To use the arts as a Christian spiritual practice involves a fundamental shift in intention - one must enter the creative process with a commitment to seek God, which involves the humility to invite God into our prayer and lives, to be an intimate part of the process, to help direct and guide our efforts while we listen. Just as prayer is our response to God's invitation to a deeper relationship, so the creative process begins with God's own creative desires issuing an invitation to us to respond with our creative expression as prayer. This is prayer's ultimate goal, as Paul reminds us in his letter to the Thessalonians, is to be a prayer "without ceasing." The creative process and art-making, with intention and awareness of God's invitation and work within us, becomes the process of prayer itself. It is a process of surrender and reception, of letting go and welcoming newness. It is a process of dialogue as we reach out to communicate with God and open ourselves to God's communication with us through image and symbol, gesture and sound. We can develop an awareness of God's presence in everything that we do, so that all of our activities become rooted in prayer. We can use our imagination and intention to keep calling God's presence to our awareness. "If we become conscious that every moment is a possible sacramental one and that God is at the horizon of every act and Jesus walks with us in the Spirit, then every mundane thing we do is consciously connected to God as a gesture of prayer." All of life becomes rooted in this communication and dialogue with the holy, through a thorough sense of awe and humility at the ways in which God can be revealed to us at every moment. Developing an awareness of God in our creative expression reveals a God who is not static, but a dynamic and active force in our lives and the world. We are called to become artists of our own lives.
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD is a Benedictine Oblate and the founder and director of Abbey of the Arts, a non-profit ministry integrating contemplative practice with the expressive arts. She teaches at Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry and also works as a spiritual director, retreat facilitator, writer, and artist. She is the co-author of Lectio Divina: Contemplative Awakening and Awareness from Paulist Press. Visit her website www.AbbeyoftheArts.com.