book Ruth kept telling me about. The instant I opened it’s cover, I knew this would be something amazing.
The author describes many of my same problems and then goes on to tell how she stumbled upon a solution simply because she loved to doodle and happened to start praying while she drew one day.
Here are the steps:
1. Get pens full of color that inspire you and some paper. (I love my art journals with the heavy bond paper but lighter smaller paper can work better if you wish to carry your prayers around with you.)
2. Write the person’s name or some shape that symbolizes that person for you.
3. Doodle while you rest your mind and think peacefully of that person and your wish for him/her. Dwelling on the troubles of the person isn’t really necessary. When it works best for me, I am simply holding that person in my mind and letting all other thoughts drift through in a sort of drawing meditation.
4. Let the thoughts that come to you guide your doodle and its colors. Don’t be afraid to draw the problem (like a broken heart or eyes for an eye surgery). Let yourself feel the emotions, knowing that your heart can break and then mend again. I have been amazed to see where my doodles have gone.
5. After you finish and as you go through your day, remember what you’ve drawn in your mind’s eye.
You can work on one doodle over a matter of days. If you have a bouncy person in your life like my four year old, this is often necessary.
You can pray with pens for others, for yourself, for something tragic in the news, or for your enemies. Doodles can be about your finances, about elections, or some grand celebration you are living through.
Most of all, remember that it isn’t at all about making a perfect piece of art! It is about the peace you bring to yourself, to the other person and to the world around you when you put colored pens to paper with a mindset of connection and peace. It’s also about the permission to get out colored pens and simply play as a prayer.
I will be brave and share two of my doodles here with you. Next week I will see if I can get some of my mother’s fabulous artwork up so you might understand how difficult it has been for me to overcome my lack of ability in comparison to her. I’m so glad I got over myself and drew anyway.
This month, I’ll look at other ways that artists use prayer in their work. I’m finding that the art and the prayer work in two directions. The art impacts the prayer and the prayer alters the art.
And Ruth was right. Praying in color is an absolute joy. (And if you know her, you understand that my wise friend often is right.)