Praying Upside Down - A Book Review

A Creative Prayer Experience...

On the Blank Canvas

When I had the opportunity to read and review Kelly O'Dell Stanley's new book, Praying Upside Down, I jumped on it. Two reasons--Kelly grabbed hold of two of my greatest passions--art and prayer--and wove them together in a most refreshing and authentic manner. 

After dog-eared pages, scribbled reflections, and multi-colored highlights had been added, it rested on the pinnacle of my nightstand-stack-of-books (my new phrase as the mountain of books has become quite an ominous site!) as I pondered the best words to pay tribute to this work of the heart. Now, the book has found a new home, possibly permanent and definitely more stable, on the small table adjacent to my easel in my art studio. It's a reminder that the way I typically approach art can transcend far beyond the canvas and paper and directly into the presence of the Lord.

Funny thing is, I tend to look at life through the eyes of an artist. I create art. I teach art. I admire art. I find elements of art all around me. But, as often as I find myself in prayer (or needing to pray), I had never thought of the two intermingled. Sure, I've probably uttered a prayer or two with paintbrush in hand, but I never viewed the two as part of the other.

Sometimes, the most natural way to commune, chat, and rest in God's presence, is really an extension of Him. As Kelly states, "God is the Master of Creativity, the original Artist, and He rarely responds in the ways we expect." This simple, yet profound truth rocked me to my core as I read her chapters about approaching prayer with a new set of eyes--artist eyes. Because as an artist who loves to create, but most importantly, being a creation of the One Who Creates, it makes perfect sense to revitalize my often stagnant and attention-challenged prayer life with His language--creation. 

With personal anecdotes, musings about her own experience with art, and a tremendous heart for the Lord, Kelly spins a new way to consider elements of art and how they can be used to try a fresh manner in which to pray--in other words, to turn your prayer life upside down to see things, and Him, in a new light. 

And, like art, which is always full of surprises, unexpected outcomes, and sometimes raw emotions, God often responds to our prayers in the same way--if we are willing to approach Him and receive His responses. Kelly shares, "If you think about it, you'll see examples all over the place of something unexpectedly good that comes from something that, on the surface, appears bad, (or at least less than ideal)."

Kelly takes elements of art, such as perspective, point of view, white and negative space, underlying structure, realism, and proportion and then explains how those can be used to pray with a new mindset. Sketching, drawing, and other means in which to "see" things uniquely are added to offer a mixed palette. An added bonus at the end of each chapter is her "Prayer Palette" that provides thoughtful considerations and ways to try praying differently than before. The book is further enriched by the addition of powerful quotes and photos that I revisited numerous times.

Now, as the day takes me in front of my easel, into the folds of my family and friends, in the quiet solitude of His presence, or into the fast-paced and frantic world, I think I'll try to stand on my head, swing by my legs from the nearest branch, and meet Him upside down. From this vantage point, I'm convinced it will be wondrous and blessed.

You can find out more about Kelly O'Dell Stanley on her website:
Praying Upside Down is available for purchase on her website, Amazon, and where most books are sold.