Last February, during our family staycation, I bought my first adult coloring book… And I even colored in it…. Phew… There. I said it. I feel so relieved to get that off my chest!
It seems a bit crazy that I would be even a little ashamed or intimidated to admit that publicly. But here it is. And right now there is an argument peppering Twitter and the blogosphere regarding Christians and the adult coloring fad. Some are mocking, others are getting offended, and still others are sitting back with popcorn in one hand and a stick in the other, poking the bear! Even I have, regretfully, thrown my hat into the ring. I say regretfully because (though hilarious) it seems somewhat petty and snarky and self-righteous to bash adult coloring. After all, as Tim Challies articulates in his recent article on the topic, it is just a hobby – like golfing, knitting, tennis, or painting “happy little trees”. Furthermore, it can very well be exercised all to the glory of God. And I, lover of adult coloring, respond with a hearty, “Amen!”
Challies is right. When it is just a hobby, adult coloring is a perfectly innocent past-time. It’s fun. It’s calming. It’s clean! It’s a great mommy alternative to the My Little Pony and Ninja Turtle coloring books when coloring with the kids. It’s even occupational and physical therapy, bringing vibrancy, joy, and art into the hands of people struggling with dementia, depression, ADHD, Autism, and those with fine-motor and sensory struggles brought on by neurological diseases such as ALS, MS, and Parkinson’s — just to name a few. By itself, adult coloring is a beautiful thing!
Sadly, what many people don’t know is that there is another fad sweeping the nation, and adult coloring books are at the heart of it. The fad is meditative coloring. And it’s infiltrating the prayer lives of Christian women everywhere.
Meditative coloring is the practice of coloring specific patterns while emptying the mind, allowing thoughts to roam free, and achieving spiritual enlightenment. Some of these specific patterns are called mandalas. Mandalas are spiritual symbols and patterns used by Eastern religions for meditation purposes “allowing the individual meditating to become one with the Universe.”1 And it’s a challenge to find an adult coloring book that isn’t riddled with them.
Gaining popularity, a few laps ahead of meditative coloring, is the practice among Christians of contemplative prayer. I don’t have the space here to go into a detailed explanation of this heresy. But it’s important to educate yourself, and you can read about it here. With the rise of the Word of Faith movement, the Prosperity movement, the increasing popularity of women authors such as Priscilla Shirer and Sarah Young, and movies such as War Room, prayer as defined by and commanded in the Bible has been grossly shirked aside (by women especially) in favor of a more ecstatic, meditative, emotional, new-age, and downright heretical experience.
I converge meditative coloring and contemplative prayer in this article because I feel that contemplative prayer is a very slippery slope that lends itself too easily to the practice of meditative coloring, especially with the massive output of Christian and Inspirational themed adult coloring books.
A warning to Christian women dabbling in these practices:
My aim is not to be harsh here, but I must be serious for a moment. The Bible teaches us how to pray. Moreover, it commands us to pray and meditate in very specific terms — the only right way according to God. If we are not praying as Scripture commands, we are not obeying God and are therefore in sin.
Please do not use these coloring books in conjunction with prayer and meditation, contemplative or otherwise. Do not empty your mind. Ladies, please do not sit down to color and wait for a word from God! Please do not chant over and over (as in a mantra) a declarative “life-verse” from a page in your Scripture coloring book. Do not allow yourself to be entranced through the exercise of meditative coloring. These practices are pagan. They are the very thing Scripture warns against.
HOW THE BIBLE COMMANDS US TO PRAY AND MEDITATE:
1. Don’t empty your mind. Fill your mind with the Truth of God’s Holy Word!
Meditation as practiced by Eastern religions is much different from the meditation commanded in the Bible. While Eastern meditation focuses on emptying the mind and a spiritual ascension into enlightenment; Scriptural meditation focuses on setting the mind on a biblical truth and a realized application of that truth.
In Romans 12:1-2, the apostle Paul instructs us not to conform with the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our minds are renewed through the study of His Word. We must store up His word in our hearts, and let it dwell in us richly, so that we don’t sin against Him (Colossians 3:16 and Psalm 119:11).
2. Don’t let your thoughts wander. Take your thoughts captive and put them in obedience to Christ!
When we allow our thoughts to wander, the carnal mind, which is enmity toward God (Romans 8:7), roams to fleshly desires and frightening depths, and the deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) cannot discern sin on its own. Therefore, we must take our thoughts captive and put them into submission to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)!
So you see, a deceitful heart and a wandering mind are the perfect ingredients for a false prophetic word from God. Today, in the Church Age, God speaks to us through his Word not meditative, contemplative, prayer!
3. Don’t chant things over and over as a mantra. Memorize his word. Having a controlled mind is a spiritual discipline commanded in Scripture.
In Matthew 6:7, Jesus instructs, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetition as the heathen [Pagans] do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter instructs Christians further to “gird up the loins [the loose fabric] of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (See also Ephesians 6:14); and to be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).
4. Do not attempt to manipulate God through positive confession. Instead, ask Him.
We must not assume anything upon God. We must not treat Him like a Genie and demand His blessings according to what is right in our own eyes (Proverbs 21:2). For His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)!
In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul instructs, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
5. Finally, Jesus and the faithful heroes/heroines of Scripture provides us with the best models of prayer. Be imitators of them!
- John 17:1-26 – Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.
- Luke 11:1-13 – Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray.
- Luke 1:46-55 – Mary’s prayer, The Magnificat.
- Ephesians 3:14-21 – Here, the Apostle Paul models prayer, along with many other places in the Bible.
- Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Prayer is powerful when practiced as God commands in His Word. Use it wisely. For the prayer of the righteous accomplishes much (James 5:16).
All this to say, let’s keep our prayers and our coloring hobbies separate.
This article was originally published on March 15, 2016 at Michelle Lesley Books.