Monday, March 5, 2012

Praying In Color

During a recent children's ministry conference, I ran across a "new to me" resource for students - Praying In Color for Kids. A visual, creative and even meditative way to incorporate prayer and art.

In fact, it's the "student" version of Praying In Color: Drawing A New Path To God by Sybil MacBeth.

Praying In Color is a unique way to look at prayer. Using a series of doodles and color, MacBeth encourages people to use drawings to connect with God.

In fact, MacBeth states on her blog: "Maybe you hunger to know God better. Maybe you love color. Maybe you are a visual or kinesthetic learner, a distractable or impatient soul, or a word-weary pray-er. Perhaps you struggle with a short attention span, a restless body, or a tendency to live in your head."

I find this very intriguing. I bought the kids' version at the conference - only to discover a co-worker not only had it on her bookshelf, but also the "grownup" version as well. (So I've read both books in the last two weeks.)

I think what I liked most about the "kids" version is that MacBeth has included two pages of "doodle" suggestions for students to try as they explore the creative side of prayer.

The grownup version focused on the different styles of Praying in Color - from using it as guided prayer to Lectio Divina -- reading the bible for spiritual growth.

In the last week, I've sought to "understand" how to incorporate this into my prayer life. I've broken out a blank notebook (I bought it last month to try some visual journaling) and a box of colored pencils.

I'll admit, I've probably been "over thinking" it. (People who know me well will just laugh at this statement.) Somehow this practice works best when you just "let go" and really let yourself just relax and just create. In other words, I think I'll need to find a way to turn my "multi-tasking" brain off. I might even need to quit trying so hard.

For now, I've tried Praying In Color a couple of times. The first time, I created a "visual" page during a worship service - starting with black and white graphics and then slowly adding color - not perfect or great, but a start.

The second attempt came on a day when three friends kept coming to mind. I just felt drawn to draw out their names and add colors that reminded me of them.

One of the things MacBeth points out in her books is how the visual picture "sticks" in your brain, helping you continually think of the people or things you were praying for. It ultimately seems to become a way to immerse yourself completely in prayer.

She offers a "Lenten" calendar version on her blog - a way to incorporate this into the rhythm of the current church season. (I'm not being very successful in this practice calendar has lots of "blank" spaces.)

I really hope to incorporate this as part of the upcoming mission trip (for older elementary students). Somehow I think students will be open to the creative nature of this prayer practice.

This is a new spiritual discipline I hope to completely incorporate into my life. Right now it's not "second nature." But I assume, like all things, the more you do it, the more it becomes as natural as taking a breath. I hope so. 

More About The Author
Sybil MacBeth is a doodler, dancer, and former community college math professor. She is the 2010-2011 Varnell Artist-in-Residence for Memphis Theological Seminary.

During 2009, Sybil wrote a daily Prayer Blog for Rick Warren's website, the Purpose Driven Connection:

Her new blog, "The Praying in Color Blog":, includes meditations, reflections, and ideas about Praying in Color.

She is a confessed non-artist and cannot draw a cat. Years ago a friend put a pen and colored markers in her hand and gave her permission to make improvisational drawings. Making abstract, sometimes even ugly drawings, has given her many hours of pleasure and relaxation. The prayer practice Praying in Color was born when her need to invite her body into intercessory prayer intersected with her love of color and doodling.

MacBeth is the mother of two adult sons. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband who is an Episcopal priest.

Online Resources

Note: As a freelance journalist, I am often provided a copy of books for review on my blog. This feature, however, was not influenced by a free book - since I purchased Praying in Color for Kids and borrowed the "grownup" version. So, the only thing that influenced this feature is a desire to try a new spiritual practice - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

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