• Seeing Our Way To God: An Exploration Of How Baptists Utilize Prayer Drawing As A Contemplative Practice

      Patterson, Stephanie Totty
      STEPHANIE TOTTY PATTERSON SEEING OUR WAY TO GOD: AN EXPLORATION OF HOW BAPTISTS UTILIZE PRAYER DRAWING AS A CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE Under the direction of Daniel Vestal, Th.D., Faculty Supervisor If listening to God and abiding in God’s presence are the primary ways in which people perceive the will of God, cultivate self-awareness, and transform culture, how might our churches create opportunities to engage with God in meaningful ways? In the specific context of a Baptist congregation in Anderson, South Carolina, this research project introduced prayer drawing as a contemplative practice. The structure of the prayer time invited participants to encounter God through drawing and coloring in an open-ended and receptive way. Each of four forty-five minute sessions utilized a schedule that (1) gave a theological and historical background for contemplative practice and the use of art in the church, (2) gave instruction on the practice of prayer drawing, (3) set a meditative tone, (4) allowed time for the practice itself (about 17 minutes), and (5) allowed time for detailed responses to reflection questions. The primary research instrument was a questionnaire that sought to ascertain the following: (1) to what degree is prayer drawing a new practice to Baptist participants and to what degree was the practice helpful, (2) in what ways did this prayer operate as a contemplative practice, (3) to what degree did this prayer modality assist in facilitating a connection with God, and what was the resultant communication, (4) in what ways did prayer drawing operate as a vehicle for God’s grace in moving participants beyond the self to glimpse a more truthful and deeper reality. The researcher compared the resulting data to themes found in literature about contemplative prayer. For the group of Baptists participating in the study, prayer drawing operated as a contemplative practice and provided an opportunity for participants to communicate and abide with God in a receptive mode. The data revealed an increased sensitivity and awareness of God’s movement and presence, and it also indicated participants prayed in ways that were worshipful, grace-filled, transformative, and transcendent. Implications for further research about prayer drawing include examination of this practice using a different population sample, using different artistic media, utilizing a closed-covenant group, using a home journaling approach, or incorporating this practice into worship.