By Pat Maier
Everybody’s talking about the COVID-19. The conversation began over a month ago when the threat seemed far, far away – today it’s in our backyard. We have travel bans, cancellations, school closings, a toilet paper shortage (!)… and now restaurants are closing, reality is grabbing for a frightening foothold in our thoughts, and it’s stressful navigating our personal decisions between the “you probably should nots” and the “you definitely should nots.”
So, what is our reaction? We’ll all probably have some mixture of fear and faith. How do we manage the one and feed the other?
At a time like this, I am grateful to be part of the Visual Faith community. Visual Faith Ministry is committed to equipping God’s people with practices that keep our faith front and center in a visible way. The simple practices of visual prayer and devotional journaling are key elements we teach and encourage that enable us to SEE and BE REMINDED of God’s faithful presence, protection and promises in our lives each day.
You have access to a gracious Father in all circumstances as you “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). James 5:16 stands as an open invitation: “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous [forgiven] person is powerful and effective.”
Prayer is serious business, and the prayer of God’s people – each and every prayer – is invited and heard by our Heavenly Father. I remember my pastor-husband, David, telling me that in Matthew 7:7, the Greek verbs are present participle, so that when Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” He is inviting us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking! And our unchanging, compassionate God will keep on hearing and keep on answering.
As the domino effect of ongoing recommendations and restrictions cascade into concerns for childcare, the economy, and many uncertainties of the near future – there is MUCH to pray about!
The Prayer Space, below, is a visual faith tool that invites you to record your prayers as they come to mind – for people and situations close to home and throughout the world.
If you are unfamiliar with the point of “visual prayer” or are not sure what to do with this Prayer Space, this might help this resource make sense for you:
- Think of this sheet as an invitation to pray. Print it out and keep it in a visible spot, like you would with a party invitation – perhaps on your desk or refrigerator or on a kitchen counter space – where you will see it often and remember this opportunity to pray.
- With visual prayer, there are no rules about how often or how long to pray – it’s all grace! As a person or concerning situation comes to mind, take just a moment to write it down, praying as you do so. Many of us have trouble remembering who and what we want to pray for – especially now. You might think of this prayer space as a place to record your prayers for safe-keeping from a forgetful mind!
- One blessing of all these cancellations, at least for some of us, is that we find ourselves with more time on our hands. My friend Valerie Matyas rightfully refers to prayer as “time well spent;” however, I’ll confess to my diagnosis of “Spiritual ADD” – during prayer my mind wanders and I lose focus easily. Sitting down to write or color during prayer helps bring focus, slows us down, and helps with distractions.
Here’s what it might look like:
- Write down names & situations that you want to keep in prayer. Pray as you write and add more concerns as they come to mind.
- You might also write out your prayers – writing the words sometimes helps us to be more specific in prayer. If you fill up the prayer space, you can always begin another!
- Choose a Bible verse and write it out as you pray that scripture over the people and places that come to mind in each section.
- Coloring is optional, although we find it also helps with focus, not to mention that research suggests it bring calm and reduces stress. If you have written down requests, return to them and add dividing lines; color in these areas as you pray further over each concern.
- Add more sections for prayer on the back. My friend Michele Schulteis added a section for disappointments – “seeming trivial in the grand scheme of things – but so real.” When they come so fast and build up, God sees us our discouragement and offers hope.
- Don’t feel pressure to fill it in all at once. Pray a little bit at a time over the day, or over the next few days. Just keep coming back to this Visual Prayer Space and pick up where you left off or add something new.
- Visual prayer can be practiced individually but also in community. Give each family member a copy of the Visual Prayer Space and pray together as you each write or color during a set length of time. Share your prayers and thoughts together afterwards and close with a spoken prayer together.
As you write or color, you are creating a visual record of your prayer. It’s something you can see – like a selfie of time spent with God. I find that this picture stays with me and, as a result, may come to mind while I’m working at something else later in the day and graciously lead me back into a moment of prayer.
God be with you as you pray – to honor Him in your decisions each day, caring for each other by what you chose to do or not to do, and remaining hopeful in confident faith.
Pat Maier is one of the founders of Visual Faith Ministry and regularly produces illustrations available at https://www.visualfaithmin.org/.
She is also one of the illustrators for When from Death I’m Free: A Hymn Journal for Holy Week from Next Step Press.