Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Praying in Color

Image/Drawing by Sybil MacBeth

For those of you who may not know, I'm in seminary. I'm currently taking some summer courses and this week, the course I'm taking gives us the opportunity to explore some alternative ways of worship. What was introduced this morning was something I had never done before, but LOVED it. I encourage you to try something new in your prayer life and maybe this might be the thing to reconnect you with God in a knew and refreshing way.

This idea of worship comes from the book titled Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth. You can learn more about Sybil and the practice of praying in color by visiting her website at

That being said, the following is the exercise we practiced this morning and I would really like to encourage you to continue reading and after reading through the instructions, attempt this new form of prayer. If you do it, I'd love to hear your reflections.

1. Draw a shape on the page - a triangle, trapezoid, squiggly line, or imperfect circle. Write the name of a person for whom you want to pray in or near the shape.

2. Add detail to the drawing. This might be dots, lines, circles, zigzags or whatever your hand wants to do.

3. Don't analyze your next stroke too much. Dismiss the art critic from the room. This is not about creating a work of art; it's about creating visual images for the mind and the heart to remember.

4. Think of this as kinesthetic improvisation, a kind of praying in tongues for the fingers.

5. Continue to enhance the drawing. Think of each stroke and each moment as time that you spend with the person in prayer. The written name and the emerging picture may evoke words and thoughts for the person. They add a new layer to your prayer experience.

6. Words, however, are unnecessary. Sometimes, we do not know what to say; the mere act of sitting with this person and keeping them as the focus of our intention can be as powerful as words.

7. Keep drawing until the image feels finished.

8. At some point, your mind will probably wonder. In Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton said, "If you have never had any distractions, you don't know how to pray." Distractions are as much about being human as hair and heartaches. Make no judgments about your ability to pray based on their uninvited appearance.

9. Repeat the person's name to yourself as a way of corralling distracting thoughts. Think about the face or the entire person as if you were sitting with him or her in conversation.

10. Add color to the picture. Choose colors that will stay in your memory, that you particularly like, or that remind you of the person for who you pray.

11. When the drawing and praying for the first person are completed, move to another space on the page. Draw a new shape or design to create a place for the name of a different person.

12. When you move your focus take several deep breaths to release any anxiety.

13. In the process of this wordless prayer form, daydreams and distractions will probably enter your mind and demand center stage. Notice them, but don't dance with them. Refocus on the person for who you pray.

14. A flash of the image in your mind during the day is a reminder that you have committed these persons to the care of God. It is also a reminder that you have chosen not to worry but to pray for them.

15. Whenever worry about a person seeps into your consciousness, picture them in color surrounded by the love and care you offered when you sat with them in prayer. Envision them in the care and presence of God. Act as if you really believe that God will take care of them.

16. I use the word icon with the understanding that an icon is an image that helps us to see God. We do not worship the image; it has a transparency about it that lets us see through it to a deeper experience of God and god's presence.

** The above image and steps come from:
MacBeth, Sybil. Praying in Color. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2007.

1 comment:

Stacy said...

What a great idea. I love this concept.

Thank you for your sweet comment on my guest post for Internet Cafe.

Hope you have a great day today!

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