Sybil MacBeth, a mathematics instructor by profession, doodler and dancer by avocation, has written, and doodled, a daring devotional. Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God chronicles her experiments in intercession and challenges readers to take pens and paper in hand and, well, intercede.
Although the daughter and granddaughter of artists, MacBeth was convinced by her own ugly artwork that something "had gone awry in the tossing of the genetic salad." Her point: The absence of skill presents no barrier to an individual's discoveries linking doodling and prayer. That's because prayer involves trust and being real before God.
MacBeth's doodling discoveries came from a crisis. About three years ago, a litany of cancerslung, brain, breaststruck among family, friends, and colleagues. The suffering within her circle was overwhelming. Worry became her starting pointbut not her stopping point. Even now, she writes, "worry invites me to prayer."As a teacher facing a summer off, MacBeth had no papers to grade but instead possessed what she calls a "critical prayer list." Going to the back porch, she doodled a random shape and wrote a name in its center. "The name belonged to one of the people on my prayer list. I stayed with the same shape and the name, adding detail and color to the drawing. Each dot, each line, and each stroke of color became another moment of time spent with the person in the center."
When she sensed the time was right, she moved to another part of the page and drew another shape and put another name in its middle. She embellished it with lines, dots, colors. She continued drawing new shapes and names until her friends and family formed a colorful community of designs. "To my surprise," she writes, "I had not just doodledI had prayed."
MacBeth has been leading workshops in the U.S. about praying in color for two years. Her book contains balloons, labyrinths, vegetables, clovers, triangles, kites, quilts, calendars with prayer requests and names, and purposefully shaped squiggles. She recommends 15 to 30 minutes for the process, half spent in drawing and the other half in carrying the visual memories or actual images throughout the day.
Instead of being a prayer warrior, she calls herself "a prayer popper," one who prays in fits and spurts with "half-formed pleas and intercessions, and bursts of gratitude and rage."
MacBeth is transparent, accessible, and human. She exercises what she calls spiritual imagination as she works on, in, and through prayer.
She trusts herself enough to experiment, mess up, and try again in prayer. She trusts God enough to guide her as she falters, succeeds, and grows stronger. Her book emboldens others to trust their instincts, too.
Robin Gallaher Branch, professor of biblical studies, Crichton College.
Copyright © 2008 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
ExploreFaith.org interviewed the author.
Praying in Color is available from ChristianBook.com and other retailers.
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