Your conversations with God can be as fun and creative as He is.
Whether you’ve been praying for a long time or are just beginning to enter in, this eight-week adventure from Kelly O’Dell Stanley will infuse passion and creativity into your communication with God. Filled with daily interactive activitieseverything from coloring pages to writing prompts to doodlingyou’ll find space to let go of fear and expectations and discover what it means to engage with the One who loves you.
Designed to Pray offers an innovative way to start viewing God, the world around you, and your faith with a new perspective. Because when you pray, you’re nurturing a relationship with God. It’s what you were designed to do.
Read an Excerpt
Designed to Pray
Creative Ways to Engage With God
By Kelly O'Dell Stanley, Bonne Steffen, Susan Ellingburg
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Live Event Management, Inc.
All rights reserved.
WEEK 1 FUMBLING INTO GODS PRESENCE
Facing your Fears
Fear is the shadow of creativity. When we choose to create, we bring light to our fears. The darkness does not prevail over us. The creative act is inherently an act of courage. We are born to far too many fears and far too great a darkness. It is only when we find the courage to create that we are freed from those fears and that darkness.
— Erwin McManus, The Artisan Soul
Since I started writing about prayer, I've been reminded just how taboo the topic is. When a friend introduced me to her friend at a luncheon and said I had written a book the woman smiled. "Oh, that's great! What's your book about?"
"It's called Praying Upside Down," I said and watched her physically recoil. Maybe recoil is too strong of a word. Still, she not only leaned back, but took a step back as well.
Later, as this new acquaintance and I chatted over our chicken salads, the conversation came around to the book again, and I took the plunge. "I realize that it's ingrained in people not to talk about politics or religion. It's hard to talk about my book in business situations, because I don't want people to think I'm trying to evangelize. But the fact is, my book is about prayer, and I can't hide that."
She swallowed a drink of water as she chose her words.
"Maybe you should say 'my book is a memoir about my personal experiences with faith.' That might sound less threatening"
I've thought a lot about her words, and I've come to the conclusion that her response says more about her own experiences than it does about the way I described my writing. But this conversation reminds me how many people have been hurt by religion — people who have been pushed away from church by the ones who should have been embracing them; people who were told by others that they weren't Christians or couldn't pray the way they did; people who don't know if they're qualified to pray, if they're doing it right, if God will hear them if they're not already living 100 percent for Him.
When your experiences color your perceptions of God, you may have trouble fully embracing prayer. You might have put up walls to keep from feeling inadequate or unqualified or uncomfortable.
Can I let you in on a little secret? I feel inadequate, too.
Whenever someone refers to me as an expert on prayer, I want to laugh out loud. I did write a book about prayer. It's not an illogical conclusion. But 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. Perhaps that's exactly why I'm the one who wrote this. To tell you that it's okay not to be perfect. God doesn't expect perfection, and when we do, we're setting ourselves up for failure.
It's okay to forget to pray or to be distracted and interrupted. We can 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 or in over your head. It's not unusual to hold concurrent but conflicting feelings — you've been hurt by some of God's people, or seemingly by God Himself, and you're afraid. Yet you sense, somewhere in that indefinable part of you, that if you can just reach Him, it will be worth it. You are not sure, but you hope. You wonder. Whatever it is, it's enough.
Because there is one fact I know: 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.
The prayer activities within these pages are not a magical method for harnessing the power of the almighty God. They're simply new ways for you to reach out to Him, exercises to develop your creativity and open your eyes to discover God in a new way. Because even though God doesn't require us to vary our methods, I get bored easily — and you might too. Been there, done that, ready to try something new.
Simply by praying, simply by trying, you will meet God. You will be changed. And if you keep your eyes open in the process, you will see Him. If you listen, you will hear. 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 receives it.
All you have to do is offer it to Him.
Pray with me?
God, we all come to You with certain fears. Memories of times when we didn't live up to certain standards or were misunderstood. An awareness of our failings — whether it's a short attention span, limited self-discipline, or an overcrowded calendar. Sometimes we don't know where to start or what to say. Or how to find You again after we've turned away.
