Time heals, they say. And it does. But God heals more – in many different ways. I attended a workshop on painted prayers, prepared to sit and listen for an hour or so. I should have known better! The guide spoke for ten minutes and then invited us to paint our own prayers. I was the last one to get up and fetch paper and crayons. I was reluctant to do anything, but realised it was rude to just sit there.
Later, much later, the prayer I painted became the cover of my book And Always God … A story of God’s faithfulness. I needed to show it, you see, because only by seeing it would anyone understand what I was talking about. I am no artist. If the picture was not explained no one would know what it was about. People have asked why I used such a strange cover, but when they know the story behind it they understand. A copy of the front cover is below, at the end of this post.
Painting prayers is a way we can express our innermost feelings that are too deep for words. Perhaps painting your own prayer will help you to express your feelings too.
The Painted Prayer
It began with a question mark in red in the middle of the page; and then another and another in purple, blue and brown. Hard dark lines. I had lots of questions – oh yes – six months after my husband died, I had lots of questions. And I had a week at a Christian camp when I knew God wanted to speak to me about them. But I did not want to let Him in. So I fought Him. I picked up the black. This was me. Hard, dark, impenetrable. I drew a circle off-centre towards the right hand side of the page. I intended to colour the whole thing black to show God, and anyone else who happened to see the picture, exactly how I was feeling. But as I put the crayon to the paper something stayed my hand and, instead of drawing a black hard dot I drew a ring, like a tyre, and within the ring I coloured the space gold. For I knew that no matter how many questions I had or how angry I may be, Christ was in me and I could not colour Him black.
So now I had my questions, stark and demanding, and myself, dark and angry, yet with light in the centre of my being. What else needed to be in the experimental painted prayer?
I realised as I thought about it that no matter what my circumstances, no matter how I was feeling, I was surrounded by the glory of God. That is what I had to do. Shimmering, pulsating colours are not easy to portray on paper – and I am not a skilled artist – but it seemed simple to depict glory by lines of bright colour surrounding the circle that was me, like rays of the sun. So I started with yellow, and the red and green. Gradually the circles of sun’s rays filled the paper. They were short – each one about 3cms in length, but they led into each other. At one place the colour dimmed as I came to the first major question mark. But they continued and became bright again. The other questions did not seem to affect the brightness of God’s glory as much as the first one.
At last the page was filled with concentric rings of bright colour. But then there were the questions. And I realised that they were too hard and dark, too stark and ugly in the beauty of colour and grace that had flowed from the crayons I held. So I tried to soften them; broaden them, dull them with white; diffuse their hard edges. They did not disappear but now they were smudged, paler and softer and I realised as I looked at this picture that a prayer had been answered. For in the glory of God, within and beyond me, my questions did not matter so much. With my eyes focused on Him I was not as angry. And the first step was taken towards opening my heart to His healing touch as the week unfolded – just as He wanted me to do.