The Language of My Prayers

Post Author: Elsa A. Peters

I don’t like words in my prayers.

It’s the writer in me. I’m too busy editing. Once the words fall off my lips, I’m correcting it. I’m explaining to God that’s not really what I mean. I’m tripping over the correct words instead of exploring the feelings and emotions behind those words.

So, about a year ago, I stopped using words. Not entirely. They still pop up in the words that I cherish from the Bible or the words that I mutter between silences – but most of my prayers and now found in black lines upon a page.

I started like I was in art school. That is, I started like an art student that went to seminary. I gathered all my materials. I sat down with some paper and I started to think about the end product before the seminary student interrupted. She knew better. She knew it wasn’t about the end product but about the process. And so, I practiced my own form of lectio divina using the cycle of readings provided in Between Sundays: Daily Bible Readings Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, but instead of writing or sitting in silence, I drew. I drew images from my living room and my neighborhood that spoke to the words I heard in the sacred text. This introduced a different critic. Instead of editing my words, I was thrown back into the studios of my college years. I hated the images I created. They were ugly. They were poorly drawn. They were unskilled.

I stuck with it.

And then, one day, it changed. I started drawing circles. Over and over again, circular forms appear in my prayers. They are not pictorial. They do not illustrate anything but that deep feeling within me. These circles represent things that only I can see –the contours of women, the embrace of God, the cancer cells being radiated from my stepmother’s body, the holy of holies and even the arch toward justice and peace.


Now, when I sit down to pray, I’ve found the circle to be my language. It speaks when I can’t speak. As I repeatedly etch circles into the page, I learn a little bit more about myself and my God. I find the connection isn’t as vast as I always thought it was to have a prayer life of my very own. I just needed a good pen, a journal and a set of colored pencils. I didn’t need to use other languages or other styles. I just needed to find my own language.

Rev. Elsa A. Peters is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and serves as the Associate Pastor of the First Congregational Church United Church of Christ in South Portland, Maine.

Image by: Elsa Peters Cook
Used with permission
7 replies
  1. Joanna
    Joanna says:

    Thanks for sharing some of your prayers, Elsa. I have done some similar types of prayer based off of the book “Praying in Color.” I even had the whole congregation do it one Sunday and could barely get people to put the crayons away.

  2. Katy Hyman
    Katy Hyman says:

    This is really beautiful. The metophor of praying with circles has snagged me and I think it will play out in interesting ways. Thank you for sharing yourself and your prayers.


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