Praying Without Words

Have you ever been in desperate need of aid, but so emotionally overwrought, you couldn’t find the words to pray?n the same way, the Spirit helps us in

It was my first child, my only, actually. I’d prayed long and hard for her, deeply longing for motherhood. And then it happened–I became pregnant. … And had an incredibly difficult and frightening pregnancy, one where I was in constant fear of losing her. Then one night, awaking to cramping, strange movements in my stomach, and much more blood than simply spotting, my husband and I rushed to the hospital. As they were taking me in, all I could say was, “Oh, God,” again and again.

pic_full_Stanley_Kelly_ODellI thought of that terrifying night when I read the following devotion written by Kelly O’Dell Stanley, author of Praying Upside Down. And I was reminded, God always hears me, even when I don’t have the words. But first, I wanted to remind you, there’s still time to get entered into Monday’s book give-away drawing! You can do so here!

As an added bonus, we’re doing an additional give-away today! Engage in the conversation on Kelly’s post and be entered into a drawing to receive a copy of her book, Praying Upside Down. Winners will be randomly selected from the comments left on this post. Please note, the contest is limited to those living in the continental US. 

Praying Without Words by Kelly O’Dell Stanley

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27, NIV

One Sunday morning, a man visiting my church stood to give his testimony. In broken English, he described the scene in which he first saw the woman who would become his wife, the moment when he first felt God calling to him.

“These people were singing, but not with their mouths,” he said. “It was a deeper song.”

That’s when my tears started. Because isn’t that what most of us want? To reach God, to commune with Him? With or without words.

Let’s face it. I am a writer, and even I have those times when the words won’t come.

Usually when we’re without words, it’s because we’re hurt. Cynical. Disillusioned. Heartbroken. Weary. We may have lost a parent or sibling or child or friend. We may be facing a broken marriage, a suicidal teen, an addiction, financial devastation, or abuse.

Or maybe we’re just uninspired. Tired. Worn out from carrying our fears around. Exhausted from overscheduling and under-resting. Dealing with depression or illness or a million tiny little worries.

I’ve been there, desperate for God but unable to draw my mind in, unable to reach out to Him, either verbally or in writing. And even in those moments, I’ve felt the irony. The only One who can truly make a difference in the situation is the One I can’t seem to talk to.

But the truth is that words are not required. Prayer, in its most simple definition, is communion with God. I often think of it as a conversation, but it doesn’t have to be.

Have you ever sat in companionable silence with a spouse, parent or friend? Enjoyed a peaceful afternoon on the porch with a grandparent, no words needed?

When I gave birth to my children, I had no words to describe what I felt, so I just sat there, looking at that beautiful new

Photo by Papija 2008 taken from
Photo by Papija 2008 taken from

creation, soaking in gratitude.

When my mom died, as I stood in the receiving line, some of my favorite people walked up, looked into my eyes, hugged me, and moved on. Without saying a single word, they communicated everything I needed to hear. Everything they wanted to say.

Next time you feel stuck, when you stumble over words or are wrestling with emotions you can’t seem to wrangle, why don’t you try something new? Sit in silence, your mind focused on God. Look around and find the beauty in your environment. Draw a picture, doodling names and images and offer it as prayer. Work your way through your daily tasks, and keep the mindset of dedicating your work—laundry, cleaning, dishes, gardening—to God as an act of worship. Listen to a piece of worship music and let yourself get lost in the sound.

Or sing a new song, from a deeper place.

It just might help you get past whatever it is that is blocking your path. I promise you, God will receive it. He will understand that it is prayer. He will know what your heart feels and what your soul needs.

And before long, the words will come. But even if they don’t, you’ve still prayed, and in the process, you’ve drawn closer to God. Because wherever God is, lives are changed.

With or without words.


Kelly O’Dell Stanley is a graphic designer, writer, and author of the new book, Praying Upside Down, which releases May 1. 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 ( to download her free ebook, Praying in Full Color, along with this month’s prayer prompt calendar to jump-start your prayer life.

978-1-4143-8983-7Praying Upside Down:

A change in perspective might be exactly what your prayer life needs.

When you talk to God, do you ever wonder if He hears? Do your prayers feel uninspired or routine? Do you sometimes feel you don’t even know how to pray?

Try praying upside down.

Let artist and author Kelly O’Dell Stanley show you what point of view, white space, sketching, and other artistic ideas reveal to us about how to pray—and experience a deeper connection with God than ever before. Praying Upside Down will move your prayers away from the preconceived and expected, allowing you to bring fresh passion to your prayers and notice answers you never anticipated.

Jesus was known for turning situations upside down…and He will do the same in your prayer life. And because God is the ultimate creator and the original artist, when you incorporate this unique approach to prayer, you will encounter Him in a brand-new way.

Buy it here:
Barnes & Noble
Also available online at, Target, Lifeway, Books-a-Million, Parable, iTunes, and wherever new releases are sold.

Connect with Kelly online at:
her blog, on Facebook, Pinterest, or connect with her at Twitter– @kellyostanley

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What thoughts came to mind as you read Kelly’s post? How do you feel knowing the Holy Spirit prays for you? Have you ever had a time when you were so broken or frightened, words didn’t come? Share that experience with us in the comments below or engage in the conversation on Living by Grace at Facebook.

Before I go, I wanted to invite my local friends to join me Saturday for a signing at Barnes and Noble in Omaha, near the B&NSigning-page-001Oakview Mall. I’d love to see some friendly faces stop by, and maybe join me for a selfie or two. 😉 Feel free to invite your friends using the link on Barnes and Noble’s event page. (You can read the first 23 pages of When Dawn Breaks here, and you can read the first 36 pages of Beyond I Do here.)

And before you go, I encourage you to join me on Internet Cafe Devotions as I talk about God’s heart for YOU in my devotion titled Rejected by Man but Loved by God.



  1. This came to me at a desperate time when I felt I couldn’t pray, words seemed boring an blank at times. I needed to hear someone say , it’s ok, God hears your heart, an prayer can be different an can happen in many ways. I believe my prayer life is going to be upside down, an it will transform my prayer life. Thank you!!!!

Leave a Reply