I anxiously fidget as I sit cross-legged on the floor of my church, Ekko. Soft background music is playing to create an ambiance of peace and mindfulness in the room. I begin to indulge in my nasty habit of picking at my brittle nails as my thoughts run rampant with all of the ways this could go wrong.
My pastor recently introduced the concept of “Drawing Prayer” to our intimate group, and we were about to put that abstract idea into action. I’m sitting across from two other people I consider acquaintances rather than close friends. I can tell they can feel my nervous energy so I quickly take a silent, deep breath through my nose, but it ends up being incredibly loud against the stillness of the room as the air flaps in through my loose mucus.
Strangely, it takes the tension away. We crack into awkward smiles as we get ready to orchestrate who will pray for whom. Since my now runny nose already took the liberty of starting the conversation, I take its cue, “Let’s quietly pray for the person on our right and reconvene when we’re ready.” The other two agree with a nod. I’ve never done this before. But before I dive in further into the details of my first experience, let me explain what exactly Drawing Prayer is.
Drawing Prayer is an unconventional way of praying as it incorporates two practices: praying and drawing. The praying comes with asking God what He wants this person to be reminded of or know. The drawing involves creating a tangible form of the prayer for the other person, expressed on (and depending on your drawing skills, limited to) the confines of a piece of paper.
The drawing involves creating a tangible form of the prayer for the other person, expressed on the confines of a piece of paper.
Back to my horror story — er — enthralling experience. We left off with me, my anxiety, and two acquaintances in a circle. Personally, my artistic skills never advanced beyond stick figures. I’m worried about hearing God incorrectly, or hearing nothing at all.
The first few minutes, I was filled with my own distressed thoughts and random screenshots of my day. I try to quiet myself and ask God, “What do You want to say to this person?” I spend the next few minutes waiting on God, and I see a picture of a moth with butterfly wings, drinking sweet nectar. The image is so random that I am almost sure I had conjured it from my own vivid imagination. Time is running out, and my fear of having nothing drawn on my paper is greater than my fear of drawing something that I thought was random. I scribble this crazy image down in a hurry.
During my turn to explain my drawing to my prayer partner, I sheepishly preface my explanation with a disclaimer that it is probably completely off. After I finish, I look up at her face and she simply nods and says that it was very relevant to her. I’m pleasantly surprised, and ask her if she could share how it was relevant to her. She shares that she was putting off something God was telling her to do by using the excuse that she was not made that way. This image of the moth with butterfly wings was God’s way of telling her that she was made the way God had intended her to be.
I sheepishly preface my explanation with a disclaimer that it is probably completely off.
I recently reached out to this person and asked if she remembered our Drawing Prayer. She was able to recall it better than I was. She said she went on to do what God had asked of her during that time, and it produced good fruit in her life. I was met with juxtaposing emotions of feeling pleasantly surprised and not. It was an amazing thing for me to know that I was able to act as a messenger for God and actually get the message right. My awe of God and my doubt of God should not exist together, but they do for me because my anxiety is so overpowering sometimes. I found myself thinking, “I can’t believe God can do that! What the heck just happened?” And then the “trained Christian” side goes, “I’m not surprised that happened — it’s God. What can’t He do?” I felt bewilderment and nonchalance at the same time.
That experience reminds me that God allows room for grace even in all of my anxiety. When I feel unsure, I know God is always sure of what He needs to say whether I am the vessel that He uses or not. God produced something beautiful from what I thought would be a disastrous, unhelpful, possibly misleading figment of my imagination.
God produced something beautiful from what I thought would be a disastrous, unhelpful, possibly misleading figment of my imagination.
In another session of Drawing Prayer, my partner drew for me a picture of a shining diamond with a cross perched on top of it. She also wrote, “You will be refined into a diamond that provides and emits light, a light powered by God. You are a light, Natalie. Messy is Good.” The word “refined” was underlined twice and written with a yellow colored pencil for emphasis.
My partner explained to me that I will go through a process of refinement where God will take what once was “messy” and make it into something beautiful. Diamonds are created under high pressure and temperature, and without those circumstances, a change cannot take place.
I had not shared my life with my partner before, but her drawing prayer for me was undeniably God speaking to me. I felt a sense of safety and freedom for me to share a part of my life that night, despite my fear of opening a door that would show too much of my mess for people to see.
Her drawing prayer for me was undeniably God speaking to me.
Growing up proved to be a bit more difficult than I had imagined. My parents went through a separation and an eventual divorce during the most formative years of my life. When I was supposed to blossom into a pre-teen who demands to shop for training bras on her own, I instead became a dispatch center between Mom and Dad — that middle ground through which messages are exchanged. I had always felt that my life was a mess that couldn’t be mastered by even Marie Kondo herself.
I kept this Drawing Prayer and stapled it into the pages of one of my many unfinished journals, because it spoke to me in a way that was gentle and empowering. I knew I needed to keep this as a reminder to myself in the coming days when I succumb to my forgetful human nature.
In that miraculous way of prayer, her Drawing Prayer brought to the forefront what I hate addressing in myself. Now every time I look back at this prayer, I am reminded that it is by the redemption of God that I am made not to crumble under immense pressure and temptation, but to emerge as something new of precious value.
I am reminded that it is by the redemption of God that I am made not to crumble under immense pressure and temptation, but to emerge as something new of precious value.
God reconfigured my early identity of being a messenger of unwanted news to becoming a messenger who bears good news and encouragement to others. God willing, I’ll learn to do that even for myself. Drawing Prayer is a gift I can come back to whenever I need to, as semi-amnesic as I am — something that is literally tangible, and therefore, reassuring — especially since God feels so intangible and hard to wrap my mind around sometimes. All I can do is practice, despite my lingering anxiety. I’m in the company of grace.
By Natalie Pak
Art by Nathalie Llemos
Natalie Pak is an aspiring physician’s assistant with the hopes of using her skills for wherever God needs her. She absolutely loves napping and pho to the point where it tastes like mostly sriracha and lime.
NATHALIE LLEMOS is currently a senior at ArtCenter College of Design studying illustration with a focus on design. She takes great joy in analog processes and working with her hands. She also enjoys home cooked stews, stop motion films, and loves dogs (pugs).