(Note: Today’s post is written by Kelly O’Dell Stanley, the author of Praying Upside Down, which releases today, May 1, published by Tyndale Hose Publishers.)
I don’t know about you, but my favorite way to pray is upside down.
I’m in good company. Jesus constantly surprised his followers—and critics—with His unexpected answers. Jesus always challenged the status quo. He looked beyond the surface and wasn’t afraid to flip things around.
One Sunday morning when my son, Bobby, was six, he left our pew and walked straight to the front of the church, up the steps onto the platform, right in the middle of our worship. Pastor Nathan was sitting in a chair off to the side, putting the finishing touches on his sermon notes. Bobby circled around the worship leader, ignored the musicians, and climbed into the seat next to Nathan. With a sigh, he leaned back and then scooted to the edge of the chair. The big smile and hug Nathan gave him weren’t a surprise—Nathan had taught all the children that they were always welcome to come up front. That day, as I watched through tears, I finally understood the beauty of having direct access to God. Knowing that He welcomes me, and you, with joy. No matter who’s watching.
This must be what Jesus meant when He spoke to the adults who tried to shoo the children out of the way.
“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
Jesus broke with convention and offered all that He had to those who had nothing. No qualifications required. No secret handshake. All we need to approach Him is the confidence that He will not stop us.
And His upside-down answers didn’t stop there.
“Whoever is least among you is the greatest.”
In God’s world, the blessings come from serving rather than being served. From loving, rather than just being loved. From being welcomed by the Master, even if no one else thinks we belong.
In the Bible, the Pharisees didn’t hide their good deeds but took pride in their public displays. Jesus chastised them.
Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
Jesus flip-flopped public faith for private, emphasizing that what’s in a person’s heart is more important than a person’s actions, and reminding us that God’s reward system isn’t the same as this world’s.
The best way to follow Jesus is by embracing the unexpected. By opening our minds to surprising new ways to see Him.
But it’s not always easy. God is the Master of Creativity, the original Artist, and He rarely responds in the ways we expect. He may ask you to forgive, even if you are the one who is wronged. He may ask you to become the wife your husband needs, rather than turning your husband into the man you always dreamed of. He may not save your job, but He might give you the time you’ve always needed to learn more about Him, or free your schedule to finish the renovations on your kitchen. He might not deliver you from poverty but instead teach you how to budget, balance, and take care of what He’s provided. Or He may show you that even if you have very little, when you can find ways to give what you do have, you will feel wealthy.
Praying upside down can be a literal flip-flop of your prayer (like when I prayed for the unknown woman who would eventually buy my house, rather than praying that I would sell the house) or any type of prayer that is unconventional, unexpected, or unusual. The power isn’t in the asking or dependent on your ability to find a creative way to ask—it’s in the creative and surprising ways in which God answers.
In Luke 22:42, Jesus prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (KJV). Nevertheless is a powerful word you rarely hear these days. When included in prayer it means that even if nothing make sense to us yet, even if we don’t know what to expect, we want the best that God has. We’re acknowledging that, even 2,000 years later, Jesus continues to provide a fresh approach. When we pray upside down, we’re looking at our situations 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.”
Because if that’s His point of view—oh, what a view that must be.
BIO: Kelly O’Dell Stanley is a graphic designer, writer, and author of the new book, Praying Upside Down, which releases May 1. With more than two decades of experience in advertising, three kids ranging from 21 to 14, and a husband of 24 years, she’s learned to look at life in unconventional ways—sometimes even upside down. Full of doubt and full of faith, she constantly seeks new ways to see what’s happening all around her. Subscribe to her blog (www.prayingupsidedown.com) to download her free ebook, Praying in Full Color, along with this month’s prayer prompt calendar to jump-start your prayer life.
Hear Kelly’s heart in this interview.