But here's the miracle: You are still there. You still want to hear from us. You still care. And if we ask for help in turning to You, in finding You, You will give it.
So, we're asking. Help us. Draw our minds to You. Increase our desire for You. Let us discover that there is nothing to fear, that You alone can always be trusted. Meet us here in these pages. Make Yourself known. Amen.
Does fear keep you from praying?
What are you afraid of?
What made you pick up this book?
At this point, do you believe prayer matters — or are you here to try to figure that out?
What are your hopes?
If you can't pray as you want to, pray as you can. God knows what you mean.
— Vance Havner
May I suggest that prayer has an image problem? People think it is an exclusive language reserved for holy men and women clothed in velvet robes and large hats, intoning grand words in powerful voices. Or we imagine black-clad nuns taking vows of poverty and celibacy, kneeling by candlelight in austere surroundings. We think of prayer as serious and solemn. Formal. Many pray in King James English rather than the English we use every day. Lord, God, Thou art holy. I beseech Thee....
If that's the way you speak, more power to you. But I'm more of a slang kind of girl. I've been known to laugh while I pray. I make fun of myself. And, occasionally, I say things people think might not belong in prayer.
If I could rebrand prayer, I'd position it as approachable and rejuvenating. Informal. And yes, even fun. Approaching God with a light heart isn't irreverent. It's just being real.
So today, I want you to doodle your prayers.
* * *
DIRECTIONS: Write names or situations in the shapes already drawn on the page, and then fill in the rest of the space with curlicues and spirals, hearts and flowers, zigzags and stripes. Add more prayers. Write your name. Get out your markers and color. All you have to do to turn your doodles into prayer is to mentally offer them up to God. "As I write and draw, hear the desires of my heart and accept this as my prayer. Amen."
WEEK 1 |DAY 2
WRITE | DRAW | EXPLORE | PRAY
PRAYER PROMPT Pray for someone who makes you laugh.
Rays of Gratitude
RELATED BIBLE VERSES: Matthew 6:8; Psalm 100; Psalm 95:1-6
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.
— Psalm 100:4
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
— Meister Eckhart
I don't know about you, but at any given time I could list thirty or forty things I need. They may not all be for me — my friend Missie needs healing, and another friend's son needs help with a legal issue. I could stand a little more income, because money is tight this month. And my son hurt his big toe.
There's always something.
But prayer isn't just about asking. It's also about remembering who God is. Thanking Him for — and reminding ourselves of — the things He has already done.
Psalm 100 is one of my favorites because it reminds us that the best way to enter into His courts — to come into His presence — is with praise. So today, don't ask for a thing. He already knows the desires of your heart. Let your gratitude radiate out from your core as you thank God for the many blessings He has provided.
DIRECTIONS: Create individual "rays" in the accompanying sun graphic, formed by words or phrases describing something you are thankful for. And feel the warmth of living life with gratitude.
WEEK 1 | DAY 3
DRAW | EXPLORE | PRAY | WRITE
PRAYER PROMPT Pray for someone's son.
The Posture of Prayer
RELATED BIBLE VERSES: Romans 12:1; Hebrews 4:16
Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
— Romans 12:1
I've prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another person's shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. Waiting in my car in the carpool line at school. Walking along a beach. I've pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I've stood with both arms raised high above my head with confidence and praise.
But I've discovered that my experience changes when I alter the physical posture of my prayer, even when my words remain the same.
Standing with arms open toward the sky makes me feel exultant. I close my eyes and imagine God's light shining upon me, His Spirit pouring into me. I'm coming boldly before His throne.
Bowing on my knees fills me with humility. I remember who He is and offer Him respect. I ask Him, humbly and reverently, for help.
When I stand, arms outstretched, palms up, I'm reaching out to a Friend. In return, He grasps my hands, and we stand face-to-face, talking.
