Painting a Prayer

Through; 2013; 13.5" x 11"; mixed media: watercolor, acrylic, ink, pastel.

Through; 2013; 13.5″ x 11″; mixed media: watercolor, acrylic, ink, pastel.

I’ll be honest. Prayer is often difficult for me, at least as prayer is traditionally defined – sitting or kneeling and talking to God. A couple main reasons: I am a person of few spoken words, and it’s hard for me to sit still.

When I was in my early 20’s, I passed through turbulent waters. I doubted who God is, and almost drowned. When He dove into the deep after me, and carried me through to the other side, I wanted to be near Him always. I pondered the words, “pray without ceasing.” I longed for them to be true in my life: constant communion with the Rescuer of my soul. But how? Especially in light of my preference for silence and my propensity for perpetual motion.

In the years since, I have come to understand prayer as a movement between His heart and mine. Sometimes I force myself to talk to Him in the traditional sense, but I often experience prayer as more than words. As a flow of wordless questioning and confident knowing that He holds my heart. As silence, asking for His perspective and waiting upon Him to reveal it. As continual awareness that there is more to each moment than what I see and hear.

For me, prayer is most acute when moving through His world – walking, biking, admiring His handiwork. Ideas settle into my brain as gifts, phrases or images that I test to see if they are truly from Him. Sorrow and petitions swirl as emotion, and ascend to Him.

Recently, I am exploring art as prayer in a new way. It’s not that I haven’t sensed before that I am interacting with the Creator when I paint. As long as I can remember, I’ve asked Him to express His heart as I create. But lately I have begun applying paint to paper with a very specific person or situation held in my heart.

My oldest son is mid-way through his second to last year of secondary/high school. Major decisions concerning his future bear down upon him and us. I know, and he knows, that God will direct his steps; but sometimes in life it seems that our knee is bent and our foot in the air before God tells us where to place it. And that is a frightening feeling. So, I held my son and the year ahead in my heart as I painted “Through.”

As I consider the resulting image, I realize it is both a plea for guidance and an expression of trust that even more important than the question of “this way or that” is the assured Presence of the One who leads him and us through it all.


I’m signing off for a week as I head out tomorrow on a treasure hunt to Haiti. “Joy” and “courage” are the scintilla I seek.

I expect that amidst poverty and devastation, the light will flare that much more brilliantly.

Until next week, Lord-willing…

18 thoughts on “Painting a Prayer

  1. Beautifully expressed! Your words remind me of Anne of Green Gables who expressed something like this: Sometimes, I wish I could lie in a meadow and just FEEL a prayer…not the exact words but what I remember of them. Have a safe trip! Praying you will experienced the joy and courage you seek. 🙂


  2. Beautiful – your painting and your thoughts. I wrote a whole chapter on using your creative process as a means of prayer in my book. My studies revealed that all you share above is so very true and real. Thank you & God’s deepest and richest blessings to you, Jody


  3. Ah Colleen! I’m thrilled for you that you are going to Haiti! And Hannah just mentioned that YL asked you to go as their photographer and writer. What an honor! I know God will bless your silence and use your propensity for motion through this experience. I look forward to hearing about it.


    • Thank u so much for your affirmation Otto! Welcome back from Nigeria! Your posts were very enlightening concerning issues of serious injustices. Thank u for your well wishes for Haiti. I am commenting from port au prince & it has indeed ben a fantastic experience! I found the treasure I was seeking. More soon.


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