Sunday, January 11, 2009

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth

She had me at Chapter -5.

The (short) introductory chapters on prayer in Praying in Color count backward down to Chapter 1, where Sybil MacBeth begins to explain her own method. And at that bizarre little numbering system, I knew I was going to like this book.

Let me add here that this is a book for people who pray like I pray... distractedly. This is a book for fidgetters. The idea behind it is not so much to still the body and the mind for prayer, but to focus the mind through involving the body in prayer and to use visuals as a prayer aid (both for prayer itself and for prayer reminders).

The Praying in Color theory is extremely simple (and the book, at just over 100 p., is extremely short): "When I draw as a way to enter prayer, I get to delight in my prayer and to feel God's delight that I am making an effort to pray." As someone who is always trying to connect the Arts and Christianity, I appreciated MacBeth's belief that prayer could be creative.

The cherry on the cake would be that this is a very well written little book. Authors of how-to books are not usually this enjoyable and honest:

"I feel quite free to make a mess of my personal prayer life; but when someone says, 'Please pray for me," they are not just saying, 'Let's have lunch sometime.' They are issuing an invitation into the depths of their lives and into their humanity--and often with some urgency. They are publicly exposing their vulnerability, sorrow, and fear. Something about their life is so out-of-control that they call upon the likes of me for help. I warn them: sometimes the people I've prayed for have died. It's a risk."

Finally, the proof is in the practice. I find I enjoy longer times of prayer when I include colored pencils and paper, and drawing helps me focus on what I'm praying for and who I'm praying to. I'm not, unfortunately, having an easier time remembering the person I'm praying for during the rest of the day. This may, however, say more about my memory than it says about Praying in Color. But using MacBeth's ideas with passages of Scripture does help me remember what I've been reading beyond the moment I close my Bible.

I'll definitely be adding Praying in Color to my devotional repertoire.


  1. What a great little book!!

    I love the concept of integrating art into prayer. Prayer is taken way too "seriously," imo. I always hated sitting still and closing my eyes (closing my eyes?! My mind would wander all over the place!!!). This is one thing I still dislike about even the best (i.e. my favorite) churches I've been to.

    I will tuck this book away in my mind to look for sometime :)

  2. Sometimes when I close my eyes to pray, I just fall asleep...

  3. Sounds like a good book ... I've always felt that drawing, writing, or any creative process is a type of prayer. Another great book that deals with this is "Walking on Water" by Madeline L'Engle -- a short, easy read but wonderfully inspiring.

  4. Such good taste...
    _Walking on Water_ is one of my all time favorites.