When you want to give someone a visual expression of your prayers that speaks beyond words try making a special bouquet of flowers using the traditional and religious “language of flowers” where each flower symbolizes different virtues and graces.

How to do this prayer practice

Jane Ingrassia of Roswell, GA, who is a trained floral artist, creates hand-made bouquets of silk flowers that express inspirational messages to cheer and encourage others.  Here’s how to do this creative prayer expression.

1. Learn to speak the language of flowers.

A number of years ago Jane purchased a book at a flower show entitled Tussie Mussies by Geraldine Laufer.   The book told about the Victorian custom of giving bouquets that expressed the giver’s thoughts and affections to the recipient based on a traditional list of meanings assigned to each flower.  For instance, a red rose means love, I love you, respect and beauty.  In religious symbolic art the red rose represents Mary for her charity and a wreath of roses represents heavenly joy.  Other examples include: marigold – pretty love, sacred affection; mint – virtue; Lily of the Valley – sweetness, happiness, humility, Tears of the Virgin Mary; lavender – love, devotion; white hyacinth – I’ll pray for you, unobtrusive loveliness; petunia – your presence soothes me; berries – prayer and protection.   Here are some links you might find useful in learning the meaning of flowers.  The Victorian meaning of flowersReligious meanings of flowers.

2.  Pray for guidance and inspiration.

As Jane made tussie mussies according to the meaning of the flower she realized that they  could not only be something of beauty to give to others but also could be a source of blessing and inspiration. The first step Jane does when creating her floral prayer for others is going to the craft store to purchase silk flowers.  She says a prayer while in the store that God will lead her in the selection of flowers based on the person, circumstances and their home.  She prays, “Lord you know the situation, I don’t know what colors – lead me.”

Jane Ingrassi and the “Autumn Joy” tussie mussie

3.  Select the flowers

Jane then is led to what appeals to her or inspires her.  She finds ribbons and holds the flowers in her hand like a bouquet.  After making tussie mussies for years, she already knows what many of the flowers mean.  Sometimes she selects the flowers based on their meanings, other times she selects based on what works well together in a bouquet and then later looks up the meanings at home.  Often when Jane has selected flowers without knowing their meanings she is in awe of how the bouquet exactly matches the prayer she wanted to express for the occasion, such as a wedding, birth, bereavement, etc.  As a personal touch Jane often adds a bird or a bird’s nest to her bouquets to give them life and to represent the beauty of God’s creation.

Since making a prayer bouquet requires knowing the names of the flowers you select, if you don’t know the name of a flower you select, ask someone in the craft store floral department to tell you the names.  Then write down the names so you can look up their meanings later.

4.  Make the arrangement.

Think of a tussie mussie as a traditional bouquet.  Start with a center flower and then put a ring of flowers and greenery around it until you have used all of your flowers.  If you don’t feel you have any talent in flower arranging, most craft stores offer this service.

Jane tightly wraps the stems together with wires, then wraps the wire with floral tape and paints the tape to make it look like one big stem.  You can also purchase special bouquet holders into which to insert your creation.  Jane creates hers arrangements so they can be laid down on a table top instead of being put in a vase. She also includes a ribbon or bow tied around the stem to represent joy and elegance.

5.  Write a card explaining the prayers the flowers represent.

Jane then creates a special card to accompany her gift of prayer that has several different parts.  First of all, Jane names the bouquet something appropriate such as “Autumn Joy” or “In the Father’s Care.”  After she has made a title for the bouquet she writes an appropriate Bible verse.  For instance, “In the Father’s Care” has the verse from Matthew 6:26,28-29 that says, “Look at the birds of the air – they neither sow nor reap, yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are you not worth much more than they?”

Next Jane writes the meaning of each flower.  Here are some of the flower meanings in “In the Father’s Care.”  Magnolia: sweetness, beauty and perseverance; Red Rose: Love, friendships, grace, joy; Pine Limbs endurance: spiritual energy; Berries: prayer and protection.

Jane also takes a photo of each tussie mussie and saves it on her computer to use in making cards.  She prints out the picture to put on the front of the card for the recipient.  This way she also has a photo of the tussie mussie that can serve as a card or a virtual card in the future to send to others when she wants to express the same prayerful sentiments.   If you’re not skilled in card making, you can use any sort of printed note card to tell the recipient the meaning of your gift.

My personal tips and experiences

You can also use the meaning of flowers to in expressing more than words when you order a fresh bouquet from a florist.  It gives you a chance to follow up with a card or a phone call telling why you choose these flowers for the person and the prayers that come with them.

Traditional or Biblical roots of this prayer method

The tradition of using visual symbols to convey spiritual truths goes back to ancient times, notably when God directed Moses to make a priestly robe for Aaron.  “Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe.”  Exodus 28:33 NIV  Jesus himself directed us to consider the splendor of flowers when he said, “See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”  Matthew 6:28,29 NIV.

Copyright Karen Barber 2011  All rights reserved.