The Art of Prayer

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, Judges 13:1-15, Acts 5:27-42, John 3:22-36

Art teaches truth beyond the scope of mere facts. The poetry of Psalm 102, for example, invokes vivid images because the facts do not adequately communicate the depths of the psalmist’s despair or his awe of the Lord. “I am terribly sad” tells us something, but it can’t compare to the exquisite anguish of “I eat ashes with my food and mingle my drink with tears.” While “God is eternal” suffices for academic theology discussions, it doesn’t say much about God’s relationship to the mortal world. Describing the heavens and earth as garments that God will eventually change when they wear out puts us in touch with the vastness of eternity. Burning bones, withering grass, a little bird on a roof – these densely packed images don’t just impart knowledge but tune us into the emotional state of the psalmist.

Artistic forms of prayer can lend depth to our spiritual experiences. When we pray from our deepest pains or joys, stating the facts or making requests may cast only pale shadows of our actual experiences and needs, even to ourselves. Could we consider writing God a poem? The idea may sound like something to do when Vacation Bible School is rained out, but the Bible is loaded with prayerful poems. Its 150 psalms and numerous canticles (hymns) teach us poetry and music are an integral part of our faith language. The psalms themselves were originally meant to be sung, and the layers of artistic expression add to their power. We don’t have to be great poets or composers to turn our feelings into art; when it comes to prayer, honesty trumps virtuosity every time. Any honest attempt at prayer can only bring us closer to God.

Approaching the Bible, prayer, or God from a poetic or other artistic perspective opens us to new ways of knowing. Modern culture tends to equate truth only with facts, but truth is transcendent. History books are informative, but Picasso’s Guernica illuminates the devastation of war in ways no book could convey. Being created in God’s image, however we understand that, means we too are fulfilled by creating.

Comfort: Your opportunities for praise and prayer are endless.

Challenge: Write a poem to God about your current state of mind. No one else has to read.

Prayer: Lord of all creation, thank you for the gift of creativity. Amen.

Discussion: What are your creative outlets? Can you see any connections between them and your faith?

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