The arts are not only good for brain health and recovery, historically they have been a part of spiritual practices as well.
The arts have been crucial in the life of major institutional religions. They are also useful for individual devotional practices, according to author Sybil MacBeth. The author has a website, Praying in Color, that features a series of books instructing readers on how to pray while doodling and drawing.
“No artistic skill or prayer expertise is necessary,” MacBeth writes on the website.
The author suggests starting off with a “God doodle.” If a doodle of God does not come to mind, then try starting with a line from scripture or a hymn.
Drawings can be done centered on to-do lists or concerns for others. Even a despairing prayer can be drawn. MacBeth suggests starting with a rant, then stopping to begin drawing. Templates are available on MacBeth’s website if someone needs help with generating ideas.
MacBeth’s approach to prayer is endorsed by Vilmarie Cintron-Olivieri in the article, “Art as Prayer: Considering Art Forms as Spiritual Practices.” The article is found in The Presbyterian Outlook, Aug. 3, 2021.
“Any art form can be a way to pray, reflect and cultivate a relationship with God,” Cintron-Olivieri notes.
The writer uses art to communicate feelings as well as to pray. For instance, prayers for others are drawn and the finished artwork is given to the person in need.
Art used as spiritual practice is found throughout history and cultures.
For instance, many Native American languages use the word for art to also mean the word for prayer, according to Kendal Hansen in a thesis, “The Parallels Between Art Therapy and Christianity: Integrating Identities as a Christian and an Art Therapist.” The thesis was published April 19, 2018 by Lesley University, Cambridge, Mass. Paintings have been used for spirituality by both the Native American Navajo and Australian Aboriginal people.
“Within these particular traditions, art has been utilized as an instrument for prayer and spiritual relationship with the Creator,” Hansen writes (Pp. 5-6).
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