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Those struggling with contemplative or intercessory prayer might want to consider communing with God through markers and crayons. So says Sybil MacBeth in her new book, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God. MacBeth, a left-brained math wiz and self-avowed "third grade artist," encourages the use of lines, shapes and colors as a way of centering and of keeping the individual or situation being prayed about before God. "Partly, this process is about creating a time and space when the focus of my sitting is devotion to God," said MacBeth. "Yet it's also like bringing a 'blankie' to your time with God, a prop, where you don't feel so naked."
About four years ago, MacBeth was sitting on her porch praying for a number of friends with cancer. Tired of hearing her own words, she began doodling. Soon she had a whole sheet of shapes with the names of her friends in each design. MacBeth felt it was like spending time with each of them, she said, "and by the end I had a visual prayer list. The images stuck in my mind for the rest of the day. I had prayed unceasingly, and I was able to offer people into God's hands without needing to use words. I was able to put friends in God's care and out of my worry."
Carol Showalter, director of publicity for Paraclete, told RBL, "The idea at first seemed so simple it was almost silly. However, as we tried the process in relation to prayer, we realized something important was happening. The use of color and the action of drawing while in prayer adds a new level of focus." Incorporating art into devotional time is catching on. MacBeth has led about 15 workshops, with more scheduled. She will open Dealers Day at the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (RBTE) in St. Charles, Ill., at the end of May. Amy Tracy Publisher's Weekly- Religion Book Line May 9, 2007
Dancer and mathematics instructor MacBeth's charming book may be the first to combine the pleasures of doodling with a discussion of, among other things, lectio divina. Here, she shows how simple drawings-often hardly more than circles and lines with names or ideas or places sketched in and enlivened with color-can focus the praying heart, making prayer something better than a shopping list or a chore and helping the praying believer to carry the wishes and thoughts of the prayer through the day. MacBeth's book is not for unbelievers or those who do not pray; it is directed to those suffering something more like spiritual attention deficit disorder. Still, it is one of the most appealing books on prayer to appear in the last five years. Highly recommended.
Library Journal May 1, 2007
Sybil MacBeth would like to help people draw closer to God-literally. She's developed a simple new approach to prayer described in her book Praying in Color, to be released in April by Paradete Press. She talked about her method recently with Associate Editor Mary Jacobs. Here are excerpts.
Tell me about your approach to prayer.
I would describe it as visual way to pray. I started praying this way about four years ago, when I had a whole slew of friends who had cancer all at once. I didn't know what to pray. I got tired of the saying the same old things: "Please, God, make them better, make them comfortable."
I'm a doodler. One day I was sitting on my porch doodling and I realized I had put the name of somebody in one of these shapes. I thought "I don't know what to say but Jean sit with this person in prayer. I can do that by drawing and coloring and constantly keeping my attention focused on the person and lifting him up to God" And that's how it got started.
Do you need to have artistic ability to do this?
Absolutely not. I can't draw a cat. But I love color. I think that's one of the reasons that it works for me.
Describe the steps you take.
I night draw a shape first. Then I'll put the name of a person I want to pray for in the shape. Or, sometimes I'll put a name for God in the first shape. I don't try to force words because the words sometimes get in the way. Then I'll draw around the shape. I'll do squiggles or curlicues or lines, just different shapes-just to keep my hand moving and always my attention on lifting the person up to God.
I'll spend 3-5 minutes on the person. Then I'll move to another spot on the page and do another shape and pray for another person who is on my mind. So it might end up with one person on the page or I might have ten, depending on how many friends or family members need prayer.
Then I'll often carry that sheet with me. Sometimes I'll put it on the fridge, or I'll put the sheet in front of an icon and a candle in the kitchen. So every time I'll walk by the sheet, I'll see it and it jogs my memory to pray unceasingly for the people on the paper. Not necessarily with words-just offering them into God's care.
Reporter Resources March 23, 2007