Sunday, August 9, 2015

Join the Trend of the Day --- Pray in Color!!

According to the Huffington Post last week, six of the top twenty selling books on Amazon are adult coloring books. I scanned the list and found these titles -

Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns by Adult Coloring Book Artists
Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford
Creative Haven, Creative Cats Coloring Book by Marjorie Sarnat
Creative Haven, Whimsical Gardens Coloring Book by Alexandra Cowell.

Reading the advertisements about each one, I spot common words like relaxing, stills the mind and calming. Finding this article was timely for me, as I just finished teaching a class as the Chautauqua Institute in western New York called "Praying with Paper, Pencil, Paints and Sand."

Nearly eight years ago at the annual "Spirit and Place" series of concerts and lectures held in Indianapolis each November, I attended Sybil MacBeth's daylong program on her book Praying in Color. The author described frustration with her prayer life that included difficulty sitting still and inconsistency in spending time with God. She liked to doodle, however, so the high school math teacher began making shapes and forms, including the names of persons for whom she wanted to pray. She added color to her designs with paints or crayon. This method of using patterns and color helped her enter God's presence, stay focused in prayer, and develop an attentiveness to hear God speak.

I have used her way of praying for many years. Often I don't have words to say when I bring my feelings to God, but I can find a color or two that seems to "give language." Adding a design and continuing with the pattern or color eventually leads me to words that open a pathway to God and to my heart.

I told my students last week, "Praying with paper, paint and pencil is not about art, but about prayer." Letting go of the thought, often restraining, that this type of prayer is not for a juried art show, helps people relax and begin to experience a new way to enter God's presence.

Here are a few suggestions to get started.

1. Gather a pencil, a box of children's paints, and a sketchbook or sheet of white paper, a cup of water - these are the "tools of prayer."
2. Find a quiet place at a desk or table. Know that God is with you. Offer a prayer to increase your awareness of God's presence as you draw, paint and pray.
3. Regard your paper as a sacred and holy space for communion with God.
4. Make a list of the people for whom you want to pray, including yourself.
5. Begin with shapes and lines, adding names as you pray. When you finish, paint the design. (See below for example.)
6. Carrying the image you made throughout the day is a way to remain close to God. You have created a visual prayer list.
7. A blank piece of paper, paints, a pencil and brush can become as sacred as a monk's cell where God is received in the silence of your heart.

My students at Chautauqua responded well to the class. Each day we shared our "homework" from the day before from sketchbooks and large pieces of paper. They were delighted with the pictures that resulted from dealing with difficult family circumstances, as well as the way God came to them as they drew and filled in with color.

Knowing there is a creative way to relax, relieve stress or meditate that reverts to the way young children develop visual perceptual skills will be interesting to follow. I wonder if holiday shopping this year will find boxes of crayons along with the books mention in the Huffington Post under the Christmas tree? Maybe others will discover coloring or painting their own designs or patterns in prayer will lead to a deeper connection to God and self.

Prayer: God, there are as many ways to come to you as there are people. Open us to the experience of creating our own shapes and patterns, and adding color can bring us into an awareness that we are always in your presence. Amen.


  1. You are right--this idea is huge! I've seen people drawing right inside their Bibles and in prayer journals. It may be a trend, but it also seems to tap into something inside us that words alone cannot unlock. Love this idea.

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