How to Use Art to Experience God While Traveling

Encountering God through art

How to use art to experience God? Use these 4 steps for experiencing God in art and before long you may be encountering God through art. Why whiz through museums and monumental churches, when instead, you can be experiencing God through art while you travel?

Art created to bring you closer to God is found in churches and museums

Creamy white marble statue of Mary, the mother of Christ, holding the body of her son on her lap. Meditating on sculptures help viewers with experiencing God through art and Encountering God through art
Encountering God through art: The “Pietà” by Michelangelo | Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Italy (1498-1499)

Churches across the world decorate their sanctuaries and gardens with art. However, these pieces of art are more than decorative. So, too, museums display art created to bring viewers closer to God. But, how to use art for experiencing God when traveling?

Psalm 34:8 commands us to use sensory perceptions when experiencing God. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” But how can we stop and take time to ‘see’ the Lord? How do we clear our mind from the culture’s clutter to be able to visualize our God? How do we ‘taste’ the Lord?

To experience God when traveling, you first must shut out the world and focus your mind on Christ. That’s not easy, but I’ve learned that artwork helps us do that.

How to use art to experience God?

How to Use Art to Experience God? Try meditating on ‘The Starry Night’ by Vincent van Gogh | Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY, USA (1899)

Here are some steps for using art to shut out the world, and focus your mind on Christ. Sometimes these steps work, and at other times they don’t, so be patient with yourself and keep trying.

1.) Relax in a quiet, comfortable place

Huge round window full of blue and purple glass depicting Bible stories that cannot be discerned from this distance is silhouetted against the dark, black walls of the cathedral's interior walls makes this a great piece for experiencing God in art
North rose window at Notre-Dame de Paris designed by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil. Paris, France (1250)

First, relax in a quiet, comfortable place in front of a piece of art that’s caught your attention or somehow moves you. You might be at a church, museum or in your hotel room observing from your computer screen. Give yourself time to pause, and take control over your thoughts. As Isaiah 26:3 promises, “You [God] will keep in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you.”

2.) Meditate by using the artwork as a focal point.

How to Use Art to Experience God? Meditate using a sculpture that you can put your hands on, or a picture like this one of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus on a circular panel.
Michelangelo’s Sacred Family, “Tondo Doni” | Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy (1506-1508)

Once you’ve emptied your mind, meditate on God by using the artwork as a focal point. By centering your attention, you can bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:5.

Use the painting or sculpture to shut out the world as you meditate.

Experiment with different images; not every image works for everybody. Learn what works for you by practicing these steps for experiencing God in art.

Experiencing God through art can be transformational

Some, like my friend Sandy, find the exercise to be transformational.  She reports that she attended a prayer conference where “they played music and we studied a picture of Jesus’ face.  His eyes really drew me in.” The meditation, she says, took her outside of her normal, worldly realm and into something beautiful and peaceful.

If you’re not at a church or museum, an excellent website for finding artwork is www.art-prints-on-demand.com. There you can search most of the museums of the world for inspiring art like The Last Supper or The Starry Night.  If you experiment with a classical piece of art, and it works for you, you could buy a copy of the image from this site and incorporate it into your prayer time.

3.) Set your intentions for encountering God through art

Romantic painting of two people in lush forest filled with every kind of animal. Ducks are in the river, birds in the sky. A waterfall in the distance nourishes the green landscape.
Detail from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, by European painter Johann Wenzel Peter | Vatican Pinacoteca, Vatican City, Italy (1800-1829)

Now that you have used artwork to center your attention, the third step is to tell God or Jesus that you intend to hear what they have to say. Be yourself and express it in your own words. Expect to experience the Lord.

4.) Invite the Holy Spirit to help you with experiencing God in art

Jesus sits at center of table, 6 disciples gesturing at each side. "Lord, is it I?" Colors are brighter in thei copy of The Last Supper Da Vinci. This image helps in Encountering God through art
Tongerlo Last Supper. This early 16th-century copy of The Last Supper da Vinci was helpful during the 20th-century restoration of the original, which was in poor condition. (Completed 1506-07)

Finally, after setting your intentions, and opening yourself to receive, invite the Holy Spirit to come in. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,” said Jesus in John 14:26 (ESV).

Say something like, “Come Holy Spirit. Come and increase your presence and your power.” God’s ears are open to our prayers, but it is our responsibility to take time to tune out the world and “dial down” so we may spend quality time with the Holy Spirit.

How to use art to experience God when travel distractions vie for time

How to Use Artwork to Experience God? Encountering God through art keeps our minds off distractions like those depicted in this painting of Jesus, Mary and Martha. Martha hovers over the seated Christ with a basket of bread. The artist catches her midsentence. Mary sits at his feet with her mouth closed.
Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer | Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, (1655) | Google Art Project via Wikipedia

Many diversions vie for our time with the Lord when we travel. However, even while journeying, we can pivot away from distractions and use the freshness of new places to open ourselves. Just as Jesus admonished Martha, “You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42.

Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. Perhaps using artwork to focus on God will help you sit quietly at their feet and pay attention to what God has to say.

RELATED STORIES:

Curious Last Supper Art

Revelations at a Benedictine monastery near the León Cathedral

READING LIST:

Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer – Thomas Keating

1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die – Mark Irving

Contemplative Prayer – Thomas Merton (Author) and Thich Nhat Hanh (Introduction)

This blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of keeping this travel blog active. Thanks for reading.

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