Art as Prayer

Using a few colored pencils, black paper, and a journal our Centering Prayer Group in Hawaii has been responding to the Lectio Divina portion of our weekly Centering Prayer practice for many years.

When new people come into our group, we assure them that we are not ‘artists’ making ‘art’ but simply regular folks responding to the words that speak to us through the Lectio reading. It can be a time of ‘taking a line for a walk’, choosing a specific shape, (or scribble) or color, or in some cases drawing a simple tree or heart or candle – whatever image comes into our mind. We begin our process by drawing a large circle in white and then do our “art” inside of it creating a “container” or mandala each week. What we are really doing is creating marks on paper as a reminder of our continually growing understanding of God and how we change and grow as a result.

Our process begins with a piece of black paper – we like Strathmore Charcoal paper because it is thin and has a bit of texture – which we cut into 4 inch by 4 inch pieces. Everyone has a Prismacolor white pencil which, when shaded to different values, is able to show both emotion and direction. Most of us have a more complete set of this same brand colored pencil which we use in our drawings. We all have journals, which become personal treasures, as we record week after week, year after year, our lectio responses after we first share the meaning on the day we do the drawings. Frequently members use words below the image to further capture the theme of the day. Often members write poetry, both simple Haiku and occasionally longer poems. Now that we meet on ZOOM we have had members get up and dance their faith, “dancing into the promise.”

“We draw to remember” is a frequently used phrase. When we look back on our simple drawings the images remind us of specific moments in our personal life or sometimes in the life of the group. These little drawings can trigger something important that we have let slip from our short-term memory, and bring a deepened wisdom and often joy in our remembering.

There are times when words are unable to express the depth of what we are feeling. Being able to picture these feelings with simple art supplies on paper is very helpful. One of our beloved members died after a virulent cancer attacked her system. We were able to sit around a table with her shortly before she died, each drawing our sadness and faith and then combine our tears and the little black papers to form a mandala tribute. Our faith in God’s Presence grew for each of us that day, in our shared community. Art heals us.  Using Art as a spiritual practice is a large umbrella covering not only our individual responses with art supplies. One of our members is a student of Iconography and has shared her Icons using Visio Divina. We have also used various paintings for Visio. (The Angelus by Millet, Parable of the Blind by Bruegel etc.) Each time we sit quietly together, listening with the ear of our heart, our space becomes sacred and our Spiritual Journey deepens.

Juditha Murashige
February 19, 2022