Many of us believe we are called to be co-creators with God, but when it comes to prayer it seems our creativity suddenly dries up, unless we are kids. Kids are encouraged to explore their creativity by playing games, reading books, walking in nature, planting and watching things grow, listening to music and drawing together. Adults are encouraged to pray only with their minds and not with their imaginations or other God given senses.
According to Albert Einstein:“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” So why should kids have all the fun? It is my growing conviction that we all need to learn to be more creative and more experiential with our prayers. If we truly believe we are made in the image of our creative God and it is through prayer that we connect to God surely this should be one of the primary places we exercise our creativity. Not creativity for the sake of creativity, but creativity that draws us into a deeper relationship with our creator God and with God’s aching heart for our world.
We need to allow the spirit of God to stir our imaginations to create new models of prayer and new expressions of spiritual practices. This doesn’t mean letting go of our prayer life, but rather using the creative tools of ancient spiritual practices to reshape and reimagine how we pray.
Tapping into our Imaginations
Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev said God created the world by imagination, a creative imagination that is still being expressed and that we are invited to be a part of. In Isaiah 48: 6,7 God says: I am telling you new things, secrets hidden that no one has known. They are created now—brand new, never before announced, never before heard. Each moment of the day is a fresh revelation of God. Each moment is alive with new possibilities and part of the power of prayer is the opportunity to tap into the potential of that moment and create something new. It might be a new artistic expression that reflects a growing personal intimacy with God or it could be a creative new idea for a way to become involved in our neighbourhoods.
God Creates in Infinite Variety.
We only need to walk around our gardens for a few minutes, or gaze into the faces of people we pass in our neighbourhood, to know that God creates in infinite variety. No two created beings are alike. Yes there are patterns that God follows for any given species, but within that pattern no two organisms are the same. And even the number of species is almost infinite.
So I think it is meant to be with prayer. There are patterns for us to follow – for instance there are contemplative patterns like lectio divina, intercessory patterns in which we brings our our own needs and those of the world before God, and patterns of praise in which we express our love for God, but within those patterns the way we express ourselves is almost infinite.
One person might like to take photos and contemplate those as an exercise in prayer. Another might like to paint rocks as I do as a reflective exercise. Someone else might go for a walk. The possibilities are endless. Several years ago when I was just starting to explore this creative approach to prayer, I posted a series entitled Tools for Prayer which gives a small glimpse into this variety. This month’s focus on creative prayer is providing all of us with even more possibilities. Of one thing I am convinced, God’s creativity is never exhausted.
God creates from the Essence of Who God Is
Every part of the created world reflects something of who God is. We see God’s love in a mother’s tender caress. We see God’s generosity in an abundant harvest, and we see God’s compassion every time a stranger reaches out to help in the midst of a crisis. As we look for the presence of God in our world and interact with the love, compassion and generosity we see around us, we touch and express something of the nature of God and that is prayer.
My friend, Mark Scandrette, often posts photos of street graffiti. A couple of days ago he posted the image. God’s heart of love is never silenced. Prayer is not about words. Nor is it about images, it is about God’s heart for us and for our world.
God Creates Patterns out of Chaos
It fascinates me that one of the most effective tools for prayer is doodling, a seemingly random and chaotic act that unleashes our creativity and draws us into relationship with God.
God creates patterns from chaos. Nature is full of what are known as fractal images, complex patterns created by repeating a simple process over and over in a feedback loop. Trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes are all fractal patterns, what are sometimes called images of Chaos.
We don’t need to start with a pattern for something beautiful to emerge, we create the pattern. All we need are a few simple rules, a little imagination and the creative power of God.
God Creates Out of the Longing to See All Things Made Whole
At the heart of our universe is a God who longs to see all things made whole again and as we tap into the creative power of prayer we cannot help but express this. Out of the creative core of God’s being come new ways to provide homes for the homeless, new entrepreneurial ventures for the jobless, new approaches to the pollution of our planet.
Prayer is not passive it is active, and these responses are, I believe, all forms of prayer. Every time we look around and see newness emerging where there has been decay, or create wholeness where there has been brokenness, we are seeing into the heart of a God who asks to pray constantly not just in words but in actions. I love what Rebecca Joy Sumner is doing to help us reimagine scripture and prayer lived out in the neighbourhood with this kind of intent – like her post I’m Having a Failure of Hope Kind of Morning. The downloadable pdf she has attached is a wonderful resource for using scripture to pray in a different way for our neighbourhoods.
Question: Where do you see God creating wholeness in our broken world and where is God asking you to join in?