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Monday 4th May 2015

Confessions From a So-Called “Prayer Expert”

I met Kelly O’Dell Stanley through my publisher. “We’ve got a book we think you’ll really love,” my publisher told me. She was right. I gave Praying Upside Down my endorsement, and I didn’t want to keep this gem of a book secret from you guys. Kelly’s book is CPR for your prayer life. Her upside-down approach to prayer is — in all the best ways — right side-up, by pointing you straight to our sovereign God. This book will help you unleash the power of heaven in a fresh, joyful, invigorating new way. Meet Kelly today on the blog. (And be sure to enter below for a chance to win her book! Email subscribers click here to enter.)

Confessions From a So-Called “Prayer Expert”
By Kelly O’Dell Stanley

Whenever someone refers to me as an expert on prayer, I want to laugh out loud. Then I feel embarrassed for being such a hypocrite—after all, I did write a book about prayer. It’s not an illogical conclusion. Yet I’m not comfortable with that praise. Finally, I open my mouth to try to speak—and close it again without saying a thing. Eventually, I usually move forward as though I didn’t hear that comment after all.

Because if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s an expert.

I start to pray in the shower, often making it only as far as “Dear Lord…” before I’m distracted by the scent of the conditioner or notice that I need to scrub the tub. As I’m settling into work at my computer, I’ll think, oooh, I should write in my journal and pray. But then I decide I might as well finish this one thing first. By the time I do, I’ve forgotten I wanted to pray and moved on to the next thing on my to-do list. I see a Facebook prayer request from a friend, and type “Praying…” as I start to lift her up to God. “Lord, be with her. Help her to know…” and then my phone rings. As I hang up, my blood sugar level crashes and I reach for a quick snack. A glance at the clock tells me I’m late to pick up my son from school.

And so on.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you could see inside my mind, the speed at which my thoughts spin from one topic to the next might make you dizzy. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s exactly why I’m the one who wrote a book on prayer.

Because it’s okay not to be perfect.

It’s okay to forget and be distracted and interrupted, to rely on the truth that God’s mercies are renewed daily. To start over again tomorrow. It’s all right to let God’s grace carry you. It’s normal to feel like you’re out of your element, in over your head.

There is one expert fact I know, though: Prayer does not get its power from me. It comes from God. From the One who hears us. Who welcomes us. Who beckons us, daily, moment by moment, to turn back. To remember. To lose ourselves in Him instead of in the momentum of our overscheduled, too-full days.


See, I fail over and over. I forget, I fall short, I hesitate, I don’t follow through. But even in the midst of my ineptitude, I’ve seen God. I’ve witnessed His unexpected, and perfectly timed, answers to prayer. I’ve seen Him respond to serious, fervent prayer—and to half-hearted, toss-it-toward-the-sky-before-moving-on prayers—in equal measures.

I’ve stumbled through dense, fertile seasons of intense, passionate prayer, lush and beautiful months in which the words multiply and God’s presence is dripping in great drops of dew, magnifying and defining every moment. And I’ve walked through deserts of dry despair, where words evaporate in the heat even before I can form them, where I pant, my whole body screaming for just one drop of Him.

Yet He’s been there through all of it. I can’t explain it, but I can bear witness to it.

So maybe that’s why I wrote my book. To tell you these stories. To put out there, for the whole world to see, my bumbling, stumbling, inadequate efforts. To let you know that prayer isn’t about you. You can’t measure it or really define it. Nor can you do it alone.

You just have to do it. It’s as simple as that.

Because if you pray, if you so much as try, you will meet God. You will be changed. And if you keep your eyes open in the process, you will see Him. You will learn to believe that He can do all the things you long for Him to do. And you’ll discover that, unlike us, God never fails. He never has doubts, and He never forgets. He is the expert, the author, the authority. Our prayer is made perfect because the Perfect One is the one who receives it.

All you have to do is show up.

Won’t you?


pic_full_Stanley_Kelly_ODell Kelly O’Dell Stanley is a graphic designer, writer, and author of Praying Upside Down. 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.

Buy Praying Upside Down here.

Giveaway of Praying Upside Down

978-1-4143-8983-7 We’re giving away a book. Fill out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win. (Email subscribers click here to enter.)

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  • Cricket Rawlins

    I would love to win this book! I was just speaking with a friend recently about my hesitation to pray out loud (mostly I pray alone and behind closed doors) because I felt like my prayers didn’t sound “good” enough. I loved reading that my prayer does not need to be perfect because the one who receives it is!! Thank you!!

    • Kelly Stanley

      In a book I started reading today, the author thanked her editor for teaching her to write in the style of The Message rather than King James. I loved that and it’s sort of how I think of prayer. We should be conversational. It doesn’t have to be pretty :-).

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  • Nina

    I’m terrible at praying. I constantly wonder if I’m doing it right or saying enough or making sense. It’s it about me…..my family…..my struggles or other people’s struggles. Do I say the right things when my son wants to pray? I’m learning and growing and trying though!

    • Kelly Stanley

      Just keep praying. The words don’t matter—what DOES matter is your genuine effort to reach God through prayer. He honors that, whatever our words sound like!

  • karen

    Imperfect prayers by imperfect followers….music to God’s ears!

    • Kelly Stanley


  • Michelle Peden Vasquez

    I would love to win! I just recently discovered this book and it’s on the top of my amazon wish list!

    • Kelly Stanley

      Hope you like the book! Thanks!

  • “It’s alright to let God’s grace carry you..” I love this line… He loves to carry us, close to His Shepherd’s heart says the Psalm… what a great and gracious God we serve!!!
    P.S. would love to win!

