I love to read. Every chance I get, I sneak a page or two–while I brush my teeth, wash my hands, blow dry my hair (when I have time for that), use the elliptical, or even when I walk to the locker room at the gym. One of my husband’s first memories of me from when I was in junior high or even younger was when he came to our house to hang out with my brother, who was his childhood friend, and I answered the door. I had a book in my hands and apparently didn’t stop reading even to greet him properly. It’s a good thing he didn’t hold that against me forever!
With that fact combined with the fact that I like to write, it made sense that I should start reviewing books more regularly. Maybe someone else could benefit from hearing what I thought about different books; maybe I could pass on the good I gain from the books I’ve read.
The first book I’ll be reviewing is Praying Upside Down by Kelly O’Dell Stanley, a book that was recently released by a relatively new author. The premise of the book is that if we find new ways to pray, we might be able to establish a deeper connection with God than we had before, giving us a new passion for Him. The author’s thought is that Jesus stood the religious world’s ideas on their heads and surprised people with the way He thought. We should do the same in our prayer lives. As an artist, Stanley uses different painting techniques in each chapter as metaphors for our relationship with God. At the end of each chapter, she includes two or three creative ideas for what she calls a prayer palette.
Stanley shares a lot of her own spiritual journey, which makes the book engaging and interesting to read. One of the stories that illustrates the idea of praying upside down the best is in the beginning of the book. She relates how she and her husband bought a second house before selling their first one in a move that seemed to be from God. However, the first one took much longer to sell than they wanted, pushing them into debt and anxiety. She prayed from the beginning that their house would sell until she felt God calling her to pray a different prayer instead–a prayer for the woman who would buy the house. Once she started doing that, her attitude changed, and she was able to wait more patiently and more in reliance on God until the woman was finally able to buy it. This prayer is convicting to me, as I tend to focus more on my own or my friends’ needs instead of the others who might be affected by the outcome of the prayer I’m praying.
Stanley uses many art techniques as lessons, such as realism, point of view, negative space, and perspective, among others, but the one that struck me the most was the one on the cover of the book–optical illusions or obstacles to seeing clearly. The illustration on the cover is the familiar vase/two profiles image. As the author points out, “in order to see one, you have to stop looking at the other” (p. 62). Sometimes we are so focused on our view of the situation that we can’t see the view God wants us to see. I love what she wrote next about this image: “When we come face-to-face with God, a cup is formed between us. Jesus Himself didn’t like what God placed in His cup–yet He trusted God’s ways. This was my cup. But it could only be borne by standing face-to-face with God” (p. 70). What a beautiful picture of our dependence on God to help us bear what He’s given us to handle. I won’t be able to look at that picture the same again.
When I started reading this book, I honestly didn’t think my prayer life needed a whole lot of work. I can now see how my relationship with God can be deepened in so many ways through different ways of talking to Him. This will only happen if I decide to break out of my prayer rut. I confess that although I read the book, I only tried one of the creative prayer ideas. There’s something in me that holds back from diving into new waters with God, even though I desire a fresh walk with Him. The prayers I’m praying might be a bit stale, but they’re mine, and they’re comfortable. I know He’s calling me to more, though, and I do plan to take the plunge. I hope you’ll do the same!
The Blythe Daniel Agency sent me a free copy of Praying Upside Down in exchange for my unbiased review, whether positive or negative. Although I will likely review for this agency in the future if they continue to give me the opportunity to do so, and if they have books of interest to me (like this one), many of my next book reviews will be of books I have purchased or borrowed on my own.