Just before the first lockdown in March last year, I posted about my reflections on intercessory prayer. Just after that, and maybe even as a result of that post, I started to explore with Praying in Color. My Spiritual Director on the IGR I did at Penhurst had mentioned it, and I had tucked it away for future reference. I mentioned that when I painted a mandala with someone in mind, it was a way of praying for them and that quite often I gave them the finished mandala. It seemed a very natural attraction for me.
Here, I will summarise the process that Sybil MacBeth lays out in great detail in her book “Praying in Color”:
1. Draw a shape on the page:
– a triangle, trapezoid, squiggly line, or imperfect circle.
2. Write a word in or near the shape:
– the person you are praying for, word or phrase from scripture, a name for God, a feeling word that came up in your prayer…
3. Add detail to the drawing.
This might be dots, lines, circles, zigzags, or whatever your hand wants to do.
4. Continue to enhance the drawing.
Think of each stroke and each moment as time that you spend with that person or word or phrase or God in prayer.
5. Keep drawing until the image feels finished.
6. Add colour to the picture.
Choose colours that will stay in your memory, that you particularly like, or that remind you of what you are praying about.
I am not quite so dextrous with the digitial pen, but I am sure that you can see where it is going. When the drawing and praying for the first person, word, phrase, feeling or name for God are completed, You can move onto another space on the page:
7. Draw a new shape or design
-to create a place for the name of another person, word, phrase, feeling or name for God.
8. Repeat the process of drawing as many times as you feel moved to.
9. Linger with the page in front of you.
Let the names, images and colours imprint themselves on your brain. Spend another moment with each one on silence and close with an “Amen”.
10. Carry the page with you.
Place it open on your prayer spot or on the fridge: someplace where your eyes will scan it during the day.
Sometimes when I am busy or stressed, and my mind is all over the place, I have found this to be a helpful way of praying that slows me down.
In another of her books on this concept, Sybil Macbeth offers colouring templates that she has drawn – steps 1-5 effectively – and a wealth of other suggestions on how to use them. During the first lockdown in March last year, I used one of those to make intercessory prayers for the people I cared about and who were struggling. I took one person a day and spent the time in my morning prayer, thinking of them and the graces I wished to ask God to bestow on them. Then I kept the sheet around and placed it in my prayer space overnight. I also added prayers for my two children during Holy Week.
The images are stuck into an art book that I use as a spiritual workbook and I love the prayer patchwork they make. I have also considered the possibility of cutting the rectangles when I have finished the praying in colour with them and putting them in my prayer pot to hold, or take out at random another day.
During the retreat I made at home in the summer, I learned that to help me move from one state of being to another, I need to have some transtion type activities, and especially when going from a busy, active state to a contemplative state. Praying in colour helps me to do just that.
My friend the artist is taken with this idea and created some colouring templates of Julian of Norwich quotes for me to pray with during my retreat. Her intention is to leave room in the templates for enhancements as well as colouring. You can see I have added my own. At some point, she is talking about creating colouring books that can be bought and she is in the process of creating them. I am looking forward to that, but in the meantime, I still have some she gave me in the summer. Suffice to say that the last few months have been hectic and stressful for me, as the next few weeks also promise to be. I am feeling drawn to spend sometime praying in colour to slow me down enough to reconnect with my inner contemplative. Why not give it a try yourself?