Painted Prayers {The Grove: Prayer}

There are times when life defies language and words seem to sputter into a heap at my feet. 2014 was a year like that. I had moved back from a war zone in Africa after 7 years there founding a children’s rescue home. My health crashed after 18 rounds of cerebral malaria and forced me to make a move I never would have chosen otherwise.

Feeling like a foreigner in my own country, all I could do was walk one step at a time, one breath at a time rising above a stormy transition by His grace. Even the ways I had connected with God were stripped away in the process.

I couldn’t pray the way I had before. But I couldn’t not pray either. Raw with emotion one moment and numb the next, I sat with my Bible and stared blankly at the pages.

I knew God wasn’t absent. He is never absent. I know this and it is in the moments when I can’t see or feel that I must lean hardest on what I know. And in the leaning came a whisper.

Maybe I could pray with paint.

I walked over to my “corner studio” in the corner of my living room. I’m an artist/illustrator by trade. But what unfolded for me can happen for anyone. You don’t have to be able to draw or even consider yourself artistic.

We are made in the image of our Father Who is the Creator, right? Then His creativity lives on the inside of us and it cries for release and expression.
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I found when I couldn’t pray with words, I could pray with color and image. I could sit with Jesus in my studio and spill my prayers on paper. Little by little my heart began to come back to life. My studio table became an altar on which to offer the broken pieces of crushed dreams.

It wasn’t about the end product; it was about the process. We so often focus on the product when God is far more concerned with our hearts simply being with Him in the midst of the process.

So, would any of you like to jump on in and give it a whirl? Why don’t we do a simple warm up exercise together? You can do this, I promise.

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You’ll only need a few supplies. I understand what it is like to have to create in a vacuum. In South Sudan, I learned to make my own supplies to use with the children. I figured out how to mix non-toxic wood glue with tempera pigment to make a craft grade acrylic. Embrace the limitation. Some of the greatest creativity flows out of restriction.

Gather a notebook with blank paper, clips to keep it open, a pencil, pen, water in a cup and in a mister (like the little spray bottles in travel kits) and watercolors. I used a simple student grade set I keep around because it is super travel friendly.

Open the book up to a two-page spread. On the left page, sketch some simple representation of what 2014 has been like for you. Has it been a mountain you have climbed or a race you have won? How did it feel? Ask God about the lessons you have learned.

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My 2014 may have been a gray foggy tangled mess, but my 2015 is bright with promise.

On the right hand page, have fun with color to make a background. An easy way to do this is to take a mister and spritz your page. It might buckle a bit but that’s ok. Wet your brush and start dabbing color into the water on the page. To keep the colors from getting muddy stick to color combinations like blue/green/purple, pink/purple, blue/yellow or red/orange/yellow. You can’t go wrong. Watch as the colors swirl together on the paper. Just like all the promises God has for us coming together in unexpected ways!

You can also use children’s water-based markers if paint is not within reach… dip them in the water on the page and watch the blending begin as you swirl them around.

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While you wait for the page to dry, ask God to bring to mind a Scripture passage and show you what promises or insights He wants you to trust Him for in 2015. Once the background dries, grab a pen and sketch/doodle God’s promises as prayers back to Him for your new year.

I’d sure love to see what you come up with if you’d like link up below and share. We’ll all be encouraged by one another!

If you’d like to learn more about creative prayer journaling with Scripture, bookmark SketchbookPrayers.com. for tutorials, prompts, journal pages and an online creative community launching soon.

I pray your new year is filled to overflowing with color, wonder and joy.

You are loved- Michele

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19 Comments

  1. Beth Everett January 8, 2015

    What a beautiful, creative, expressive and personal way to communicate with God!  I’m going to have to find me some materials to try this.  Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Christie January 8, 2015

    My daughter graciouslyo loaned me some art supplies but neither of us could dig up a spray bottle. I dabbed with a napkin instead. I think I may take oover her art pad after this. Thanks for sharing the exercise with us. I needed this time.

    1. T January 9, 2015

      Is that ACCESS, like you teach the English Access Microscholarship Program?  I do!  🙂  Just thought it might be…and, I’ll be borrowing from my daughter, too!

      1. Christie January 9, 2015

        Exactly that!  I was giving color to the “bright spots” in my otherwise not-so-wonderful year. ACCESS is definitely a bright spot.  🙂  Where do you teach?

        1. Christie January 9, 2015

          Oops…sorry. I forgot what site I’m on.  Don’t feel obliged to tell me where you are.  😉  Cool to find a fellow teacher, though!