When I am facedown on the floor, awash in emotions, I am physically responding to the awesomeness of my God. I am bowing as low as I can, feeling the weight of His greatness, wanting to honor Him.
Lying in bed at night, whispering to Him, unloading the burdens I've carried all day, I feel an intimacy and can imagine His arms holding me tight as He rocks me to sleep.
* * *
DIRECTIONS: Find a comfortable spot. Close yourself in your bedroom if you want privacy. Or if you have young children, let them try this with you.
Pray in several different positions. Kneel or stand or lie down. Raise your arms to the sky or clasp them in front of you or hold your palms up on your knees. You don't need words, although you're free to use them. Focus your thoughts upward, and hold the position for a little while and see where your thoughts go.
Reflect: Pay attention to the different feelings each posture elicits. Which make you feel happier? Closer or farther from God? Awkward or comfortable? Humble and contrite or joyous and filled with praise? Journal your thoughts on the following page.
There is no right or wrong answer here ... it's all just exploration. Reaching out to the One who wants us to encounter Him, whatever position we are in when we do.
WEEK 1 |DAY 4
EXPLORE | PRAY |WRITE | DRAW
PRAYER PROMPT Pray for someone who has taught you something about prayer.
RELATED BIBLE VERSES: Luke 7:23; Isaiah 57:14-15
It shall be said, "Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people's way."
— Isaiah 57:14, ESV
When I am hesitant to pray, it's often because I have a bad attitude. I'm feeling rebellious. I'm tired. In fact, there was a long time period in which I didn't pray because I was mad at God.
Some of you may be cringing, thinking, She can't say that!
But it's the truth. My mom died of small-cell lung cancer, and I was devastated. God — who was supposed to be a God of healing, right? — hadn't healed her. She was gone and I was alone, and I wasn't sure I could trust Him any longer. He knew what I needed — her. And yet she was no longer here.
Still I knew I should pray. I knew God would be able to bring me through it.
It just took a while before I was ready to let Him.
Maybe you don't have the stubborn, toddler-like attitude I had. But maybe you've had your own crushing pains. Maybe you were abused or someone stole your spouse or you buried a child or you're watching your parent slowly fade away.
Or maybe you see people every day who profess to be Christians but who certainly don't act like it. You don't want any part of that, so you stay away.
There are millions of reasons why we might stay away.
However, there is one compelling reason not to: God.
Only with God will we see hope again. Only through God can our brokenness be made whole, our emotions soothed, our attitudes adjusted. Only with God can we heal.
It's normal to stumble. But the best way to keep from falling is to take a close look at the obstacles before you.
DIRECTIONS: Write about the stumbling block (or blocks) that keep you from praying. Afraid God won't answer? Don't know what to say? Convinced you aren't good enough to go to Him in prayer? Whatever your stumbling block is, write it down. And ask God to remove it.
WEEK 1 | DAY 5
PRAY | WRITE | DRAW | EXPLORE
PRAYER PROMPT Pray for someone facing a hurdle.
Faith, Not Fear
We live by faith, not by sight.
— 2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV
The opposite of faith isn't doubt. It's fear.
At my church, everyone prays out loud at the same time. It intimidated me at first, thinking everyone was listening, but most of the time, there's anonymity in the noise. Usually you just hear snatches of people's prayers — key words like healing and hope, love and protect jump out, but you don't hear one person specifically.
One night, though, a woman was praying for a desperate situation. Her son was being charged with attempted manslaughter. He'd dropped his baby — a horrible accident, but that's all it was. He faced jail time and the possible loss of his baby.
I'll never forget that moment. Because as I prayed for this woman, her son, and her grandson, all I could hear were her words. Three of them, repeated over and over. "Faith, not fear. Faith, not fear. Faith, not fear."
That simple act demonstrated the most beautiful kind of faith and trust. The best way to face fear is to turn in the other direction — not away from what you're afraid of, but toward what you want (and the only One who can provide it). To lean on God and trust Him even when it is scary. Especially when it is scary.
