Two years ago after an unexpected career loss that happened to coincide with the devastating death of one of my friends, I picked up some sketchbooks and a vibrant assortment of colored markers. For 12 months I sat beneath shady trees or by a fire where I scribbled, sketched, and scrawled images, words, and Scriptures that careened into my imagination. I painted my prayers.
Images of seeds and vines, doves, stitched quilts, and red birds decorated white pages. Almost calligraphic (I'm a writer, not an artist) song lyrics and verses I'd memorized as a child poured out on the paper in vivid color and liberating swirls. Within weeks—and before I even realized it—the first blank book was completely filled with soulful images and God's numinous responses.
Since then I've filled dozens of notebooks with painted supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings. Before I started painting my prayers, though, I remember feeling guilty if I didn't do Bible study or pray conventionally every day. Somehow, I felt like I wasn't doing the Christian life right. For some unknown reason, I felt that connecting with God in other—less left-brained, more imaginative and creative—ways was, somehow, less spiritual. Time and time again, though, my ideal of faith-filled living bumped on the pothole riddled road of reality. I felt less compelled to do another plug and chug Bible study. I was void of the energy to pray and listen to God in the ways I had for my entire life.
Instead, I found freedom, spontaneity, fun, and a mind-blowing openness to the grandiosity of God when I sat with my markers and sketchbook. With this new, unconventional, beyond formulaic way, I discovered new, deeper, more profound connections with the divine. Surprisingly enough I found that during overwhelmed, stressed-out times when the need for spiritual bolstering was quintessential, I could paint my prayers (just scribble out my heart to God) and fortify my faith in a visual, organic, simultaneously childlike and maturing way.1