Meditation Monday – Learning to Be Creative With Prayer

by Christine Sine

A tapestry of prayer.001by Christine Sine

I have not always seen myself as a creative person and my prayer life reflects that. I became a Christian in my teens and adopted a rigorous program of prayer and scripture study. I loved it but sometimes felt a little stifled by its restrictions. There are three things that have particularly inspired creativity in my prayers and drawn me closer to God in the process:

Claude Monet's garden at Giverny - photo Coe Hutchison

Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny – photo Coe Hutchison

Inspired By The Garden

Claude Monet said: I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers. I think I could say that I owe my prayer life to the garden. It was getting out into the garden that started to change the way I looked at prayer.

It wasn’t just that the garden was a great place to pray. Like Monet I found it also stirred my imagination and creativity. Inspiration came from the amazingly creative variety of flowers, plants, bees and other creatures that inhabit my garden. Even the compost pile with its transformative power increased my confidence in God’s ability to transform all things.God is so creative I realized and calls me to create as well.

I started to see God in colours, shapes, textures, aromas and sounds. I took photos, arranged flowers, planted gardens. New thoughts, new words and new concepts bubbled up inside me and found myself writing prayers and poems. As I say in my book To Garden With GodI read about the story of God in the Bible, but in the garden I experience it…. and now it has transformed me.

Question: What aspect of God’s good creation provides inspiration for you in your prayer life? 


Prayer board

Given Permission Through Liturgy

Tom and I go to an Episcopal church. It is not where I grew up, but about 20 years ago I found myself increasingly drawn to the Sunday liturgy and to the liturgical pattern of the church calendar. The rhythm of the service, the beauty of the prayers, the changing seasonal focus and the rich heritage this connects to have been another source of inspiration for me.

Of course it wasn’t long before I found myself wanting to mess with the litanies we used. I started to change them so that they became more personal for me and connected more to the current issues we face in our world. I created symbols, like my Advent prayer gardens, that held more meaning in today’s world than the traditional symbols of the seasons, and not surprisingly, started writing down prayers that reflected this.

A couple of years ago our church held an icon workshop. I really wanted to go but couldn’t afford it. So I thought, lets make my own painting. And that was how I started painting on rocks. Poor man’s icons I call them and like icons my painted rocks are more than a painting for me. They reflect something of my own soul’s journey and provide a window that reveals more of God to me.

Question: What aspect of your church life provides inspiration for you as you seek to pray more effectively?

Mural in Balmy Alley San Francisco.

Mural in Balmy Alley San Francisco.

Inspired By the Neighbourhood.

Several years ago when we were in San Francisco, Mark Scandrette took Tom and I on a walk around the neighbourhood. The murals on walls, buildings and even park benches amazed and inspired me. This is a form of prayer I realized. These artists are expressing their pain and suffering, their hopes and joy. Each of these pieces of art is a cry of the heart towards God.

Walking the neighbourhood, getting to know my neighbours, shop keepers, homeless people on the corner are all ways to connect to God’s love for this world in which we live. These encounters inspire me to pray not just for my local community but for the entire world.

Question: What aspects of your neighbourhood inspire you to pray more creatively and diligently for God’s world? 

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ALK September 5, 2016 - 6:58 am

“What aspect of your church life provides inspiration”

Church life (e.g., CEO hierarchical-silo ekklesial model) became stifling and counterproductive. It was the antithesis of “inspiration.” I left that community model years ago, and have been growing in creativity ever since. There is a remarkable release of freedom in seeing the world not as walled-off religious tribes, but as one people in need of love. I think optimal freedom leads to optimal creativity.

Christine Sine September 5, 2016 - 7:02 am

I think you are right – freedom leads to creativity and we don’t always need to leave church (though sometimes that is necessary) to find that freedom. Some churches inspire creativity and encourage their congregations to be more imaginative in the ways they pray. Others stifle such creativity. Seeing our way as the only way to express faith is one of the things that stifles creativity and imagination.

ALK September 5, 2016 - 7:25 am

Maybe, but I’ll suggest that the vast majority of religion, which is little more than a salary-making enterprise legitimized by vast numbers of salary-driven theological+management training centers (which rarely resemble Jesus, etc), objectively stifles not just individual creativity, but a well-integrated relationship to Spirit and organic spiritual community. We live in very sick times, perpetuated and legitimized by corporate systems posing as arbiters of Spirit.

Christine Sine September 5, 2016 - 10:16 am

I think that you need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Yes we live in a sick time but there has always been corruption and sickness in the world. Religious institutions are not exempt but that does not mean we cannot learn from what they have to offer.

ALK September 5, 2016 - 2:08 pm

I’m not suggesting that you “throw the baby away.” I’m suggesting that you not wash your baby in polluted waters.

I see no healthy model for salaried religious leadership. The NT offers 1 or 2 cases of minimal and temporary monetary support for off-shore missionary endeavor, and even Jesus was fed and sheltered by his friends, but I find no inference of permanent paid-positions and hierarchical / academic models for the normal community gifts (pastoring, teaching, gatherings, music, etc.) I don’t see Spirit available for a paycheck. Love, peace, joy, compassion, grace (etc.) are not “on salary.” Career-preparation theology colleges, and salaried religious positions in general, are about the most un-Jesusy thing I can imagine.

The “CEO Model” of leadership understands religion as a managed salaried position, not a free and simple gift shared with one’s community (see NT). I don’t think Jesus ever remotely hinted that ekklesia should be a paid vertical hierarchy, nor a hierarchy based on institutional academics, degrees, or even IQ. He seemed to advocate for flattened community, each with unique gifts, freely sharing a common, profound love. The open-door communities of love he inspired seemed to thrive without paid leadership, but with everyone freely sharing what they could (homes, food, gifts, etc.).

Alas, it was the “brood of vipers” – those most loathed by Jesus – who were gainfully employed on religious paychecks. The entire structure of dominant religion and theological higher education has been built around salaried careers, which perpetuate the myth of “systematic theology” at the center of a Jesus-filled life. I think this has radically skewed our understanding of “Jesus community” and the very heart and soul and simplicity and creativity of God’s Love itself. What you are calling normative is (likely) a deeply corrupted model. Most religion today looks more like trickle-down capitalism, ivory-tower academics, and Fox News than the NT Jesus.

Christine Sine September 5, 2016 - 6:53 pm

Though I agree with much of what you say I am still concerned that it is easy for us to criticize others while not seeing our own shortcoming. Yes there are problems with established church structures but there is also good in them especially in regards to the topic of this post – creative prayer practices. I have learnt much from the rich traditions the church has established in the last 2000 years which would probably not have been preserved if there was not a structure like this. I believe that God works both within as well as outside the established structures just as Jesus did. He did criticize those in leadership but he never set out to create a new structure. That was something his followers did.

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