Praying Upside Down [book review]

A few weeks ago, we went to dinner with C’s dad on the opposite side of town. I had a hair appointment later the same evening, and when dinner was over I found myself needing a way to kill about 90 minutes before heading to the salon. There’s a Barnes & Noble almost across the street, so I went there. #obviously

I bought a cup of coffee and wandered the aisles, not looking for anything specific. I pulled books off the shelves at random, read back cover descriptions, carried them around for a while, and put them back. Finally, I settled on Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God. Seeing as my #onelittleword for 2016 is seek, this seemed like a good book for me. But to tell you the truth, what hooked me about the book was the angle the author took on prayer–she’s an artist, and she used artistic ideas to discuss issues and methods of praying. I loved the idea of talking about prayer and creativity side by side, so I bought it.


In truth, the book didn’t incorporate art into prayer as much as I thought it would. There are no exercises focused on sketching or painting as prayer, no chapter on art journaling, nothing like that. Instead, she uses concepts from the art world to discuss approaches to prayer. So it wasn’t quite what I expected. But I actually still really enjoyed it.

The book uses concepts such as perspective, the grid method, practicing to develop skills, proportion, etc. and relates them to your prayer life. Beginning with chapter 5, each chapter concludes with a “prayer palette,” which is a short section with exercises/ways to pray differently or extra fuel for thought. Here are a couple of my favorite exercises:

  • “…Slowly look around you. Take your time. Let your eyes linger over each individual thing. Does an object you see bring up a memory or idea? A name? A thought?…pray for the person, situation, or concern that comes to mind.”
  • Write down a name, word, situation, or concern for each letter of the alphabet, and pray for them as you go. (For example, A for Amy, B for breast cancer, C for coping, etc.)
  • Keeping a prayer journal for a specific person (a friend, spouse, child).
  • Write your prayers down. When one has been answered, highlight it. When you flip through the journal/list later, the answered prayers will jump out at you (and inspire gratitude).

There are lots of different ways to pray. What I loved about this book was that it embraces that and helps you identify some of the varied ways that work best for you. And because it uses art as the vehicle for discussion, it connects with creative minds and hearts in a way that other books on prayer probably don’t. If you’re a left-brained person, if you’ve ever struggled with “traditional” thoughts on how to pray, or if you just feel like you need something different, Praying Upside Down is for you.

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