Friday, April 12, 2019

Is Prayer Saying Something?

Here's another brand new book that can lead to a rich discussion of prayer as well as many other theological ideas. I'm sure it will show up in my PBT Grab & Go series someday. There's lots of treasure here!
Picture Book: Say Something
Author & Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Summary: This author is known for encouraging readers to creatively dream, hope, and do to bring about a better world. 
He empowers us to speak up in all sorts of verbal
 and nonverbal ways. 
Say something with your presence
or your courage.
Sometimes actions speak louder and are more lasting (and beautiful) than words. 
 Literary and 

science types are represented.
 Even a sense of fashion gets a nod.
Creative justice is a hallmark here, individual and corporate. 
And there's a warning that doubt and much patience may follow.
Every double page spread offers fertilizer for activists, prophets, futurists, and peacemakers, in other words people doing God's work for the sake of the world.
Hanna’s Comments: I see all sorts of possibilities with this gem! One of the best aspects of faith is believing that you can make a difference in the world. Hope and creativity are on every double page spread and image. Want a creative lesson on prayer? Ask before each page turn, "How can prayer be a part of this? Don't forget to talk about how The Holy Spirit empowers our messages and manner and how scripture gives us guidance and many excellent (and a few not so excellent) role models. Give your audience permission to step out in courage and say something! With God's help it just might bless the world!    
Original Publisher & Date: Orchard, 2019
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: This book can easily be connected to an individual or group of prophets in the Hebrew scriptures or the individuals who began the early church. Scriptures about hope are easily connected as are the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Also, What does the Lord require of you... (Micah 6:8)
Idea(s) for Application: Let this book guide a conversation that broadens the concept of prayer during a lesson or sermon for children, youth, and/or adults.

Friday, April 5, 2019

World Pray-ers

Today I continue my focus during Lent on picture books about prayer. This is a fabulous first book about prayer practices all over the world. Use in church or school settings for some great learning about faith all over the world! Such knowledge will help your young ones be more respectful and compassionate when they are teens and adults.
Picture Book: Everyone Prays:                                                                          Celebrating Faith Around the World
Author: Alexis York Lumbard 
Illustrator: Alireza Sadeghian
Summary: This book begins with "It's a wide world of faith." What wise words to enhance a child's journey into the meaning and value of prayer! Those who are young will find a rich vision of what prayer looks like beyond their own faith tradition. 
In the illustrations, they'll find a gorgeous array of prayer rituals across the globe. Christians, Jews, and Muslims get a first mention; 
 Hindus and Buddhists do too.
Prayer practices of other less common religions are mentioned as well. The images are beautifully rendered.  
Places of worship get a good deal of attention, particularly in the images. 
 These include praying outside in nature. 
A few prayer objects are listed such as books, beads, and candles. Look for others.  
The contrast is drawn between those who pray while still and those who pray via singing and dancing.
Water gets special attention here. It's used prayerfully in varying ways. 
Also, head coverings are mentioned. Some cover their heads when praying and some do not.
When a community or individual is likely to pray is also explored briefly. Baptism, perhaps the most joyful ritual for very young Christians, is depicted, 
but prayers for comfort and peace are mentioned as well. 
This last illustration is worth a conversation all on its own. Invite your children to talk about hypothetical whos, whys, whens, and wheres of this illustration and help them relate it to their own lives. 
Hanna’s Comments: I really like the simplicity of this book. You can tell this author understands the conceptual limits of young children. The illustrations are vibrant and will draw interest. Be sure all audience members can see the details. Bring with you to the lesson materials for some sensory experiences (incense, prayer rug, menorahs, crosses, etc.) and pass these around. Even better, invite a few people from other religions to talk personally about their own prayer practices and invite them to bring an object. Be sure to have a few people from your own tradition who will offer varying experiences. You don’t want the children thinking that everyone within a tradition prays in the same manner. Be sure to spend time beforehand with the information in the back of this book about the world's religions and these illustrations specifically. Then you'll be able to answer questions that might arise.
Original Publisher & Date: Wisdom Tales, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Depending on the direction of your conversation, any scripture on prayer could be connected. Consider using these 3 from the Old Testament: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently… (Psalm 37:7); Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10); Create in me a clean heart O God… (Psalm 51:10) OR The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of young elementary-aged children to begin a rich conversation on general concepts and experiences of prayer. Later explore your church or church school’s specific theology and practices. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Prayer Every Which Way

Picture Book: Every Which Way to Pray
Author: Joyce Meyer
Illustrator: Mary Sullivan
Summary: With a cast of characters at the Everyday Zoo, prayer is examined in a way that is both fun and very wise. Each book in this series begins with a map and a character list.

Hayley and Harley see an angel-like figure in the distance. They think the angel is closer to heaven because it is so high and wish they could fly. 
Pouch, a pelican, introduces himself and helps the children understand that being high in the air does not mean you are closer to God. "That's what prayer is for." 
But the hippos have thought of prayer as too hard, not something they can do. They've been reading The Rules of Prayer, a book that they happen to have handy. Other characters join in their discussion about prayer. 
The librarian assures them that prayer doesn't have to be "just right." And prayer can happen in places other than church. You can pray anytime, anywhere. You don't even have to be dressed up and you don't have to kneel and fold your hands. What a relief! Folding hands could be a problem! 
You can pray in all sorts of positions and while you are doing other things. For example, Bob and the bat gang pray upside down.
The book says you should pray in a soft voice, but Pounce demonstrates a powerful contrast. 
Prayer doesn't require any sound. See what the fireflies can do. 
Harley continues to read silly rules from the book about prayer. It says you should use "special holy words." But Pouch tells the zoo animals to simply talk to God like a friend. God even wants to hear the silly stuff. Pouch thinks God enjoys it and laughs at our silliness. You can talk as long as you want. A prayer may be no words or one simple, important word.  
Sarge comes along and offers more wisdom. He says: Prayer is simple. You talk. You listen. You praise. You thank. You ask advice. You stay in touch with your Maker.
Then Sarge explains something very important. Prayer has to come from your heart. That's it. 
Hanna’s Comments: I very much like the content and overall message of this book. It reminds me of the teachings on prayer of Anne Lamott, one of my favorite spiritual writers. However, these characters and setting won’t be so appealing to older elementary children and beyond. You might tell the story in a way that is less juvenile and therefore more appealing to older audiences. I would spend more time talking about what it means for prayer to "come from your heart." We hear this phrase often, but it is rarely explained. Talk about authenticity and vulnerability - two concepts important for spiritual formation. Use the fireflies page as an opportunity to talk more about nature and how it evokes and demonstrates prayer. Joyce Meyer is a prolific spiritual writer for adults. This is the first in her Everyday Zoo series and is based on her adult book The Power of Simple Prayer. There are several in the Everyday Zoo series including a Christmas book. Another I also liked is titled Wonderfully Made
Original Publisher & Date: Zonderkidz, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Keep your heart with all vigilance… (Proverbs 4:23); Call to me and I will answer you (Jeremiah 33:3); I will give you a new heart and a new spirit…I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh (Ezekiel 36:26); Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8); When you pray, go to your inner room… (Matthew 6:6); When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases… (Matthew 6:7);  … the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26); I urge that supplication, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people… (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of kindergartners who are learning that prayer is something they can do anytime and anywhere. OR Use the ideas in this book to create a lesson for a group of older individual.