How do you pray? When I was a young boy, our family had a very set routine. We’d pray before dinner, and again before bed after reading a devotional or a chapter out of the bible. When I entered my teenage years and eventually struck out on my own for post-secondary school, my prayer schedule became looser, more fluid. I’d try and fit a prayer into a quiet moment during the day, sometimes when I was commuting, sometimes just before drifting off. Both methods had their own positives and drawbacks.
When praying was a routine activity, I did it every single day without fail. But I have to admit that it could also become mechanical and route. It was easy to let my attention drift while hungry for dinner and just rush through the same muttered words of grace without thinking of them. Reading from the Bible provided more focus, but I also had a tendency to "play the hits,” re-reading a few familiar stories again and again. When I was just fitting it in whenever I felt like, prayer felt more intentional and spontaneous. Because I was taking my own initiative to talk with God when it seemed like the right time, I tended to pray about the most immediate things on my mind and really focus on what I was bringing to the Lord. But it also let me take that relationship for granted. When I got busy or things were going smoothly, it was all too easy to forget to pray at all. Nobody likes it when they only hear from someone when they need something, and that certainly isn’t the relationship you want to cultivate with God.
What I try to do now (and I don’t always succeed) is have structure and spontaneity. I have returned to regularly praying before bed, but I also try to communicate with the Lord throughout the day. Now though, I don’t just pray when I feel like it, I try to worship through acts of creativity.
We already know it feels good to worship through creativity. It’s why people enjoy singing in a choir or as part of the congregation during a service. It’s why we’re attracted to works of art that remind us of the glory of God. Why many of us will clip prayers or Bible verses and make them the wallpaper on our computer or phone. But even though we know this, when we think about "worship through creativity” your mind might turn to the great works. Things like Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel, or the incredible architecture and detail of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, classic hymns, and poems. Incredible masterpieces made by truly unique and talented people.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be a master to worship through creativity, you just need to open your heart!
But what does it mean to worship through creativity? To me, it’s about doing something that gives you joy and satisfaction while reflecting on God and this wonderful world he has given us. After all, God is the ultimate creator. Everything we have in this world was made by Him, just as we were. We were created in His image, and any act of creation we make is a celebration of his original artistry.
An act of creativity is about manifesting an idea or an impulse into the physical world. When you sing you use the air in your lungs, the muscles in your chest, and the vocal cords in your throat that He gave you bring sound into this world. When you paint you take an image in your mind and use your hands and the raw materials of a brush and some oils (made from things He created) to make it a reality. When you cook you combine simple ingredients God has given to us with labor, heat, and presentation into a delicious total that is more than the sum of their parts.
Reflecting on this process and what God has given to us can be praise in its own way!
It’s a way to connect with the gifts He has given to us in a physical, personal way. When you’re kneading dough in your hands, reflect on everything that happened to that flour before it arrived in your kitchen. From growing as wheat in the field, to harvest, to refinement, to ending up on your counter and eventually onto your table. When you’re playing guitar, reflect on the callouses on your fingers, the wonderful ability he has given us to grow and adapt to take on new challenges and learn new things. When your arms ache after a day spent hammering together a new deck for your family, reflect on the scale of creation. You’re exhausted after hauling around some 2x4s and drilling in deck screws over an afternoon. God created the entirety of the universe in a week!
When you’re working on something that gives you a sense of fulfillment, remember to thank God for the opportunity. For all the million blessings and miracles it has taken to place you in this position on this day, able to do the kinds of things that bring you and your family joy. When you create, create for the Lord as well as yourself.
This kind of focused reflection and celebration is all the more important when we are feeling lost or unbalanced. With the world in such turmoil today, an act of joyous creativity can be more than just a pleasant distraction, it can be a way to anchor yourself when things seem to be spinning out of control. Whether you are drawing a picture, or just writing down a few lines, having something of substance to hold on to and focus on can provide much needed clarity. A beautiful moment to pray and talk with the Lord, to let the soothing act of creation remind you of what is important and all of the many blessings you already have.
This kind of purposeful reflection can help even when we’re at our lowest. When we have dark moments where we doubt or feel like we’re alone. Step back and think about the pride and love you put into the things you make. Think about the care you take and how you treasure the end result of your labors. Then remember that in the same way God made us. He made us with care and love, and he treasures us as his children. He would never abandon His creation or ignore that love.
While it may seem like just an idea, give it a try next time you are feeling creative. Whether you’re building a model, sketching a drawing, or just humming to yourself, take a moment to reflect on God and pray with an open and joyous heart.