I came across the palm of Jesus’ hand as I flipped through Designed to Pray and immediately felt inclined to write my name on His hand before I read anything. Instantly verse 49:16 of Isaiah came alive and I began to pray creatively for the first time. It is true, my name really is on the palm of His hand. Just as yours is. And if He cares so much to inscribe our names on His hands, He definitely cares about our prayers! We are Designed to Pray, just like Kelly O’Dell Stanley says.
Stephanie Alton: Kelly, I have a burning question for you about Creative Ways to Engage with God: Designed to Pray. How did you discover that the hand print exercise would be so impactful?
Kelly Stanley: These past couple weeks have been really exciting for me, because I had hoped — and prayed and prayed and prayed — that God would come alive in the exercises as people did them. So I love hearing your story! Writing them was hard because all I could do was take my best guess about providing a framework in which people could explore. But ultimately, I knew that I had no control about how God would lead someone or use the exercises, so it’s really humbling to hear people tell me how they’ve seen Him in them.
The reason I was drawn to the idea of the handprint is because each one of us is uniquely designed by God, and He relates to each person in a different way. Where I see Him in my life may be very different from where you do. But it’s all God, so I hoped people will take a second to stop and think about what they do know and where they have seen Him … but we must stop and let ourselves really look for Him.
SA: We all need and crave a close relationship with God. How can our creative outlets help us get closer to Him?
KS: God is the original Creator. He can (and does) make something from nothing. He redeems lost time, restores relationships, heals brokenness. And we are created in His image. I believe that when we get in touch with our creative side, we’re actually getting in touch with God, drawing on that creative power that is inherent in everything He does.
God always answers, but He does it in different ways with different people in different situations and at different times. His most powerful answers to prayer are usually big surprises. Totally unexpected. When we stop limiting God, when we cease to put limits on our thinking, and when we expand our definitions of creativity and prayer, we’ll discover new aspects of our unlimited and multifaceted God.
SA: Kelly, you mentioned to me that, “Spending time in prayer before God gives us a chance to discover who we are in Christ and what that relationship means to us.” It is kind of symbolic that you have a blank canvas exercise in Designed to Pray for us all to try. Will you tell us a little about how starting each day with a blank canvas can help us discover what our relationship with God means to us?
KS: I think the key to learning about God is to let go of our expectations. Our thinking is so limited, and God is so big and powerful. When we open ourselves up to Him, being willing to let Him show us something new, He responds. The idea behind the blank canvas exercise was that we’re responsible for what we fill our minds with, and we can fill them with beauty or with chaos.
But, related to our earlier discussion, I think there’s a hidden blessing in letting God draw on the canvas of our lives before there’s a spouse to draw around. It gives someone the opportunity to explore their relationship with God, to let that be the foundation on which everything else is built, and to not have to work around someone else.
I really discovered God many years into my marriage, and I’m grateful that my husband’s spiritual growth happened about the same time. But there were times that we struggled because we weren’t in the same place — and sometimes it didn’t seem fair to ask my husband to adjust around the ways I was changing. In some ways, it would have been easier if I had already found God and my husband knew up front what he was getting into.
At times it was hard to fully embrace whom I felt God was calling me to be because I lived with this person who didn’t know that side of me (because I was still trying to discover it!).
SA: I love how you have some coloring pages in the book too! One of the coloring pages says, “Use me to help your light shine.” How do you think being the light of Jesus will help us overcome some of the darkness in our lives?
KS: Have you ever noticed how the tiniest bit of light can illuminate a whole room? In my bedroom, there is a tiny blue light on the DVR player. Itty bitty. And yet, when all the other lights are off, that light is like a beacon. You can see all the outlines of the furniture. I roll over and the light flashes in my eyes.
When God’s light shines — even a little bit — darkness cannot extinguish it. We live in a world with so much darkness and despair. If we can let God shine through us — if we can shine a little bit of His love and kindness and mercy into someone else’s life — the light goes a long, long way.
SA: If someone is in the obstacle course of loneliness or is upset with God because the right person isn’t in their life, what do you think they will discover in Designed to Pray?
KS: We all have obstacles. As I wrote this book, I went deep into my own spiritual life to look at all that I’ve discovered about who God is through my prayers, because I’ve seen so many different facets of God along the way. I had to honestly face the obstacles and emotions and real stumbling blocks that have tripped me up along the way, but every single time I found myself wrestling with God, I walked away stronger in my faith.
God is faithful, and He used every situation as a new way to teach me. So I try not to shy away from some of the hard questions, because I believe it’s worth working through them. That being said, this doesn’t have to be a difficult book. You can go as deep as you want to, and I think you’ll still discover something new in the process. In prayer, especially, the important part isn’t the final destination, but the way you get there. Designed to Pray is meant to help you have an interesting journey and to help you find your own way to interact with God.
SA: Thank you for talking to me today! I love hearing how you lead people to a closer relationship with Christ through creative outlets. So many times we turn to our creativity to relax or unwind, but never think that could be the best way for us to connect with Him. It makes sense though. We all learn differently, so we can all pray differently. If you don’t mind, I would like to share a page from the book that I just love.
“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 did not 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 awhile 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 everyday 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.”
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