A collection of doodles, written prayers and accompanying songs make up Naked Prayers: Honest confessions to a loving Father, a new book and album released by New York based musician, Mara Measor.
Hauntingly beautiful and soft in tone, the songs have been written to correspond with the prayers and are incredibly raw in their honesty. "Waiting for you is the hardest thing I'll ever do" one track goes. In another, 'In Quietness', we hear 26-year-old Measor's longing to draw closer to God; "In quietness I come before the throne of Elohim / Let nothing come between your eyes and mine...In quietness I know you hear the cries of every heart / Nothing comes between your voice and mine."
It's this snapshot into Mara's intimate relationship with God that makes her creation so special, though she says it's impossible to overstate how difficult it's been to publish her prayers so publicly. But a conviction that she had something to offer struggling Christians gave her the impetus to do it.
"A lot of people go through hard times and might believe in God, but find him irrelevant in the midst of disconnect. I felt a very strong conviction that I think a lot of people don't know how to actually wrestle with God in the midst of hard times," she told Christian Today.
It's something she has personal experience of. Mara wrote the prayers during an especially difficult period when she was flying back and forth regularly between her family home in Hong Kong and New York where she now lives. Her dad was seriously ill for five years, and trying to reconcile his sickness with a belief in God was understandably difficult.
She began to struggle with depression, and only at the intervention of a counsellor was Mara able to begin what she calls a "gradual process of restoration". During this time, though, she kept praying and seeking God, journalling with words and doodles, and writing songs. It's the combination of all three interacting with one another that gives the reader an immersive experience, and creates space for them to consider their own prayer life and relationship with God.
"There's something about the way the doodles bring out something that words cant bring out, and the way the songs bring our something that doodles and words can't bring out, that creates this experience, I hope, for navigating confusion and good and bad times," Mara says.
Of the drawings that accompany her prayers she says it has helped her to "access this childlike part in me that cannot fully come through when I'm writing or speaking, but somehow when I'm drawing I get this different perspective."
"This life we're living, it's a story God is telling," she adds. "And looking back at the doodles reminds me of this narrative I'm in, and that I'm in the hands of a great storyteller."
The only word I can think of to describe Naked Prayers is 'authentic', which seems a little too Christianese-y for a project that's so cliche free. It really does feel like a glimpse into Mara's real conversations with God. "You write my story, no one else. I will not be overwhelmed," one prayer reads. "I will not be a flower tossed by the waves. I will not be sucked into the things that pass away."
The fifth track on the accompanying album calls on the restorative nature of God: "My body, your soul. Come renew me, make me whole / Only you can make this beautiful." It's a real cry of the heart, made more poignant with the knowledge that Mara's dad passed away two months ago, in the middle of publishing her book.
"I remember the day I wrote 'Make This Beautiful' very well. It was one of those days that felt like rock bottom, and I couldn't stop crying. I was praying to God, saying I just don't see the purpose of these struggles, and so I wrote a song that God would make something beautiful of this mess. That prayer is still very much the prayer of my life now."
At the beginning of the book, Mara urges the reader to use her prayers to "get naked before your maker. May they welcome you into a quiet place where you have the freedom to be fully yourself before God," and it's this encouragement that she really hopes those who buy Naked Prayers will be able to take away.
"It's not that circumstances necessarily get better when you pray, but my hope for this project is for people not to feel alone in the midst of those times," she says.
"Keep on processing, keep on wrestling with God. It's messy, but like I say in my prayer – I believe something beautiful can be made out of it."
Naked Prayers will be released on November 3.