Suggested Reading

- Prayer of the HeART


Kelly Schneider Conkling

Author of Prayer of the HeART, an explorefaith book

Kelly Schneider ConklingHow can creating a piece of art also be a form of prayer?
We are created in the image and likeness of God. This means that we are co-creators with God. Creativity is part of our DNA and can take many forms. Art, or visual images, is one form of creation that not only allows us to express our personal creativity but also allows God to work through the process. I have found that many, many times in prayer, words are not enough. I need silence and I need another means of expressing the inexpressible in my heart. There are also times when I need a tangible way of listening to God. I have found that visual prayer fulfills this need.
In this form of prayer, it is not so much that we think things through and create a piece of art that expresses a prayer. Rather, we allow art to be the means of communication between God and us. The intention of the act of creation is to open one's heart to listening to God and allowing God to speak through the images that result. In this way, art becomes the means of prayer.

Is this a prayer practice  that is best suited to experienced artists?

No, not by any means. This practice is for anyone with an open heart and a willingness to explore their relationship with God. I have found that those who are not experienced artists have an easier time allowing the prayer process to happen. The one thing that is critical in this type of prayer is to let go of personal control over the end results. Experienced artists, because of their longtime training and practice, have a very hard time doing this. For them, the end result is extremely important. I know this from personal experience. To let go of this focus requires such a great desire to experience God that the ego gradually begins to release the desire for results and allows God to do the work.

What is needed to get started?

Getting started is really very simple. All you need is blank paper, crayons and a yearning for God. Of course there are other materials that can be added or used, but you don't have to wait until you have them to begin. I know that this sounds very simple and childlike, but it is precisely this simplicity that allows for a freedom of creative expression without the pressure of creating a "work of art."

What if someone is worried about how "good" the art will be?

This is a question I get all the time, and I have to work hard to get people to overcome this worry. For those who have not done any artwork since they were children, or who were led to believe that their art was not up to standards, there is a great fear of not being able to do something "good." Many who are unsure of their artistic ability tend to compare their visual prayers with others', and in doing so get discouraged and criticize themselves.  

It is never helpful or productive to compare one person's visual prayer with another person's  or to critique a particular image.  Each person is unique and each visual prayer is unique. This entire prayer practice is based on the premise that one is asking God to speak to them through visual images. It is not intended for the person who wants to plan and create their own image. If this prayer process is approached with the intention of allowing God to speak through images, then the ego is removed and there is no need to concern one's self with the results. The visual prayer is God's doing.  It doesn't matter if the result is a bunch of scribbles or a beautiful image. It is God's message to you.
Is all artwork prayer?

I think that all artwork has the potential of being a prayerful experience, but I do not think it is always prayer. Art can be created for many reasons: to express feelings, to capture an image, to make a statement. There are times when I create a work of art that is the expression of a prayer or records an experience of God. But it is not prayer itself. I have found in my personal experience of creating art and exploring various means of prayer, that it is the intention that is important. If one approaches a creative act with the intention that the act of creating is prayer, it makes a difference in the experience and the outcome. Visual prayer is not the record of an experience of God, it is an experience with and through God.
How can people best use your book?

The book is divided into two sections. Part One gives a background and explanation of Visual Prayer and the techniques involved. Part Two includes prayer exercises based on a specific topic and designed to lead one through the various techniques in a variety of means. I suggest reading Part One before beginning the prayer exercises in Part Two. Then, explore the prayers and prayer techniques in Part Two in whatever way seems best to you.

You might stay on a particular prayer technique presented in a chapter for a while, or you might work through each chapter and then go back to those prayer techniques you find most rewarding. Allow God to lead you though in the manner that is best for you.I would also suggest that you find a trusted friend to share this experience with. Seeing your prayer from another person's perspective is very rewarding and insightful.
The main thing that I would suggest to people using my book is to relax, play, and enjoy the unique time with God that visual prayer provides.

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Prayer of the Heart by Kelly Schneider Conkling
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