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Praying in Color
A conversation with friends and authors Sybil MacBeth and
Phyllis Tickle on a whole new way to pray without words

download the entire conversation <mp3>
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read an excerpt from the book

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God How do you pray when words become barriers rather than possibilities? When thinking in sentences is too linear to express a rainbow of emotions. During a time in her life when close friends and family were sick and in need, Sybil MacBeth was struggling with how to pray. Her book Praying in Color describes the prayer process that came out of that time—a process she now uses regularly and teaches to others in workshops.

These prayers use design and color to communicate deep feelings, rather than relying on just the right word.

Phyllis Tickle’s name is associated with a very different type of prayer. She is author of the multi-volume set The Divine Hours—manuals for praying at fixed hours throughout the day, a practice Phyllis has observed for decades. In the conversation that follows two good friends and dedicated “pray-ers” talk about their different ways to pray and how each moves us closer to the ear, and voice, of God.

Some clips from the conversation:

MacBeth: I am not an artist…. I can’t draw a thing, but one of the ways I relax is by doodling, because I love color…. About five years ago, a whole bunch of my friends and family were really sick, and I really did not know how to pray for them…. I just didn’t have the words…. One day I was on my porch doodling… and I realized I didn’t have to know the words,… the doodling helped me focus on them and hold them in the presence of God.

Tickle: There are two distinct ways of praying… one of which is what Scot McKnight calls praying with the church… as opposed to freestyle or personal prayer... neither is intended to be the whole prayer experience for the Christian…. What Sybil is describing is a method of personal prayer. What the Divine Hours… describes is praying with the church, that is praying at fixed times with fixed words using materials that are essentially assigned to that day within the liturgical year. When you do that, what you are really doing is praying with Christians all over your time zone who are doing more or less the same words….

Fixed hour is not intended to be personal in any way. It is an opportunity, a privilege given to the creature to worship God. What Sybil’s doing is… so far as I know, it’s the first innovative, post-modern, truly American approach to personal prayer.

MacBeth: The neat thing for me about Praying in Color is that it is both a process and a product…. Sometimes I will do it for 10 minutes, sometimes for half and hour, but there has really been a meditation, a prayer time for me. But then since I have done it and because I have it on paper, I carry it with me…. Sometimes I carry it physically, sometimes because I have the visual pictures… those images continue to pop up in my mind during the day so I am working toward praying unceasingly for the people who are in my pictures.

Tickle: We Protestants think of prayers as involving words, and it doesn’t have to. And you don’t have to be some kind of Eastern guru to be non-verbal.

The whole business of entering prayer without the vehicle of words is very important, for it allows the spirit to flow freely with the spirit of God, and does not have to articulate what is happening until one comes out from prayer.

I think prayer is a place…Prayer and the physical world are in many ways two parallel existences, two parallel spaces, one geographic and one not. …Especially the non-locative world does not have to be articulated to be important to one’s spiritual life. The color not only allows concentration… color is a vocabulary.

MacBeth: The other thing I think about not bringing your words into there is that it really does create a place where you can then actually listen.

download the entire conversation <mp3>
subscribe to explorefaith's new podcast
read an excerpt from the book


Sybil MacBeth is a mathematics instructor, dancer, and the spouse of an Episcopal priest in Memphis, Tennessee. She has been leading workshops across the U.S. using Praying in Color for two years, and will soon be teaching others to do the same.

Praying in Color
To purchase a copy of PRAYING IN COLOR, visit amazon.com. This link is provided as a service to explorefaith visitors and registered users.


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