Updated: Apr 24, 2019
I was introduced to this imaginative prayer practice years ago. It invites you to reflect on your life, your realities, emotions, health, desires and needs through the use of an image of a tree, and visual journaling. I have adapted it a little and added some movement to the practice. I have used this prayer practice several times in my own life and with groups, as well as individuals in my work in spiritual direction. The imagery of a tree and the exercise of describing something personal in a drawing has proven to be accessible and insightful to both children and adults.
The reflection tool is useful at any time, and as we enter the new year it can help clarify some of our needs, intentions and desires for the year ahead.
Stand still, your weight equally divided to both feel. Close your eyes. Your both feet are
firmly grounded on the floor and arms hanging on each side. Feel your breath, toes, legs, back, abdominal muscles that support you... Feel the the length of your body from toes to top of your head.
How does your body feel inside?
Now, Imagine being a tree, and your roots growing deep into the ground from the soles of your feet.
Imagine that God’s love is the ground where your roots are growing into. The ground, which is God’s Love, nourishes you, supports you, helps you to stand strong even in a storm, gives your leaves color, and makes your fruit juicy and tasty. You don’t have to do anything or go anywhere. You have all that you need right here.
Can you imagine what the place looks like where you are planted? Is it a green field, surrounded by flowers bathing in the sunlight? Or maybe a lush rainforest, where colorful birds and wild animals are playing on your branches? Or are your branches buried under the snow?
Take a deep breath and feel your body, mind and emotions in that place.
Stay for a while in this image, and rest knowing that God loves to care for you.
Then slowly lift your arms high up as tree branches reaching out for the sun.
Keep your eyes closed if you can. Now, try if you can lift one foot and place it on your other
ankle, shin or thigh – Can you still keep your balance and stay standing?
Lower your arms and place the foot down next to the other.
Open your eyes and sit down.
Read Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)
1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. 3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
Does a word or phrase stand out to you?
Take out paper and your other art supplies. You can use paints, pastels, pencils or even scrap papers and create a collage.
This guided drawing prayer will invite you to express your desires and needs to God. Don’t worry about the skill or details of it but rather use it as a map and tool.
Pray. Ask God to show you things about your life, yourself and him, that he wants you to notice now.
Think about your life right now.
What is the ‘weather’ like? Perhaps, it’s a season of joy (sun shine), or perhaps worries
and sadness (rain, storm)?
What about the more permanent landscape? Is your life peaceful and spacious? Or foreign, crowded, interesting, comfortable…?
Draw the landscape and weather, leaving some space in the middle for a tree. Make sure to draw a horizontal line where you can draw the tree. Look at the roots, which are planted in God’s love. What are some things that help you to remember God’s love for you?
What things make you feel loved and nourish your soul? Draw or write those near the roots. Move from the roots to the trunk of the tree. The trunk shows how you ‘stand’ in life right now. What kind of tree are you? Are you feeling strong, steady and peaceful? Or weak, dry or perhaps small and unimportant? Draw the rest of the tree: the trunk and the branches.
Now consider the leaves of the tree. What kind of good things are coming out of your life? Friendships? Creativity? Love, kindness, joy, peace, generosity or patience? Draw big delicious ‘fruit’ or beautiful flowers on the branches.
They can look like real fruit or things that show the kinds of good things that grow out of your life. These represent all the good gifts that you are thankful for in your life.
There is even a small shed next to the tree. Draw this tool shed. Look inside, it has got all kinds of tools that help you to grow strong, healthy and feel well.
Consider what are some things that you need help with. What kind of help, support and care do you want to ask from God? Draw or write these things in the shed.
Finally, look at your drawing with gentleness and curiosity. What do you notice? Is there a prayer, promise or an invitation that comes through? How might this image guide your intentions for the new year?