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Windows into the Soul:
Art as Spiritual Expression

by Michael Sullivan


Prayer One: Word Collage
Time Required:1 hour

Here’s a simple first step you’ll probably enjoy as we jump into art and
prayer. It’s useful as a daily “check-in”or when you’re having trouble identifying what’s going on in your life,so you may want to go back to this exercise again and again.

Opening Prayer

God, thank you for bringing me to a place of hopefulness. Help me to be myself, to let go,and to see you in this prayer. Amen.

Gather the following materials before you begin this exercise:

  • A large piece ofconstruction paper. Buy a pack and select the color that
    appeals to you just before you begin. If you like this method after a few
    times, bind the collages together to form a journal. The patterns and
    themes will be important to revisit as you move deeper into your
    prayer life.
  • Felt-tipped markers or colored pencils.

Prayer Method

  • Find a quiet,comfortable place where you feel safe and willing to speak
    freely to God. You might consider going to an empty church or a garden, or taking a hike into the woods. Follow these simple steps.
    • Close your eyes.
    • Breathe deeply, starting from deep within your abdomen and
      breathing up into your chest, all the way up to your collarbone. See
      if you can lengthen your breathing so that your inhalation and
      exhalation are equal, pausing between them for just a couple of
      seconds. After breathing this way four or five times, let your breath
      return to normal.
    • Ask God to bless this time and help you be more willing to give
      yourselfover to your Creator.
    • Begin to meditate on this question: What interferes with my rela-
      tionship with God?
    • As thoughts begin to materialize, take the markers and write down
      words or phrases that come to mind. Be sure to reserve one of the
      colors for later in the exercise.
    • Let the thoughts come as fast as they can; don’t pause to analyze or judge them. There are no right or wrong words to use when praying with God. Just let your words and thoughts flow. If you show
      anger, remember that the psalmists did too. If you use strong
      words, be thankful that God allows you to be honest.
    • Be creative. Write words upside down, diagonally, in a spiral,
      pattern—however you choose. Begin to let your inner artist come
      to life.
    • When the thoughts stop coming, look over what you’ve listed. Are
      there any themes? Do the themes spur you to consider other
      thoughts? If so, jot them down on the page.
    • Take a minute or two to relax and live with your responses. Don’t
      judge them. Just live with them.
    • Now, take the colored marker you’ve reserved and write what
      comes to mind when you consider God’s response to what you’ve
      written. Again, be creative. Let God’s response be woven into your
      words—upside down, diagonally, whatever comes to mind. Does
      God have doodles to record? Does God respond with whimsical
      curls and designs?
    • If you have trouble imagining God’s response, ask yourself what
      you’ve been waiting for God to say to you. What would God say if
      you were playing on the schoolyard together or running a country
      road side by side? In other words, what would God as friend have
      to say to what you have discovered?
    • When you are finished receiving God’s response, take time to look
      at the collage again. How does it make you feel? Take time to really
      live with it and let it sink in.
    • With your eyes closed, breathe deeply, as you did at the beginning
      of the exercise. After four or five deep breaths, let your breathing
      return to normal and say “Amen.”

Soul Questions

  • Was it easier to identify your feelings than to tell God how you felt?
    Why or why not?
  • What feelings did you experience? Did your feelings change when you
    considered God’s response to what you’d written?
  • What surprises came your way?
  • What did you learn about your relationship with God?

Tools for the Journey

  • Make a list ofthe times in your life when you’ve been honest with God.
    Why was it possible at those times? Any time you hold things back
    from God, go to this list and see how you not only survived but how
    you were strengthened.
  • Think about your best friend. What makes it possible to be yourself
    with that person? How could that relationship influence your prayer
    life with God?
  • Write down how you feel each day at the top of a journal page or on
    the margins of your calendar. Use the writings as a cheat sheet when

Copyright ©2006 Michael Sullivan

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