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In this series of ‘Prayer Resources’, a theme is taken and explored so that diverse groups of people can engage with it by choosing the elements they need, are comfortable with or that fit their context.
Below is a range of material that you can choose from, you are encouraged to read through it all so you have a good understanding of the theme.
Praying with a piece of nature
This is a prayer of noticing and of imagination
A ‘piece of nature’ might be a pot plant, a bunch of flowers, something in your garden (if you have one) the contents of a window box or plant hanger, a bird feeder, something you see on your walk (such as a dandelion growing in a crack in the pavement), a shell, pine cone, or any other natural thing. Or, I might see something outside on a walk (a flower, leaf or stone) and take it home or take a photo of it. Alternatively, I might choose to pray with something I see online, e.g. on social media such as a photo or video of wildlife. In this reflection I use what is helpful and leave the rest. If my attention strays, I quietly return to my piece of nature. I take my time.
I take the piece of nature I have selected to pray with and find a space where I can be alone and get comfortable. I do whatever helps me to become still. I ask God to draw me into this experience with an open heart and to guide me. I gaze on my piece of nature and let go of other things around it. I take time over this. I sense how God is gazing on me as I gaze on God’s piece of nature; God’s creation.
Where does my eye first focus when I look at it?
Then where does my eye travel to?
I take in the whole of the piece of nature.
I notice colours, forms, textures, patterns, light, shade, contrasts, movement …
What words or phrases would I use to describe what I see?
What does my piece of nature smell of? Or, if I’m sitting with a photo, can I imagine a smell?
Does my piece of nature have a sound? Can I imagine a sound?
If possible, I touch it. If I can’t, a memory might come to mind of touching, or being touched by, nature? I notice this memory.
I use my imagination to place myself in my piece of nature, as it were. I become different forms or parts of it and I sense where I am most comfortable.
Where do I find rest?
What is it like to ‘journey’ in my piece of nature?
I imagine this piece of nature can speak. I listen to it. What does it say to me?
I stay with what most ‘affects’ me; what most invites me.
I speak to God present in me. I try to name what is emerging. I listen to God. I rest in God’s loving presence.
I gently withdraw from this prayer.
After my time of prayer I reflect on my prayer, maybe over a cup of tea, using the questions below if they are helpful:
What is staying with me as I reflect on my prayer?
What do I want to give thanks for?
How am I drawn to respond to God?
Might I write, draw or make something?
With thanks to Inge Wilson and Judith Irving, Team Members at St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre. https://www.pathwaystogod.org/resources/praying-nature
Praying through nature art
The idea of praying through nature art is that the very act of creating something can be prayerful. In this case, using nature perhaps draws us closer to the creativity of God.
There are a huge variety of ways you can create art in nature, here’s some suggestions.
- Bark rubbing
- Creating a sculpture (see Andy Goldsworthy)
- Collecting leaves and sorting them by size or colour
- Building a cairn with rocks
- Create a self portrait using natural materials
- Pressing flowers
- Using pretty hole punches on leaves
- Potato prints
- Weaving with willow or palm leaves
- Cave painting (explore aboriginal art)
Canticle of the Creatures
All praise be yours, My Lord
through all that you have made.
And first my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day…
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright and precious and fair.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air…
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, lowly, precious and pure.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten up the night…
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother,
Who feeds us…and produces various fruits
With colored flowers and herbs…
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility.
– Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
“Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of Containing God’s gift of himself.”
– Mother Theresa
Prayer Ideas Using Nature
Fruit / Veg / Seeds
- Hazelnuts (based on Julian of Norwich)
- Mustard seeds (based on Mark 4)
- Lemons (exploring bitterness / sourness)
- Coffee Beans (exploring slavery, fair trade etc)
- Hidden star (cut an apple across the circumference to find a hidden star)
- Fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5)
Wood / Sticks / Leaves / Flowers
- The intricacy of life (beauty of leaves or flowers)
- Symbol of God with us (Moses and Aaron)
- Crown of thorns
- Hammering nails into a cross
- Prayer tree (hanging hopes, dreams etc using postage tags)
- Story / journey sticks (see below for an explanation)
- Dissolving our sins (you can use effervescent tablets in a vase of water)
- Washing hands
- Pouring prayers (reflect on baptism)
- Water into wine (John 2)
- Washing away prayers (write things on a stone using pastels then wash off)
- Washing muddy stones (what does the mud represent?)
- Build a Celtic Caim (this is explained below)
- Foundation stone (Matthew 21)
- Also check out the 50 ideas using stones resource!
Soil / Sand
- Writing in the sand
- Footprints / handprints in the sand
- Confession and absolution (you write your confession and then wipe it away)
- Draw a prayer (great for kids)
Wind / Air
- Throwing prayers into the wind (you can also use paper aeroplanes)
- Holy Spirit reflection
- Breath of God (linking to creation, shared humanity etc)
Salt / herbs / spice
- Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5)
- Mint leaves (chew on a leaf as you pray, what does it bring to mind?)
- Tomb spices
- Frankincense and Myrrh
This prayer activity is based on the traditional Native American Indian ‘journey stick’. You begin by finding a stick about the length of your forearm. You also need to tie a piece of string or twine or wool to the top (Sellotape works well for children). You then embark on a prayer walk, nature walk or journey of reflection and begin to collect small things you find along the way. As you pick up an item, tie it onto your prayer stick and say a prayer.
Natural items might lead to prayers about creation, or harvest or the seasons etc. Mad-made objects / litter that you find might lead to prayers about people in industry or climate change etc.
If you leave your completed stick somewhere you will see it each day, it will remind you to pray for the same things. This is a great activity to do in each different season.
Celtic Caim Circle
This is an ancient Celtic prayer practice. ‘Caim’ comes from the Irish gaelic meaning ‘protection’. You create a circle, traditionally with small white stones but you can use anything really – shells on a beach, leaves and cones in a woodland, string in your garden or whatever you have handy. You can even just point your finger towards the ground and draw an imaginary line by turning around in a cicle.
The Caim Circle is about praying certain things to be in the circle and certain things (usually the opposite) to be outside the circle. A well known prayer used while standing in a Caim Circle is a modern prayer by David Adams.
Circle me Lord
Keep protection near
And danger afar
Circle me Lord
Keep hope within
Keep doubt without
Circle me Lord
Keep light near
And darkness afar
Circle me Lord
Keep peace within
Keep evil out
It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just
pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.
Mary Oliver – Thirst