Blog Post

What's Wrong With Praying in Color?

color wheelDB asks: “I recently had a person ask me a question that I need a bit of help with. I do believe its New Age. She states that a woman she knows told her when she prays she sees colors. The woman who brought this to me said it sent up a red flag to her that this woman may have participated in New Age.”

The only information I can find on people who see colors when they pray comes from New Age sources. One person on this forum says she sees a pulsating purple light when she prays. Some responders claim to have had the same experience while others refer to it as an energy associated with the chakras.

There is also a New Age belief that if you focus on a certain color during prayer, the “energy” or powers associated with that color will be available to you; i.e., blue brings protection, strength and courage; yellow brings wisdom for decisions; pink represents love and peace, etc.

Others attribute seeing color in prayer to an action of God, such as what is described in this book, Every Time I Feel the Spirit: Religious Experience and Ritual in an African American Church.

Then there is a new trend toward doodling as a form of prayer, such as in Zentangle and in Praying in Color by a couple named Sybil and Andy MacBeth.

Sybil, who calls herself “a doodler, dancer, and former community college math professor” says she came up with the idea one day when she ran out of words to pray for a friend. Instead, she picked up a pencil and some crayons and began to “pray” while doodling words and symbols.

For instance, to start out, you would “write your name for God” on a piece of paper and draw a shape around it (a circle or a box). Next, add marks to the shape (lines or flowers or crosses) while focusing on the name you chose for God. Ask God to be part of your prayer time. If words come, great; if they don’t, just enjoy the silence.

The same process is employed when you’re praying for a friend. Write their name on the paper, draw shapes around it, and start coloring while praying.

MacBeth has a website devoted to this new prayer trend which she shares with her husband Andy, a retired Episcopal priest with “a restless spirit”.

Being a Carmelite, I can only shake my head at all of the above concepts. Seeing anything at all in prayer - whether it be people or colors or scenery – is not necessary for our salvation, which is why St. John of the Cross says we can ignore any and all of these manifestations and not fear “missing” anything. If God really wants to tell us something, He’ll do so in some other way.

As for doodling because prayer turns dry, it should be understood that difficulty in prayer is a normal part of the process of “growing up” spiritually. These difficulties should be embraced with both arms because, chances are, God is using these trials to wean you off of the “feel good” religion that causes you to seek prayer only because it makes you feel good.

All of the great spiritual masters warn us not to let our feelings be the judge of anything when it comes to prayer because they are such an unreliable guide. Instead, growth in prayer comes about as we learn to let go of feelings and let God lead us in a more profound and spiritual way. If we do this, and persevere through these dry periods, this will be a critical turning point in our spiritual maturity.

Granted, dry prayer that is devoid of all devotion could be a sign of complacency or sinfulness, but it’s also a typical way that God goes about helping us to mature and learn how to come to Him for His sake and not our own.

I caution everyone to be wary of any kind of prayer fad, especially if one truly desires to grow spiritually. The cross is very much a part of our walk - but so is resurrection!