The Story Behind the Praying Hands, Part I - Mark DeRaud

I was 24 years old and living alone and, as usual, I was just going through a really difficult time. I know exactly where I was, beside my bed at 3:00 in the afternoon.

I’m an artist trying to make my way. I’m being called as an artist, and I despise the fact that I’m being called as an artist. It’s 1974 or ’75, somewhere in there, and I’ve been a Christian for about 7 years. I really pretty much despised being an artist because there’s just no “there” there for you. It’s a lot different now.

Back then, the Church really had nothing to do with art at all. Plus I was living in what’s known as one of the most poverty stricken areas in the United States, so it’s not like we had galleries or anything, so I’m just feeling like a fish out of water.

I’m in distress and I’m not turning out art because there was no market out there, I mean, it’s just bleak for artwork.

So I’m praying, and I just see this image of Christ reaching around, holding my praying hands. It was so striking that I simply said “Oh!”

I got up and I took some clay I had, set up the armature, and I began to sculpt it. I didn’t draw anything, but I did an almost life size bust and cast it in boat resin. But I had changed it and it didn’t look quite like I was holding praying hands, just hands. That would later come to bite me on the rear end.

And so I knew immediately what it meant: That God was with me.

I went through life hauling that thing around until I was about 30, when I had another crisis. I’m not trying to whine here, but it is kind of the tragic artist story (I have God’s teaching about that). I was at Fuller Seminary and things were not going well, and I got so mad at God that I took the clay bust I had made and I marched it over to a trash bin at the apartment complex and I tossed it in.  It took me about 15 minutes to calm myself down when I realized that doing that wasn’t a good idea, so I marched myself back out and saw that it was gone. So for the next 10 years I would carry that image around, and I swore that I would someday replicate it.

Eventually I had completely abandoned the idea of being an artist, because at that time, Christian artists were in this place where the secular world didn’t want you to show Christian art. Eric Fischl the artist was once asked what was forbidden in art, and he said “Any kind of serious treatment of religion is verboten. “ He was making an observation, he wasn’t advocating that but making an observation. And so you can do defecating, urinating, violence, you can do all sorts of things, but you cannot treat God with any seriousness.  

So through a miraculous event, I had started doing large artwork and murals. I had started doing Trompe-l'œil and began to take the Trompe-l’oiel effects and putting them into my art work. I just love Michelangelo’s unfinished drawings, because they have an abstract quality about them. So I did the rendition of the Praying Hands that you see now. It just naturally flowed out.


To see The Lord's Prayer featured on Mark's Praying Hands, go here.