Saturday, March 26

Praying in Color

Once again, thanks so much for all your comments on the last two posts on praying with children (Praying with Children and Praying for Japan). I love that this is becoming a bit of a dialogue and I feel inspired by your ideas and energized to continue on this journey through lent. And please feel free to leave links to your own posts on prayer, your ideas and thoughts in the comments again today.

This week I used a prayer exercise from the book Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth. A friend lent me the book and it is a super fast read. I was envisioning that it would have lots of colorful ways to pray, but really it is all about what I would call 'doodle prayer'. Her basic method is draw a shape of some sort and then write initials or a name inside. While you draw the shape and embellish it think about that person and perhaps some specific needs you want to pray for, but you can also just sit there with the shape, the colors and the name and continue 'doodling'.

I like the way 'Praying in Color' breaks free from having to 'say something' and that it uses one's hands. I am most comfortable when my hands are doing something and so I found this quite appealing. For similar reasons I think it is a great way to pray with children. After dinner a couple nights ago I spread out paper, explained that we were going to have a time to draw while we pray - "You can draw something you are thankful for or you can draw a shape with someone's name in it if there is someone you want to pray for, or maybe you will think of something else." Then we lit our lenten candle saying "We light the candle to remind us that God is with us" and we drew for about fifteen minutes. We didn't ask the boys questions about what they were drawing or make comments. They didn't say much either, so again it is that act of trust that the Holy Spirit is speaking with each of us. And it was a really special time all of us intent on our drawing.

(Though, in case anyone had the idea that these prayers around here are totally serene and predictable, let me share that this time ended with daddy's crayon accidentally going over the edge of Jonah's drawing and a bit of a melt down ensued (and of course if Jonah is crying then Rowan tends to join in, so they were both crying.) Small boys were then rushed off to bed. So next time I won't plan this for bedtime - lesson learned.)

In Praying with color the author recommends that you use a nice pen and good quality markers, this would be fun with older children or for oneself, but we used bees wax crayons as these are our drawing material of preference these days (and I really love the smell, which I was very aware of as we 'prayed in color'.)

There is a children's edition of Praying in Color (pictured above), which I read, but didn't use with Jonah. First, I think it is written for an older child. I'm pretty sure I would have really enjoyed it as a child. But, it also begins with a chapter on 'Prayer Problems' like feeling antsy, thinking of other things when you pray, falling asleep... Again, I think that for an older child who felt some of these things, the book deals with them well. But Jonah has never been told that he has to pray a certain way and I just don't think this is applicable yet. Somehow presenting him with the very idea that there are problems with prayer or that there is a right way to pray (even thought the book goes on to debunk this idea) seems unhelpful.

I also hung a sheet of paper in our godly play room at church and briefly explained 'praying in color' and told the children that they could spend time drawing with God during their work time. They didn't use it the first week, but I'm hopeful that this can be a beginning of a little prayer corner.


Jo said...

Emily, this is a fabulous idea. I have two kids who enjoy art and colour ( my daughter in particular is very arty) and I think this might be something we could try one evening during Lent. I have used a book called Colourful Lent by Sheila Julian Merryweather in the past and your post reminded me to get it off the shelf. Thanks. Jo

Sheila said...

Hi Emily, Hanging the prayer space on the wall is a great idea. I will definitely try this in our children's service. We always have a circle prayer time after our Godly Play story, but the children often have a hard time concentrating. This would allow them more freedom as they move about the room. When it's summer and we have our service in the park, I'll have to put more thought into how it could work. Maybe a separate station of sorts.: )

Watkins said...

Sheila, is there a place they could use sidewalk chalk for their prayers in the park? I was thinking this would be fun with my boys. That is lovely that you have your church outside in the summer. I would love to incorporate more being out in nature into our Sunday space with the children.

Watkins said...

Jo, I'm excited to look up the book "Colourful Lent". It sounds promising! Thanks for the tip.

Storyteller said...

I'm really interested to see this. (I also loved your post about using the map blanket and little candle!)

I've fairly recently bought the children's edition of Praying in Color, although I haven't explicitly introduced it to our children. I would hope that actually a lot of what goes on with art materials in a Godly Play response time *is* Praying with Color! (And I agree that it requires faith on the part of the leaders/adults that the children are indeed working in the Spirit.)

But I especially want to comment about how grateful I am for your honesty about what went wrong. :)

Watkins said...

I think you are right that all the open ended art in godly play is 'praying in color'. However, it is appealing to me to have a quiet prayer corner as the children sometimes wonder while they are drawing (about what they are drawing). Part of this may be that we have a small space, so they are rather close to each other and that I work with 2-5s who developmentally often need to verbalize what they are thinking.

With our paper to pray in color, the children enjoyed me making shapes for each of them and praying for them when I introduced the idea, but they haven't spent much time with it on their own... we'll see where it goes.

Twisted Cinderella said...