    • Kelly Stanley

      Thank God that He does carry us! And what a beautiful place to be, nestled close to His heart.

  • Thanks for the review and an opportunity to win a copy.

    • Kelly Stanley

      Thank you!

  • No need to enter me in the contest because it’s in my pile and next on the list to read! You’ve made me want to hurry up and get to it!

    • Kelly Stanley

      I love to hear that! 🙂 Hope you enjoy.



    • Kelly Stanley

      Prayer is simply talking—or even letting yourself rest and “be” in the presence of God. Don’t beat yourself up. You’ve succeeded if you’ve turned towards Him :-).

  • Stephanie

    I would love to win this book!!! Thanks for sharing:))

    • Kelly Stanley

      Thanks, Stephanie!

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Would LOVE to win! 🙂 Thanks so much for the giveaway!

    • Kelly Stanley

      Good luck! 🙂

  • “Because if you pray, if you so much as try, you will meet God.
    You will be changed. And if you keep your eyes open in the process, you
    will see Him.” What beautiful, life giving truth! Thanks so much for offering your words.

    • Kelly Stanley

      Always praying that God will keep my eyes wide open. Thank you!

  • Dede

    I would love to win this book. She basically described me!

    • Kelly Stanley

      I think we all feel like failures or hypocrites… or maybe like we have good intentions but simply fall short. That’s why talking to others about faith is so important… we can see that we are not in this alone!

  • Teri Haydon Bristol

    I was feeling like I was bumbling through my prayers today in the manner described above! I would love to win the book!

    • Kelly Stanley

      Welcome to the Bumbling, Stumbling Prayer Club 🙂

  • How poignant! The whirl of activity running JUST THROUGH MY HEAD, let alone when my feet hit the floor, might be cause to have me on meds. Most grateful for a Daddy that UNDERSTANDS my tendency to spin circles around myself and yet, when I stop for a second, trying to remember what I was doing, He speaks up, clears His throat and reminds me of what I was doing. Don’t ya just love HIM???
    Great post!
    It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one that does this!
    I believe prayer is like breathing…we don’t pay attention to it; it comes from the One breathing His life in us and flows out of us.

    • Kelly Stanley

      That’s a beautiful image!

  • Susan

    I can’t believe it! You described my prayer struggle perfectly – sometimes I have awesome focused times with God but more often I’m like a golf ball in a tile bathroom, thoughts all over the place like wild mustangs evading roundup. I would so love to win your book and get some peace about this; I crave experiencing God in those uncontrolled thought moments

    • Kelly Stanley

      What a perfect description. Yep, I’m a golf ball too. Praying you find the peace you’re seeking.

  • lindalouise

    This is so me. This is a book I need to read!

    • Kelly Stanley


  • Sophia DeLonghi

    Thank you for relieving me of guilt through this blog post! I’ve often felt bad about he condition of my prayer life at times.

    • Kelly Stanley

      We all feel bad at times. But guilt doesn’t belong in prayer. God’s grace covers all.

  • Kim Bedwell Garner

    I would love to win this book! I used to be a strong prayer warrior, but have been slacking off lately. I really need to quit being distracted and spend more time at God’s throne!

    • Kelly Stanley

      Maybe you’ll discover that your prayer life now is different, but different isn’t necessarily bad. Hoping you find a way to be back where you want to be 🙂

  • Ruthie

    This sounds like a great book and I would love to win it. I love Kelly’s honesty.

    • Kelly Stanley

      Thanks, Ruthie!

  • janetb1

    I would love to win!!

    • Kelly Stanley

      Good luck! 🙂

  • Natalie Wilson

    I would love to win =)

    • Kelly Stanley

      Best of luck to you… and to you all!

  • Ellen Chauvin

    Praise God! It’s ok not to be perfect…Just show up! Loved this! And, I’d love to win a copy!!

    • Kelly Stanley

      I hold on to the fact that sometimes showing up is the most I have to offer. And yet He always accepts it.

  • Christy

    I would love to win!

  • Kathy

    Prayer is such a vital ministry to all Christians. I need all the help I can get to pray in an effective manner and establish an intimate relationship with God in my everyday living.This book sounds like a guiding light to pave the way to achieve good communications with Abba Father.

    • Kelly Stanley

      Oh, I so hope this book somehow lights the way for someone! That would be my biggest prayer answered!

  • Jean

    I would like to win! All could benefit from being intimate with our Abba… the ALL-MIGHTY GOD.

    • Kelly Stanley


  • I would love to win this book! Prayer is a topic that I am always asking God to grow me in. Loved this post!

    • Kelly Stanley

      It’s a great thing to ask for!

  • Daniel J Evers

    Although I pray multiple times a day, I never feel like I’m praying enough. Thanks for letting me know that I’m not the only Christian who feels this way.
    Daniel at Jesus4Evers.com

    • Kelly Stanley

      You’re DEFINITELY not alone in that feeling! We shouldn’t let that stop us from coming to Him, though. And always strive to reach out to Him more.

  • Sophia DeLonghi

    Kelly, thank you for your response. You are right, guilt is not a part of prayer because God’s grace covers it all. But the evil one would like us to believe that and when I am operating on my own power rather than the Holy Spirit, I can fall into that trap. And grace covers me! Thank you!

    • Kelly Stanley


  • Rochelle

    I love the honesty that comes through in Kelly’s writing, and I would love to win this book to read more of her “upside down” thoughts on prayer.

    • Kelly Stanley

      Thanks, Rochelle!

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