A $25,000 Question and the Prayer That Changed Everything

An older photo of John and Elli Milan posing in their studio in Arizona with their three daughters

He's a very tall, lean African man named Pastor Patrice from Burkina Faso. He prayed for a dead man who was killed in a car accident in his city of Ouagadougou for several hours after the local witch doctor tried his magic unsuccessfully. He told God, "If you don't bring this man back to life, people will say you don't exist and will continue to use the witch doctor." Suddenly, the man began to breathe and sat up on the table he was lying on, and he lives life today grateful to God.

Patrice came to Arizona in 2007 when I first met him, and he gave me a prophecy. He said he saw me in a large building, working with artists from all over. I would own a lot of land, and artists would just keep coming to me. He also said I was like a giraffe with a long neck, and I could see far into the distance and knew what was coming, which would help me with my art factory.

This image was such a different direction of thought for me at that time. John and I were selling our artwork through a dealer, making really good money, and I had no desire to work with other artists. Many artists would ask us how we were able to sell so much work. I would try to help them the best I could, but it was difficult because most artists needed more skill, or a different skill, and they needed to develop a style. These were things that couldn't be taught through just a conversation.

During the economic crisis of 2008, with the stock market crash and housing market bubble, our dealer could no longer buy our artwork. Since we were exclusively selling to him, we had to quickly pivot and start working directly with galleries.

A Dream Unfinished

John and Elli Milan gaze at each other while lying on top of their collaborative artwork and gripping paintbrushes

Within six months, our work was in 15 different galleries and exhibited at the New York Art Expo. However, running our business cost a lot more, and we had to hire someone to help. Our profit shrunk quite a bit from what we were used to, and we worked even harder with more hustle.

In 2010, we moved to a new property with a big, 2000-square-foot multipurpose building on it. It was like a large unfinished tin shed in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cotton fields. It was a potential dream studio for John and me, but we needed at least $25,000 to finish it. Money was very tight, and that seemed impossible. So, we continued to paint in the non-air-conditioned garage and dream of better things.

All summer, I begged God for $25,000 and wasn't able to save anything. I couldn't understand how a loving God could taunt me with this perfect building for an amazing studio, and the only thing stopping me was $25,000. So, I told God I wasn't going to ask Him for the money anymore because He obviously didn't want to give it to me.

A Divine Whisper at the Kitchen Table

The multi-purpose building stands half-finished, on its way to becoming an art studio

But I needed to know that He still existed. I needed assurance that He still answered prayer. So I told Him to tell me what prayer He was ready to answer, and I would pray for that. Sitting at my kitchen table, I closed my eyes and just tried to listen. I was ready for anything: the neighbor getting a new car, someone getting healed...anything. I clearly and powerfully heard in my spirit, "I'm ready to give you your art school now."

I was completely shocked. But I didn't want an art school and had never wanted one. Artists were difficult to work with, with all their insecurities, doubts, and egos. I just wanted a big, air-conditioned art studio, not an art school. But I knew I had heard God because the thought was so foreign to my own desires.

"Okay, please give me my art school and, with it, the knowledge and desire to run it; help me want an art school."

Within three days, I really wanted to have an art school. I started to see how the school connected with the grand vision for my life that I had had since I was 19 years old. I understood how an art school could be an incredible platform for the art movement I felt I would be a part of. I began to see the pieces coming together. I told no one but John about my crazy moment at the kitchen table.

An Unexpected Answer

The building is complete and the Milan Art Institute opens its doors

Things began to move very quickly. I was given an opportunity with my mentor to go to Ukraine and volunteer to teach art. Then a friend called: "I have a group of about ten ladies who all want to learn how to paint. I thought of you. Have you ever considered teaching people how to paint?"

I didn't tell her about the school or what happened, but I committed to a workshop with the ladies scheduled for December 8th. That October, I went to Ukraine. My mom picked me up from the airport and said, "You know how you were praying for $25,000 to finish the building to have an art studio?"

"Yeah, you got $25,000 for me?" I said, half-joking.

"Well, I actually do," she said.

"What?! How? Are you serious?" I was shocked.

"Well, not exactly $25,000; it's $26,000. It's an inheritance from your grandma. It's an annuity I cashed out. God told me to do it and that your grandma wanted you to have it."

My grandma died when I was 14 years old, the year before I became an artist. I was overwhelmed and emotional. I was terrified that the art school was happening. I was in awe of how one little prayer started a complete activation of destiny.

Prophecy Fulfilled: The Birth of Milan Art Institute

John and I started working with a contractor, who finished the building for exactly $26,000 on December 6th. Two days later, ten ladies came to Milan Art Institute and were the first artists to paint in that building. I taught hundreds of artists in that building in the middle of the cotton fields in Queen Creek, Arizona. When artists started coming to me from Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, and all over the US, I realized I needed to take the school online.

Whenever I pray for something and my prayer doesn't get answered, I stop and think, "I must not be asking for the right thing." I think about all the lives that have changed because of this school—because of that one crazy prayer at my kitchen table that changed everything.

Share your story in the comments below!


