Praying Upside Down
Earlier in the Spring, I received an advance copy of Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s book, Praying Upside Down. I was so excited to read my friend’s full book, as prior to its publication I had read a chapter she sent for review and critique, (which I could find nothing to improve), and just knew the book would be amazing.
I had no idea.
I don’t think it’s ever taken me so long to finish a book. And I have a Master’s in English so I’ve read some fairly hefty books……you know, War and Peace, The Karamazov Brothers, Vanity Fair … and even a few of James Michener novels which were really really substantial.
And yet, none of those books took me as long to read as Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s Praying Upside Down, A creative prayer experience to transform your time with God.
You’d think a book with 259 pages would be, maybe not a “quick” read, but certainly not a “month’s-and- month’s” read.
Not so much.
I even tried to read it in different places, the living room couch, the office chair at my desk, and tucking it into my work bag to read during my lunch hour.
Still, I could read no more than a few pages at a time. And it had to do with this: Kelly’s personal experiences and her invitation for us to “pray upside down” – to change perspectives, our way of seeing – came directly into my own spaces and the circumstances of my life right now.
Oh, I know about faith. I know about praying. I’ve been a spirit-filled Christian since I was eleven. Then a diving accident when I was a teenager that broke my neck and left me a quadriplegic taught me all kinds of prayers. I learned about praying, about faith, about believing, about trusting.
But what I am in the middle of now surpasses the heartache of that physical suffering. All I have been able to pray for so long is “Jesus Jesus Jesus.” And that’s okay. Even Kelly agrees. Short prayers, long prayers. All are just fine with God.
Kelly’s book on praying – and praying UPSIDE DOWN – was just what my heavy heart needed. Through her artistic knowledge as a graphic designer, she showed me how point of view, white space, sketching, and various tools can be applied to prayer.
So I read Praying Upside Down slowly, sometimes just a sentence, a paragraph, a few pages at a time.
Some things are best in smallness. A sip of wine, a nibble of chocolate.
I would read a few pages and I would become undone, parts of me separated with her words and my needs. Then pages later, I would become whole again with her words pulling me together. I ached, swept away. I sighed, closed the book, took off my glasses, and sat in stillness. My eyes closed and I could still see the words. I am in darkness, yet I am in light. New revelations for praying, strengthened by the Prayer Palettes at the end of each chapter.
For some time now, all I’ve wanted to read was fiction. Mysteries and thrillers and suspense to escape from this hard place in my life. The only nonfiction book I’ve been reading is the Bible.
Until I held Praying Upside Down in my hands.
“When we pray upside down, we’re looking at our situation from a different point of view—His—and saying, ‘I may not always understand—nevertheless, I’m willing. Turn me upside down, if that’s what You want.’”
Not much is lovelier than the success of someone you love.
Even if you know nothing about praying, even if you’re a seasoned old prayer-warrior, this book is for you. I recommend this book for all. Not just because I love Kelly and can hear her voice throughout the pages, but because I hear God’s voice throughout the pages.
The book is about prayer, but it became a prayer. For me. Like a hug pulling together the broken pieces of my heart.
~ Review by Jama Kehoe Bigger, author of Then Came A Miracle