Every day, even in smaller things, we have a choice to make. What will you choose?
DIRECTIONS: Think about your current prayer requests. On the left side of the chart, write what it would look like to dwell on fear, and on the right, describe what it would look like to focus instead on faith. Ask God to help you with your choices and to strengthen your faith in each situation.
WEEK 1 | DAY 6
WRITE | DRAW | EXPLORE | PRAY
PRAYER PROMPT Pray for someone in a desperate situation.
(DAY OF REST)
A Place of Refuge
RELATED BIBLE VERSES: Psalm 4:8; Psalm 91; Isaiah 43:5
Do not he afraid, for I am with you.
— Isaiah 43:5
When I was a little girl, there was a space in the cornfield by my house where the seed had washed away in the heavy spring rains and nothing grew. A small round patch of nothingness, bordered by cornstalks that were about half grown. If I squeezed between the tight rows, in just a few steps I could be in that private space, and when I knelt down, the corn surrounded me on all sides. I was only twenty or thirty feet in, but nobody outside the field could tell I was there. I felt invisible. And invincible. Because I was hiding in a safe place.
You don't need a field to find the same security.
DIRECTIONS: In your mind, go to a quiet space. Picture yourself being embraced by God. Close your eyes and simply breathe Him in. Sit in the solitude. He is with us. Not just us collectively, but with each of us, personally, individually, exactly the way we need Him to be. Right now. And when we are with Him, we are in the safest of all possible places. Whether anyone can see us or not. Thank Him by coloring in the next page.
Excerpted from Designed to Pray by Kelly O'Dell Stanley, Bonne Steffen, Susan Ellingburg. Copyright © 2016 Live Event Management, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Surprised by Prayer ix
Week 1 Tumbling into god's presence 1
Facing Your Fears 1
Doodling Around 6
Rays of Gratitude 9
The Posture of Prayer 12
Stumbling Blocks 15
Faith, Not Fear 19
A Place of Refuge 22
Week 2 The Faith of a Child 25
Letter to My Fourteen-Year-Old Self 25
Back to the Beginning 30
Filling in the Blanks 33
The Fingerprints of God 37
Daddy, Is This Okay For Me? 40
Alphabet Prayers 43
A Father's Love 46
Week 3 Creativity … or Connecting the Dots to see God 49
Making Connections 49
Jumbled-Up Words 53
Prayer Mapping 56
The Many Names of God 59
Color Palette of Prayer 62
More than One Way to See Him 65
Bringing Prayer to Life 68
Week 4 We're all in this Together (praying with or for others) 73
Carrying the Mat 73
Prayer Symbols 81
Forwarded Message 85
Family Tree 88
Gallery of Influences 91
When the Holy Spirit Prays 94
Week 5 A personal god (knowing rod, knowing yourself) 97
Personally Designed 97
Get Real 101
Losing Your Baggage 104
Snapshots of God 107
Suiting Up in Armor 110
What God Sees in the Mirror 113
Inscribed On His Hand 116
Week 6 Shaking Things Up (Breaking Out of a Rut) 119
Making Some Changes 119
Your Gift to God 123
Key Chain Prayers 126
Set Free 129
Singing His Praises 132
Poetic Praise 135
A Blank Canvas 138
Week 7 How to Pray When … 141
How to Pray When Life Is Messy 141
How to Pray When You Want To Go Deeper 146
How to Pray When the World Overwhelms You 149
How to Pray When You Can't Keep It All Straight 152
How to Pray When Your Need Seems Impossible 155
How to Pray When You Need a Fresh Point of View 159
How to Pray When You're Tired 163
Week 8 Coloring Your Prayers 167
Designed to Live in Full Color 167
Passionate Red 172
Yellow's Joyful Energy 175
Blue-Safe and Secure 178
Green Pastures 181
Dreaming in Purple 185
Color Wheel of Prayer 188
A beautiful Beginning 191
Starting a Relationship with god 195
Ongoing prayers 197
About the author 207