Today we welcome author and friend, Kelly O’Dell Stanley to the blog. Her latest book, #Instaprayer, Prayers to Share, inspired our two-week prayer journey, Praying Big Prayers to Our Amazing God. Like Kelly, we admit that “praying big” may be defined differently in our hearts and minds. One may say praying big is being bold or one may say it is saying less and listening more. You may say praying big requires deep faith or you may say big prayers strengthen weak faith. Another may think praying big requires hope, and yet another may think it is where hope is found.

Defining “praying big” will take many different shapes. We are excited about that and encourage you to keep a list of what God teaches you about praying big during this study. But don’t stop there. Remember the second half of the title of the study? Praying Big Prayers to Our Amazing God.  Can we each agree that God is amazing, and He invites us to come and spend time with Him in prayer? In His word He assures us He sees us and that He is listening. He tells us that He will respond. In big ways and small ways. We hope this study helps you to recognize His responses, from the times you are standing in the midst of a miracle to the times He is whispering an answer to your heart.

What can you expect over the next two weeks? We will explore scripture (#versebyverse), looking at how Jesus taught others to pray and how He, Himself prayed. We will encourage one another and be encouraged through the prayer prompts found within #Instaprayer, Prayers to Share. We will read honest devotions from women who trust God and have learned to fall before Him in prayer. We will pray together and encourage you to pray privately. To receive the full benefit of this study we recommend you follow us on Facebook to see our daily posts and watch our Live Videos. Our posts are daily, each morning at 6 am EST and we will have Facebook Live teachings twice a week. We always post those for later viewing!

We are so glad you are here for the journey! We are with you and praying for you as we begin. May the Lord meet us where we are and speak to our listening hearts.

(Printables resources for our Praying Big study can be found by clicking HERE)


God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

 

It’s hard to pray big. It’s easier to ask for a quarter than for $25,000, right? That may be true with people, though I’m not sure why we think we can extend that logic to God. But we do. Because let’s be real: “God, let the doctors be wise and compassionate” is a very different prayer than “God, miraculously heal him.”

When we pray small, but the outcome is good, it’s simple enough to convince ourselves that God was behind it. To overlook the possibility that what happened was simply coincidence or Mother Nature. It sounds so much better to say that God did it.

I used to open myself up, wide open, to God. I laid my heart bare and gave Him the key to my soul. I prayed for miracles. I expected supernatural results. And then my mom died. And my dad died. And my father-in-law died. My daughter has battled severe migraines for over 10 years. My son had a terrible senior year full of big health things and lots of other trials. I watched the culture of our country divide into two halves, saw relationships fracture, no longer identified with the majority of Christian leaders and writers. I started to doubt the things I’d always believed.

And now there’s a pandemic on top of it all?!

So right now, this is where I find myself: I’m not certain whether I really believe that prayer will change anything. Because, believe me, I have prayed, and lots of things have continued to go wrong.

How’s that for brutal honesty from the woman who’s written three books about prayer, including the one this series is based on? I hope you’ll read on anyway.

What I’ve noticed is that as my faith decreases, so have my prayers. When I’m praying small, it’s because I’m weary.

Oh, I can justify it. Because I have been hurt by God, over and over again. God’s answers often have not matched my heart’s desire. The pain of disappointment and grief is huge, and the sense of betrayal is real (even if God didn’t actually betray me). And even if my head understands that, my heart does not. What if I allow myself to feel hope, to believe that something is possible, and then it doesn’t happen? I’ll be crushed, and I don’t know if I can recover from that. I don’t think I’m strong enough. Maybe I don’t have enough faith. A tiny voice inside me adds on even deeper fears: Maybe God isn’t as good as you thought He was. Maybe He doesn’t care.

On the other hand, I still want to believe. Oh, how I want to believe. I want to go back to those trusting days when I would feel power rise up inside me as I prayed. When I couldn’t get enough of spending time with Him. When I knew, just knew, that God heard me. That He would answer me. And that if the answer didn’t match what I’d asked for, it was because He knew best. His answers would always ultimately be good, and true, and just. Because He loves me so very much.

The two sides of myself war with each other daily. Some days I can’t bring myself to trust God, and some days I do. Through it all, I somehow still believe that He is faithful, and that He will bring me through this. But I’ve noticed that even when I turn to God, I do so cautiously, because I don’t believe He will give me what I want.

And in that last paragraph lies the fundamental flaw in my thinking.

Prayer isn’t about getting what I want. It’s about leaning on God. Trusting Him never to leave you, no matter what path He takes you down.

 

I think the size of our prayers is commensurate with the size of our belief. Do we believe God is big enough, strong enough, able enough, kind enough, compassionate enough, gentle enough, to really address the problem? Is His grace big enough? Because I think God seems to appear most visibly and tangibly to those who have the gall to believe big. To pray big.

God’s grace is always greater than my mistakes. His compassion is always larger than my heartbreak. His love is always stronger and more far-reaching than I can stray. He is the Creator, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. He really can do anything.

One night in prayer, months after losing my mom and holding myself apart from the Lord, I felt Him whisper to me: I can’t be your balm unless you offer me your wounds.

So here I stand today, looking Him in the eye, feeling brave. I will ask big. I will tell Him what I need. Because the big things are no harder for Him than the small things. I don’t believe God causes most of the things that hurt us, but I do believe He longs to comfort us when they occur. When we stop believing that God can do big things, we often don’t notice the huge things He does do.

Pray with me. Yes, Lord, sometimes a problem is big. But you are bigger. Yes, Lord, it’s scary to be vulnerable, to risk disappointment. But you have conquered fear. I will trust in You because I know Your character, and I believe in Your love. Amen.


Kelly O’Dell Stanley is a graphic designer who writes. Or maybe a writer who also designs. Either way, when she found the place where writing and design intersected, she discovered that was exactly where she wanted to be. The author of Praying Upside Down, Designed to Pray, and (in Spring 2020) #Instaprayer: Prayers to Share, Kelly loves to explore prayer and faith in creative ways because she knows that God is the Ultimate Creator. And when she puts her creativity into action, she always discovers more of Him. Twenty-some years ago, Kelly took a leap of faith and began her own business, doing advertising and marketing for clients across the U.S. Her work has been included in design anthologies and PRINT Magazine’s Design Annual, and she’s received awards from the NAHB, Public Relations Society of America, the Webby Competition, and Art Directors Club of Indiana. Kelly’s writing awards include first place in Inspirational Writing in the 2013 Writer’s Digest competition, and she was a finalist in the Cascade Oregon Christian Writers Contest in 2017. She is a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com, and she’s written for iBelieve.com, Christianity.com, (in)courage, Internet Café Devotions, Today’s Christian Woman, Today’s Christian Living, Tiferet Journal, Sasee Magazine, and numerous blogs. She’s a redhead who does a pretty good job of controlling her temper, a strong believer in doing everything to excess, and a professional wrestler of doubt and faith. (Faith always wins, but some days the competition is fierce.) She’s been married to Tim for a quarter of a century, which officially makes him a saint. And she loves her three quirky grown-or-nearly-grown kids, Katie, Anna, and Bobby. Even if they do call her all the time. (Or maybe especially because they call her all the time.) Kelly lives in Crawfordsville, Indiana. You may connect with her on her blog, kellyostanley.com, on Facebook (Kelly O’Dell Stanley, Author), or on Twitter (@kellyostanley).