  3. Danielle Wheeler January 8, 2015

    I was so drawn to the idea of praying with paint, and so inspired by you, Michele.  But I was also nervous, because any time I try something artistic, it turns out…disappointing.  I’ve just claimed art as “not my thing.”  But your simple guide made me feel like I could do it.

    So I did.  And once I started praying with paint, I didn’t want to stop!

    It is such a meaningful experience.  I ended up doing a few different ones, some with words, some without.  This may be my favorite.  Last year… and my prayer for this year.  My One Word this year is “Rooted.”

    I can’t really put into words what the experience was, and I think that’s the power of it.  That it is communicating with God through an entirely different medium than I usually use (words).

    Thank you, Michele.  For your story, for your example, for your heart.  Looking forward to seeing what others have to share!

    1. Christie January 8, 2015

      That’s beautiful, Danielle! I love the way your colors go with the images. The right side’s colors are so alive, like the flourishing plant.

  4. Elizabeth January 9, 2015

    I have not historically considered myself creative or artistic, but in the past year or so have been experimenting with various art forms, in the belief that God is creative, and that we can practice creativity, and simply trying to awaken parts of me that were alive as a child but may have died as a teenager.

    Anyway.

    In some of my prayers, i have drawn. Not painted, like this, but drawn whatever is touching me, or specific answers to healing prayers, or drawn parts of my requests to God. They are not well-drawn, but no one is seeing it besides me and God, so it doesn’t matter. And it feels different than with words — the image (and prayer) stayed in my mind longer than with words.

    But so often, i don’t allow myself the time to do this. I allow myself time only for words. I forget that i can (as in, have permission to) draw. I was thinking this yesterday, actually, as i was doing my normal journaling with words, and remembering how I hadn’t drawn anything in there in awhile. And i doodled a few things for the first time in a while.

    But now, I may have to find some paint. Or at least colored pencils! I know I have those around the house 🙂

  5. T January 9, 2015

    Can I ask a technical question?  How do you keep the pages behind from being ruined by the dampness?  Is there a plastic sheet in there to shield them?  Thanks!

    1. Christie January 9, 2015

      Mine bled through a bit before I noticed it, then I stuck a couple napkins behind there. Since our napkins are pretty non-absorbent (plastic-y), they did the trick.  The pages felt kinda fragile even after they’d dried, though, and I wasn’t sure if I should put a thin sheet of regular paper in there to keep them from being damaged. I’m totally inexperienced in this art stuff, but it sure was fun!

      1. Aliyah January 22, 2015

        HI Ladies!

        I am in South Africa and we get watercolour art pads here, they are quite pricey though – think $8 – $15 depending what you buy. But they will be better inthe long run, if you want to do this often! Its an amazing idea. You have inspired me thank you!

  6. MaDonna January 9, 2015

    Love this idea. I’m visiting in-laws and we’re starting to pack up to head home….I will have to get the paints out and try this soon. I really like the idea, especially the representation of last year versus what is to come this year. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Tammy January 10, 2015

    Last year was one of the hardest years in China for me, though it had it’s bright spots. 🙂 As I look at this new year my hope is growing that it will be a brighter year, especially as we get new placement post language school. I know the Father has good plans for us…

    1. Monica January 13, 2015

      I love this Tammy!

      1. Tammy January 14, 2015

        Thanks, Monica! 🙂

  8. Monica January 13, 2015

    I love this!  Thanks for sharing Michele- I can’t wait to do this, and would like to include my kids.  Actually, my kiddos did prayer painting at a TCK program a few years ago!

  9. Beth Everett January 21, 2015

    So, this week I was able to get some simple paints and a notebook.  Here is the result … not so much of a prayer, but more of letting Scripture come alive to me through painting … and it did touch my prayers, so I guess that counts! 🙂  I found this exercise so meaningful. Thanks again for introducing this to us here at Velvet Ashes!

    I blogged about the psalm here: http://betheverett.com/painted-psalm/

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 21, 2015

      So neat, Beth!  Scripture really does come to life here. My daughter just peeked over my shoulder and said, “Wow, those paintings are really great!”  🙂

      And just read your blog.  Love the phrase “art experiment with God.”  I think he’s delighting in us connecting with him in this new way.

  10. Aliyah January 22, 2015

    Hi Ladies

    I love this –  i just wanna cry! haha, in a good way. At present God is leading me in to the beauty of wonder, finding different ways to connect with Him, either then the usual quiet time prayer time. I am such a creative person and quite deep so these kind of things really inspire me. It has also got to me realise that some times I need to slow down even in prayer and just let it flow. Thanks so much for this! its beautiful

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