For the Christian, prayer should be as involuntary as breathing - a steady, rhythmic, vital, life-sustaining part of all our waking moments.
It would be ludicrous to only breathe when we perceived a need! Yet prayer is often thought of as simply an opportunity to voice our needs. It can be so much more! Listening to God opens up all sorts of new avenues for exploration. In art, the nonverbal gives birth to the visual and other sensory expressions. Listening is usually far more fruitful than speaking.
Silently listening to God yields rewards that are unique to each artist. In my experience, recognizing Him as the author and orchestrator of my final visual expression has made my work a delightful adventure.
As artists, there is much in this form of Christian prayer that is still unexplored. Communing in the spirit with His Spirit is a worthy pursuit. Yet it is easy to get busy with the activity of art that disengaging our spirits from the process poses a very real threat. Our art then takes on a dry and mechanical quality far removed from the life giving signature of the Holy Spirit.
So how do I pray? Stepping into my studio, I am always acutely conscious of His presence. I invite Him to become a part of my art. Into my chaotic space, I carry an awareness that any ability that I have must be subject to His command and pleasure.
Spending a few moments being absolutely still, affirming my dependence on Him, begins a time of sweet fellowship.
If you have never done this, I can promise you that you will be surprised. Time spent at your easel, or wherever you create art, will take on meaning and purpose. He will fill you with a sense of mission, even if it is only to find delight in Him.
Initially, I found it difficult to simply be still. Every fidgety muscle in me would start begging to move. I would remember innumerable things that needed to be done, my phone would buzz announcing a new email, I'd remember a chore that needed my attention... Silly distractions had the power to rob me of my time of sweet fellowship. You too will face the same challenge. Refuse to yield to it. I assure you that overcoming those temptations for fruitless action and simply being still is worth it.
“Be still and know that I am God” Ps 46:10 is a form of Christian prayer that must be a potent weapon in the arsenal of any artist.
is not the seeking of empty solitude. It is not even the simple
stilling of physical activity; it is a state of stillness of the spirit so that the Holy Spirit is welcomed.
This form of Christian prayer becomes the purposeful waiting for non-verbal instructions from the Divine source from whom all true creativity stems. It is the invitation extended to One who rarely intrudes, but engages willingly, if invited.
Overlook the temptation to consider it a waste of time. Being still before Him is the most meaningful time that there is. Only then will conversation begin that results in the making of genuine, heartfelt art. These conversations are often lighthearted and full of playfulness, or sometimes possess a gravity that is sobering.
So pray before you begin. Ask the Holy Spirit to sensitize you to hear. Listen for direction and then follow even the slightest leading. In all creative endeavors, a few tentative attempts are sufficient to suggest a direction. Let hesitant first steps guide the next, and the next… You will find yourself surprised at what emerges from your hands!
Keep in mind that God desires to lead you. Whatever ability you possess is His gift to you. Seeking Him in exercising it honors Him. Too often our pursuits as artists remain bogged down in concerns of design, color and technique. While this is important, our work is meaningful only because of our time with Him.
It helps to remember that apart from Him we can do nothing. Jn15:5
Thoughts flit in and out. Don’t rush it. Trust Him to be responsible for the outcome.
Sometimes when the silence seems deafening - in our eagerness for
action, we rob ourselves of the discoveries that He may have had for us. Wait. Pause. Trust in the rewards of waiting.
Ignore the voices that scream at you saying, ‘Don’t just sit there, act!’
Instead, do just sit – don’t act immediately. When you do act, let your actions be deliberate – a prayer, a conversation, a discourse between you and the Creator.
Make this form of Christian prayer the cornerstone of your artistic explorations.