Spiritual Practice

Praying with the Other Side of Your Brain

Sybil MacBeth

I love words. I love to read them, speak them, write them, and pray them. But sometimes, when I need them the most, they vanish. My mind becomes a blank slate, and my mouth mutters words with the depth and vocabulary of a two-year-old.


A few years ago, a bunch of friends and family members were diagnosed with serious illnesses and cancers. I tried to pray for them, but once again my words disappeared. The few prayers I said felt small and inadequate: “Please, God, heal Sue.” “Let Peter feel your love.” “Remove Chuck’s pain.” I’m sure those prayers were fine with God, but I wanted to pray with more care and more love.

One morning, I sat on my back porch with a basket of colored markers and a pad of paper and started to draw. I’m not an artist, so “draw” is an exaggeration. I doodle. First, I outlined a shape; then I drew lines, squiggles, and dots, and added color. Without any conscious thought, I wrote the name Sue in the center of the doodle. I continued to draw and add color. When the doodle was done, I realized I had prayed for Sue. I had spent time with her and had offered her into God’s care without words. I didn’t need words; I needed a way to be quiet and to listen for the healing assurance of the God who created both Sue and me. I drew doodles for the other people on my prayer list. The drawing became my visual prayer list. Every time I looked at it, I prayed again for each person.


So now when I want to pray for someone and I am at a loss for words, I “pray in color.” To help you picture this prayer practice, imagine that Zack broke his ankle, Beth’s parents are getting a divorce, Mandy is grounded for drinking at a party, Jake has received an acceptance letter from his number one college choice (prayers can be for happy events as well as sad ones!), and Barack needs guidance for the most challenging job in the world! Here is a sample of the “praying in color” prayer I might offer for these friends:

devozine prayincolorart

If you run out of words for your prayers, try “praying in color.” Then take the drawing with you, hang it on the refrigerator, or place it next to your computer. Every time you see it, pray for each person again. In this way, you will begin to get a taste of what the Apostle Paul meant when he challenged us to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17, NRSV).



To create a “praying in color” prayer, start by drawing a doodle with whatever name you use when you pray: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Loving Father. This puts God at the center of your prayer. Then draw a doodle for each person on your prayer list. Use circles, triangles, rectangles, squiggles, polka dots, arcs, lines—whatever your hand wants to draw. Spend a couple of minutes with each person. Words are not necessary; but if they come, pray them. Enjoy the quiet time with the knowledge of God’s love and care for each person in the drawing. Then take the drawing with you and let it be a colorful reminder to pray for these friends throughout the day.


Sybil MacBeth is the author of Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God and Praying in Color: Kids’ Edition (both published by Paraclete Press). She is a dancer, doodler, and former community college mathematics professor. Now Sybil leads workshops and retreats around the country on Praying in Color. To learn more, visit

—from devozine (March/April 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Upper Room Ministries. All rights reserved.

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