Last September while preparing to go on a personal retreat, I found myself researching prayer on the internet. When browsing the web this way, I have a pattern of stumbling across a quote, a book or an article which captures my attention. Then, I find in the coming weeks that God uses the content of this discovery to impact my life and journey with Him.
So, in this search, I came across the website of Sybil and Andy MacBeth, Praying in Color. Sybil tells of how her prayer practice Praying in Color began “when her desperation to pray for family and friends intersected with her love of color and doodling.” Andy talks about his discovery of “how important it is to bring his body to worship as well as his mind.”
As I perused this website, a thought entered my mind. “What if I could use doodling to help me pray for others?” I’ve always struggled with intercessory prayer. Although I’ve had a desire to pray for family and friends as they journey through life situations, and people do ask me to pray for them, I typically would find that my list of people just became a “to do” list. I would feel rushed to pray for everyone on the list, resulting in either feelings of guilt because I didn’t make it all the way through the list or resorting to “bless…heal…help…along with the person’s name. Basically, I wasn’t living in the moment with God and this person for whom I was praying.
Even though I don’t believe that I had ever really doodled in my life, I determined that I would use some time during one of my retreat days to experience this form of prayer with God. I bought myself a box of colored pencils because I knew I would want the variety of different colors. When the time arrived, I sat down on a comfortable sofa with my journal and the box of pencils. I began by sketching a curving, upward line ending with an arrow, a symbol of being on my life’s journey with God. Next, I asked the Lord for whom should I pray? My thoughts turned to my husband who was also on retreat that day and the two spiritual directors with whom we would meet. I chose a color and wrote a person’s name beside the curvy line. Continuing to choose different colors, I began to enclose the name by doodling a design around it. With each stroke, God and I would talk about this person. I continued to do the same with all three people for whom I was praying until I finally penned my name.
In thinking about my intercessory prayer experience afterwards, I noticed that I hadn’t felt rushed. I found that my mind had been focused solely on that person and God; I was no longer in “hurry” mode. I came away feeling that God and I had plenty of time to talk about the person for whom I was praying.
In the months that followed my retreat, I used this doodling prayer form in more ways than just for intercession. I doodled when I was thankful, sad, happy, worried, in need or couldn’t find a voice to get the words out to God that were in my heart. I have found that I can spread this prayer practice throughout a day or a week by devoting 5-15 minutes to it at a time. I no longer feel the need to go through my whole list of people in one sitting. I feel relaxed and able to concentrate with God on one person at a time. I am now staying in the moment with God and the chosen person. Many times, I doodle Jesus into the drawing, seeing Him right there with the person for whom I’m praying. I have come to see that, for me, doodling is a practice that should be an ongoing part of my prayer life. I’ve refined my prayer practice a bit as I’ve noticed which situations in my life lend themselves most to this practice. Typically, I pray by doodling when I am concerned about myself or someone else and am having a hard time finding either the words to speak or to listen to God.
When I think of my prayer practice, I am reminded of the scripture in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” My mind and soul STILL in the Lord’s presence even though my hand is moving; I no longer feel the need to rush on ahead. Praying by doodling helps me to live in the moment with God on behalf of those for whom I am praying.
- Get a piece of paper and a writing instrument. You can use a #2 pencil, colored pencils or pens.
- Find a comfortable place to sit.
- If you know for whom you want to pray, begin to doodle your heart’s thoughts to God stroke by stroke; if you don’t know where to begin, just ask God to bring someone to your mind.
- As you pen each stroke, stay in the moment listening and talking to God.
- Remember that no artistic skill is needed, just a desire to be present to God.
Cathy Novick assists her husband in pastoral ministry and serves as the Odyssey in Christ webmaster.