People say prayers anytime, anywhere–in the car, on the basketball court, under the bed, during a test, in dreams…. There’s probably no time, circumstance, or place where prayers are not offered. With my drawn prayers, I now see any piece of paper as a invitation for a moment with God. No napkin, newspaper, or notebook is safe from a spontaneous opportunity for prayer. Here is a pencil prayer from 35,000 feet in the middle of a Sudoku page.
(Sudoku torn from my Puzzler.com 252 Puzzles June/July 2008)
A friend who uses Praying in Color in her prayers wrote me with a comment and question, “I seem to have the same artistic pattern of circles & squiggles. How do I break the mold…?” I have the same feeling sometimes. My drawings always seem to have amoebas, lines, dots, and polka dots. So here was my suggestion to her and to myself. If you’re in a drawing rut, maybe it will give you ideas:
Decide ahead of time what shapes you’ll use. For example, “Today I’ll only draw squares, lines, triangles, and dots.” You could write all different kinds of shapes and strokes on little pieces of paper, put them in a basket, and choose 3 or 4. My vocabulary of drawing expands by using shapes I don’t normally draw. The limitation to only three or four choices of shapes and strokes frees me to pray without too much concentration on the drawing.
I used to teach pre-ballet to 5-7 year olds. If I put on music and asked the children to do anything they wanted, they were often stymied and did the same thing over and over. If I said, “Pretend you are in a small square. You have to have one hand on the floor at all times. See what you can do.” The limited instructions set them free to move in new and creative ways.
Here is my prayer with only rectangles, lines, and triangles. Using only three shapes did not feel like a boundary on creativity, but an invitation into a new vocabulary.
Ruth Leamy has written a nice blog post about Praying in Color on her website Read. Hear. See. Feel. She includes some of her drawings and the ways she has adapted praying in color to her prayer life–some good ideas. Ruth is the author of two books Praise Patterns: Magnifying God With Mary of Nazareth and Sacred Signposts (Exploring the prayer paths of St. Paul and St. Patrick).
If you happen to be in Memphis this coming week….
Friday, February 18, 2011 2 to 4 p.m., Chapel of Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS) at the corner of East Parkway and Union Avenue.
This workshop, free and open to the public and part of MTS’s Theology & Arts Institute.
For more information call 458-8232 or visit www.memphisseminary.edu
My posting, I notice, is sporadic. When I wrote for the Purpose Driven Connection, I wrote 5-6 days every week. So why the scatter shot writing now? I propose a few explanations:
# 1: Writing for the PDC included a contract; there was an obligation and a paycheck. But in spite of the contract, it didn’t feel like a obligation. I loved the writing and the daily discipline. Looking and listening for God and God’s presence in the world became a habit I don’t want to lose.
#2 I’ve been finishing a manuscript, writing a couple of articles, and commuting once a month between cities–a pretty lame excuse, really.
#3 I wait for permission to do a lot of things in life. Purpose Driven gave me an invitation and a permission slip to write about my prayer life. I probably would never have written Praying in Color if an author hadn’t said, “You WILL write about the way you pray.” This third explanation is the most troubling for me. It’s the one that keeps me from jumping into new ministries, volunteering in my community, or pursuing a new career. It’s the one that says, “You have nothing to offer. Who gave you the right to do…?” When I see other people hesitate to share their ideas or their skills because of fear or waiting for permission I get upset. Those little voices feel like the whisper of the liar, not the voice of God. I am learning to at least talk back. Sometimes I can even say, “Get thee behind me Satan.” (Matthew 16:23 KJV)