Someone recently asked me if I usually make a coloring page first before I pray. No one had ever asked me that before so I had to think about it. I’m not sure there is a usual. I don’t think of myself as a “colorer,” if that is a word. I think of myself as a doodler who adds color–an improvisational doodler who doesn’t plan and lets the pen decide where to go.
When I started to pray with doodles, it was accidental. I was doodling for fun and the name SUE popped into the doodle. It was not a conscious decision to sit down and pray for Sue. When her name “showed up,” I added other marks—dots, lines, arcs—and looked at her name. I added color. Sue was my sister-in-law with stage 4 lung cancer. As I continued to doodle, color, and focus on her name, I realized I was praying for her. My verbal prayers for Sue had felt so puny in the past. Doodling gave me a way to be with Sue and to offer her into God’s care, not necessarily using words. It created a little prayer closet where I could go to be quiet and to listen. The movement of my hand on the page invited my body into the prayer and helped me to stay in the chair. Words sometimes came to mind and I prayed them.
Praying in Color has been part of my life for fifteen years or more. So If I have a usual pattern it might look like this:
1) When I sit down to intentionally pray, I always start with a “God” doodle, using other words as well like Holy Spirit, Redeemer, Creator, Jesus, Beloved One….This focuses my doodling as prayer and not just as playful, creative doodling which I also like to do.
2) I draw a shape, write a person’s name, and add lines, arcs, dots, squiggles, doodly marks….The doodling gives me the chance to be with this person and give them to God. Sometimes I write words near the doodle–words of blessing or petition or comfort. Sometimes the words are expressions of fear or sorrow. Offering the negative feelings to God is also my prayer.
3) At this point, I might add color before I pray for someone else OR
4) I might add a doodle for another person. Mostly I pray as I go; the doodles are an organic outgrowth of my desire to pray for a person.
5) In the prayer drawings above, I prayed for each person with a black pen in this order: Suzanne, Ginny, Don and Anne, Dan, Page and Stephen. The prayer drawing grew. There are some extra shapes for future prayers. THEN I went back and added color after all of the doodles were done. It was a way to revisit each person and pray for them again.
6) If focusing on color becomes too much like an art project for me, I close my eyes and grab three or four random colors from my stash of markers. That’s what I did with the prayer above. If the color combination is really odd, it jolts my memory and I am more likely to remember my visual prayer list after my prayer time is over. When the drawing comes to mind later in the day or even in the week, I pray for each person again, in silence or with words.
The one place I intentionally created prayer coloring pages ahead of time was in my book Pray and Color. I understand that some people do not like to doodle. The pages give people the opportunity to create a visual prayer without having to draw it themselves. The book also includes explanations for a dozen or more ways to pray using the pages.