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How to Paint & Pray through a Psalm: A Story & A (Brief) Guide

07/09/2024 23:15:03 +0000
A few years ago, I started using watercolor art to go deeper into prayer and scripture. I've talked about it before in this article on painting and praying through Psalm 23 and this article on Psalm 143.

Today I want to share how you might go deeper into times of prayer and listening to Jesus through using the creative gifts He gave you.

Have you ever wondered why you were drawn to art and crafty things? No matter what you are drawn to – painting, making candles, sewing, interior design, jewelry making - it's all creative, stemming out of a gift of seeing and admiring beauty.

We are given eyes to see and a desire to participate in adding to the beauty in the world.

The gift of creating, crafting, painting, writing, embroidery, paper mache-ing are used for both practical and fun purposes. I have a friend who excels at using her gifts to design the most beautifully themed parties, not extravagant, but beautiful, welcoming, creative. At the last one I attended, I felt as if I'd stepped into the beauty of the Arizona desert at sunset with the paper birds, photography of the desert and desert themed flowers and appetizers all around.

Another friend creates beautiful interiors without spending a lot of money. She sees trends and concepts yet has her own distinct sense of what turns a room into a place of beauty and grace, a home.

And, what if there was a way to utilize our creative gifts in a deeper way, in a way that penetrated more intricately into the spirit? What if these gifts are an avenue to draw us deeper into our walk with Jesus, the very deep and quiet and intimate spaces of our hearts, the parts of us that few people (if anyone) has access to?
There is an interior wrestling to get these words out in the best way because the sacred and the mundane are all wrapped up together. Life lived with Jesus is meant to be fluid, seamless, no compartments.

And maybe because of that – no dividing wall between the sacred and the secular – I was drawn to using those creative tools and gifts to pray and work my way through some of the beloved psalms.

It started during the pandemic. Like so many others, I needed something to calm down my brain and heart, a practice and discipline to move away from endless scrolling and screen time.

I'd painted through verses before. But now, there was a longing to go deeper, to spend time soaking in an entire psalm and using watercolor and ink to dive deeper in, to quiet my heart and mind so I could get closer to Jesus.

If that sounds strange, hear me out.
Quieting the Interior Life in the Middle of a Lovely, But Loud World
We live in SUCH a distracted, loud, noisy world.
This is hardly news to you.

Our days are filled with activity and responsibilities, much of it essential and necessary for our own lives and the lives of those we love and live with.

Added to this though is the era of distraction we live in with everything else. And there is a plethora of distractions. Phones. YouTube. Texts. The internet and the billboards and activities, the friendships and family gatherings and the drama and the election cycle and the news and the sense that we MUST stay on top of it and have an opinion about everything and stay in touch with everyone.

And to be honest, I enjoy much of it. There are lots of lovely things to read, see, and learn.

The things "out there" weren't causing the problem. They contributed to the chaos and decreased attention span, but they weren't the cause.
My brain and heart were like the 680 freeway through Silicone Valley at rush hour traffic.

My soul needed a break, a rest. My whole self did.
Prayers felt foggy. It was more difficult to hear Jesus. He was there, is there, as He always is. I needed to do something different. Encouraged by others, I started to experiment a little, take extended breaks from screens and spend more time in real life. (John Eldredge and his wonderful book, Get Your Life Back as well as the Wild at Heart podcasts were catalysts for this launch of my life).

Isn't hard to get out of the busyness and frenetic activity of the mind and soul and heart?

Jesus is our good and gentle shepherd. He will not impose on us without our willingness and desire. What if He gave us our gifts as an avenue to draw us to himself?

In the book of James, we're told that "every good gift comes from the Father of light." Other places in in the Bible tell of the generosity of God. Paul speaks in Colossians that everything on earth was created "through Christ," and "for Christ." Beauty and creativity were, are, God's.

I began to use the gifts of creating as an avenue to Jesus. I realized the physical act of painting, often focusing on things in nature, quieted my heart and mind. Painting and creating allowed me to settle down internally and then not only began to talk with Jesus from a place of open honesty but to be able to sit quietly with him – or take a walk with him, no music or earphones, just me and him together.

I have a few courses now of "painting and praying through the psalms." You can look at those and join me as you go through. I'll guide you through the psalms 23, 143, and 91 with themed paintings and reflections for journaling, praying, and listening.

However, you may want to dive into the psalm that is resonating with your spirit and create your own 'painting and praying through the psalm.'
5 Steps to Paint & Pray through a Psalm
Here's a simple guide to do that:

First, pick a psalm.

Is there a psalm you are drawn to right now? It sticks out like a siren, blaring every time you go by it.

Second, choose a theme.

Does the psalm provide a visual guide of what to paint? If not, take an hour to peruse the psalms. (This, in itself, may be a balm and soothing oil to your soul).

For example, I'm not great at painting animals. I knew painting a bunch of sheep might be more frustrating than fun as I painted through Psalm 23. The whole point of painting through the psalm was to get the focus off me and onto Jesus. The theme needed to be something I could do with a relative amount of ease. Since I love flowers, I decided to take the theme of "painting from a floral artists' perspective." Yes, I still thought about which flowers to paint and how to paint them, but it was much more relaxing.

You could choose a garden theme, mountains, clouds, birds, homes, faces, fruit, doodles!

Third, choose a color palette.

Yes, there are times when I move away from the color palette, or add a color, etc. But having a prescribed color theme will help you to move through the psalm and create a collection of paintings that will "sing" together.
Fourth, as you begin to paint, work in quiet or with very soft music, perhaps with few words.

The practice of painting will calm the heart, mind, and body. After painting (and sometimes during), there was a greater sense of being able to listen. I calmed down internally and therefore could pray and listen with much more clarity. Not at first, but as I continued to practice, it became easier, more natural.

Finally, dedicate time to enjoy this every week.

As of this writing, we are in the beginning of July, the middle of summer. So one could take the next seven weeks and spend one weekend morning a week painting and praying through a psalm.

Fifth (and most important), spend time praying through the psalm and time listening to Jesus and simply being with him.

After I paint, I sometimes incorporate the verse I'm painting through into the art. Or, I'll write it in the back. I'll pray through it.

For example, Abba, you are my Good Shepherd. Thank you for leading me and guiding me today / this week through xxxxx. You take amazing care of me. Pause. Rest in the quiet. A few deep breaths. Then, maybe I need to seek forgiveness where I didn't think he would come through. Maybe I need guidance in an area. Or, I simply end with more worship, loving and being loved.

Painting through a chunk of scripture, whether it's a psalm or another chapter of the bible will require time and effort – but that's the point! It is a glorious journey, an adventure of sorts, with Jesus.

You'll come out with a collection of art that is not only lovely, but it will stand as a testimony to this period in your life. You may look back and remember with surprising vividness the circumstances surrounding this season, your time with Jesus, how he encouraged you and healed you.

I can't tell you exactly how he does it. There's a mystery to the process, the becoming. As I look back on all the times when I've painted through a psalm, no matter how rough those times have been, there is such a sweetness because Jesus and I walked closely together.

And the precious gift of creativity was the gateway to a deeper love walk with him.

I hope this encourages you in your journey of living with and loving Jesus and letting him love you!

Author: Melissa AuClair
Melissa AuClair is a floral painter. She loves to help others discover their God-given gift of creating, finding beauty and learning how to paint and create paintings of flowers and other nature-inspired art.

You can find her art, stationery, and stickers on the website as well as online workshops including Praying & Painting through Psalm 23.

California, United States
The Creative Season © 2021

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