The Color of Prayer: ★★★★★ coloring prayer book reviews

I am a big fan of Sybil MacBeth’s Praying in Color method (Or Praying in Black and White if you happen to be a masculine soul). It involves using drawings and colored pencils (or markers and crayons) to sort of mindmap your devotional life—intercessory prayer, Lectio Divina, prayers of gratitude, etc.  It is a perfect way to focus, for those of us who’s mind wanders during prayer. Prayers are captured in journals, sketchbooks and on graph paper. A record of our doodled devotion.   My wife has used this same method in children’s ministry, teaching kids to draw their prayers.

While I have benefitted from Macbeth’s method, I can, at times, be distracted by it. For the artistically inclined (or in my case, reclined), drawing prayers can draw us away from the heart of true prayer, when we focus on  the quality of our drawings instead of the prayer we are praying (Macbeth’s notes the struggles artists have with this method in a parenthetical note in Praying in Black and White).

pray-for-others-in-color

Macbeth and Paraclete Press have produced a new series of “Praying in Color” coloring books. Like other coloring books that Paraclete has produced, there are scriptures, quotations and other prompts on the left-hand pages, and a coloring sheet on the right-hand page. The difference is the right-hand pages reproduce the sort of ‘mindmap’ patterns which MacBeth uses in her Praying in Color books and workshops. The result is a simple, accessible way to appropriate her method in our own personal prayer times. Because the form is already given, it minimizes some of the artist’s distraction.

There are several volumes of these coloring books, corresponding to different ways of praying.  Praying for Others in Color  has Names and Titles of God on the Left-hand pages as a prompt to prayer (e.g. Abba, Deliverer, God of Compassion, Bread of Life, Holy Spirit, Restorer, etc), the right-hand page designs have bubbles and shapes to incorporate the name of God and those you are praying for (imaging God’s connection and care for those you bring before him). The images can be colored, augmented, added to, or simply written on as an aid to prayer.

contemplate-scripture-in-colorContemplating Scripture in Color is a chance to use drawing and coloring in Lectio Divina. MacBeth’s introduction instructs you how to use the words and images in the process of our scriptural meditation and prayer. We begin with Lectio (reading), reading the scriptural passage that accompanies the image, circling the word or phrase that jumps out on you. Meditatio (Meditation/chewing) we are invited to write down everything we associate with that word,  and to write our word on the coloring page and to ask God to share what he has to say about that word as we color. Oratio (Speaking) we speak our prayers to God as we color, maybe writing prayers and questions in the margins. Contemplatio (contemplate) is a ‘cool down period,’ a time to out down your pen and markers and sit with what emerged from the time. Several of the pages are left blank so that we can choose our own passage of Scripture and make our own drawings.

count-your-blessings-in-colorCount Your Blessings in Color is a chance to express gratitude. With prompts from scripture and quotes (from novelists, spiritual writers, and other luminaries), we are instructed to use these images to ‘count our blessings,’ creating a visual reminder of the what we have received.

Unlike most adult coloring books, the pages of each of these coloring books become a sort of spiritual journal as we pray for others, meditate on scripture or count our blessings. As with MacBeth’s other Praying in Color books, there is no right way to use these coloring books or preferred method. This is simply a format to help you dive deeper into the land of prayer. Users of these coloring books will find a nice balance between set formats and creative freedom.

These coloring books are great for personal use and make great gifts. I give them five stars. -★★★★★

Notice of material connection: I recieved copies of these coloring books from the publiser in exchange for my honest review

Men Drawing Close to God: a book review

Praying in Black in White by Sybil and Andy Macbeth

Last month I read Sybil MacBeth’s  Praying in Color(Paraclete Press, 2007). In that book, Sybil Macbeth tells about her method of doodling her prayers. A number of Sybil’s friends had cancer and in the process of lifting them up through intercessory prayer, Sybil took pen to paper and created a visual representative of her prayer.She then offered some other creative ways of using the same method to maintain focus in other forms of praying (praying for discernment, using scripture, etc.). As an occasional artist and compulsive doodler, I enjoyed it a lot.

In Praying in Black in White, Sybil has teamed up with her husband, Episcopal priest, Andrew Macbeth to offer an updated look at the methods she prescribes in Praying in Color, with an eye to aiding men in prayer. Sybil lays out the method of doodling prayer she first presented in her earlier book. Andy explores the way men are wired and the peculiar gifts and challenges they have when they set out to pray. He also shares his experience of prayer and praying in this method.

So what is the difference between ‘praying in color’ and ‘praying in black in white?’ Are men’s prayers less colorful? Essentially, the method is the same, though simplified. In Praying in Color, Sybil suggests the use of colored markers in prayers, here, a pen and paper are all that are necessary (though journals and graph paper are suggested). I think Andy and Sybil are trying to make this method as accessible as possible for men. I don’t know what the exact statistics are, but women on average are better pray-ers than men (just like there are more women in church, more women read their Bibles, more women describe themselves as spiritual, etc.). Either book would describe the basic method, what this book does is tailor the message specifically to men. In terms of describing the method, I think Praying in Color does a better job (which may be because I read it first). But Praying in Black and White has some helpful comments directed at us guys when we come to pray.

In Andy’s chapters of this book, he discusses the challenges he has in coming to prayer as a man. These include his desire to feel like he’s doing something significant and not wasting his time, the ways his prayers feel superficial and, well, boring.  But he also shares how he comes to prayer to put his life in context of something bigger than himself, to deal with anxiety,  to reach out to someone greater than him to meet the needs of those he loves, because he cares deeply about his world,  and desires to anchor himself to God and unite himself with others.

While Andy’s experience in prayer is not  necessarily universally applicable to all men, he does pick up on some characteristics of masculinity and how men are socialized.  He claims that men bring to prayer their independence and self-sufficiency, their task-oriented nature, and their goal focus. He also discusses how we learn through concrete experience, physical movement and how we do our best work in groups.

As Sybil unfolds her prayer method, she tailors it to these features of the masculine psyche. Sybil and Andy both share stories of their practice of this method and suggestions about how we can integrate their doodling prayer into our prayer life.  They also share plenty of example of what these prayers look like. Here is an example I took from their website (prayingincolor.com) :

But there is a fairly big variety in what these can look like (hence doodling).  and it could comprise several pages as you go through various stages of prayer (like Sybil’s description of using doodles in Lectio Divina).  They also provide reflections on barriers to this sort of prayer (honestly it won’t work for everyone which the Macbeth’s readily admit) and they discuss how to use this method in leading prayer groups.

As I said, I think that this method of prayer is helpful in maintaining focus on prayer and calling you back to prayer (much like a breath prayer, which they also discuss how to doodle). Parts of this book I think are more helpful than others. I personally like to use the scripture throughout my practice of  Lectio Divina, whereas the Macbeth’s use the Biblical text as a jumping off point.  I find that too subjective for my tastes though I would acknowledge that people can follow their steps and have a fruitful experience of prayer.

As a short book, this is ideal for a guy (or the guy in your life) who wants a quick encouragement and method for prayer.  Regardless of whether you follow all of the Macbeth’s suggestions (I don’t) or agree with them on every point (I don’t) you will find good food for thought and encouragement to enter more fully into prayer.

Thank you to Paraclete Press for providing me with a copy of Praying in Black and White in exchange for this review.