QUICK HIT: Praying Upside Down is one of the most revolutionary books on prayer I’ve had the privilege of reading. Part memoir, part prayer manual, Kelly O’Dell Stanley roots her theology of prayer in her own life journey, drawing from real life experiences and imagery from her artist background to craft an intensely readable story that serves to model the upside down prayer life.
Prayer is the first thing in your spiritual life that goes on autopilot. I know it. I see it in others. I see it myself. For me, it’s the benediction “Please guide and direct us and keep us safe” that I learned from my father. Not a terrible end to a prayer, but I often say it as a way of closing rather than a way of relationship. For others, I see it in how they approach prayer. I want. Give me. Bless us. And so on down the checklist.
For the past few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to improve my prayer life. I’ve read the classics on prayer by E.M. Bounds and the modern works by a whole host of authors. But never before have I come across something so creative and perspective changing as Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s Praying Upside Down.
Part memoir, part prayer manual, Stanley roots her theology of prayer in her own life journey, drawing from real life experiences and imagery from her artist background to craft an intensely readable story that serves to model the upside down prayer life.
From a strictly definitional perspective, I would say that “praying upside down” is simply breaking out of your preconceived notions, praying big, praying hard, praying others-centric. From an artistic perspective, praying upside down is all about seeing things clearer and differently.
In any sort of copying work, artists have found that turning the original upside down helps with the accuracy of the copy. See, we know how faces go, so when we try to copy one, our rote memory takes over and ignores what’s actually in front of us. Turning the image upside down actually forces us to concentrate, forces us to see a new perspective, hence, Praying Upside Down.
Stanley uses a number of other artistic images as metaphors, such as the concept of white space (leave room for God), pointillism (seeing past the dots), the grid perspective (taking things in pieces), and more. If you’re an artist or a creative, this is going to be a fun book just for how Stanley applies these terms in a spiritual way.
Subtly, Praying Upside Down also conveys the message that prayer is an art form. It’s beautiful, majestic, and meant to be creative—not prayer by numbers. Stanley breathes life into dull and dead prayers, revitalizing the very core of one’s spiritual life. If you want to embark on a refreshed and renewed relationship with God, you need to read this book.