  • Gretchen Sharples

    Elli! This changes everything! I have been a believer most of my 54 years on this planet and never thought to ask Gid what he wants me to ask for!!! I know HE gives us the desires of our hearts so it makes since to ask Him what to pray for! Thank you for sharing this powerful insight/revelation! ❤️
    Painting life beautifully,
    Gretchen Sharples

  • Jeana

    Thank you for sharing your story, it inspires and resonates with me.

    I feel the Lord has also given me a prophetic dream, one that is in the opposite direction of where I thought my life would go.

    I’ve always wanted to be a professional artist, but last year the Lord me that one day I’ll run a bakery. I love to bake, and over the years people who have tried my baked goods have encouraged me to do so. But me? I don’t have the management skills or the hustle. I’m slow in my creative process. I don’t want to manage other people. When I asked God why are you giving me this dream, He said, “it’s easy to find someone with skills, but it’s hard to find someone with a heart that listen. You have a heart that says ‘yes’ to me, and if you yes to this dream, I’ll provide the people and resources you need.”

    It’s really encouraging to read what’s on the other side of a “yes”. Thank you again for sharing your story.
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    That’s so cool! You can do it! God will provide everything. I can see your art on the walls of your bakery!

  • Tiffany Shiels

    What an incredible story. I absolutely love this.

  • Annie

    Ohh myyy, God is SO good and SO attentive to every detail. Your crazy kitchen table prayer is preciously encouraging! The Lord has whispered dearly to my heart, yet we are still in waiting mode for fulfillment of what looks impossible. It’s many years later and we are up there in age, too. So THANK YOU for sharing from inside your own personal faith walk, thereby strengthening mine! 💞
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    You are so welcome! Waiting is so hard! Bc usually it’s us that needs a tweak to set things in motion.

  • Joanne R Douglas

    My late husband fought a six-year battle with cancer. He died in our living room, on a hospital bed, where he spent the last 19 months of his life, in the middle of Manhattan, NY with five of us holding him and praying for a healing miracle. The city went absolutely silent as his spirit lifted from his body. I went into the bedroom we shared for 29 years. Tears poured from my eyes though I didn’t feel like I was crying. God said, “You may now choose the path of grief for the rest of your life, or be filled with thankfulness for the time you had together. I will always take care of you.”

    The next day I received a call from “James” who had called Jonathan and me from time to time. We never met him, but mutual friends thought that Jonathan and I would be blessed to speak with James and his wife, Anne Marie, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer a few months earlier and had gone into remission. She ended up dying 11 days prior to Jonathan. James called to offer his condolences and to let me know about his wife. The same friends who had introduced the four of us thought it best not to tell me Anne Marie passed on. We talked a long time with long comforting silences in between. We decided either of us could call the other whenever we needed comfort no else could understand. This was October 10th 2009.

    Ten days later, I was in Florence, Italy with my siblings. We called it the “L’chaim Tour”, toasting Jonathan at each dinner. It was a very healing time. We stayed in our favorite hotel, the Lungarno, where God spoke to me again. I was taking a long shower before dinner when He said, “you will soon be with another man and you will return to Florence again and again and again”. Of course, I wondered who it would be. Two other men came to mind. The next day we met a man who owned a leather shop. After we chose wonderful jackets, he offered to walk us to the Uffizzi Gallery. As we crossed the piazza, he took my arm and whispered to me, “will you will return to Florence again, and again, and again.” It wasn’t a question.

    January 3, 2010, James checked in with me. From that date, we spoke for 40 nights in a row (though we didn’t know that till we figured it out from the date of James’ airline ticket from Dallas to NYC. 40 is a significant spiritual number.

    God was now speaking to me always, I only needed to tune in to His voice. By summer, James moved to NY for us to be together. One day, God said, “write what I tell you.” It was James, who had encouraged me it was okay to do so and write the words God gave me. I did, day after day, since the summer of 2010, several books worth, a full year of daily prophecies posted on a blog, a book about NYC real estate that was published with the same publisher as THE SECRET, (I hadn’t even sought out a publisher, but that’s separate story of attraction) and a novel, all while working full time.

    On October 7th of 2023, God said, “go back to your painting, but keep writing.” “Okay!” I have painted what He instructed, and continue to do so, mostly on the weekends. He told me I’ll need 40 paintings. “Thank you for the energy and show me how to paint faster than I ever have,” I prayed.

    James made a studio for me, in the basement of our weekend home. I pulled my brushes and easel out of storage, happened across the Milan family on all their social media (thank you for such inspiration nearly every day, even before Ellie’s SONG OF SONGS, I knew you were all special).

    I have 15 completed paintings of one series as He directed (most fairly large 36 × 36 and 48 × 60) and not a one is anything I would have ever painted or thought of. The series is called BROKEN EARTH. The last 4 of this series are an entirely different style then the first 11.

    My 16th painting is nearly completed and yet another style though it picks up some stylistic gestures of the final four of the BROKEN EARTH series. The title is THE BLUE SACRIFICE

    I’m thankful I don’t have to always be in my office, and my “work” business thrives and grows, and I keep on listening and writing and painting.

    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Wow! What an incredible story! I love the path you chose to live a full life! James sounds wonderful! Amazingly, I just bought a leather jacket two weeks ago from a really sweet man in a leather shop right near the Uffizi. Could be the same man same place!!

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