Friday, March 22, 2019

Finger Prayers

Last week, I featured a stunning book about centering prayer. Today’s book about prayer couldn’t be more different. Where the former book was somewhat ethereal and cerebral, today’s book is practical and literally hands-on. Don’t let the look of this little board book keep you from using its contents as lesson inspiration for those beyond preschool age. These simple techniques can be tools for everyone.
Picture Book: Praying with My Fingers:                                                        An Easy Way to Talk with God
Inspired by: Pope Francis
Summary: With rhyming verse, 5 little prayers are explained while being paired with joyful illustrations. 
Each finger offers a category of prayer. 
The tall finger is a reminder to pray for our leaders. Be sure to encourage your audience to consider leaders in your church as well as political leaders at home and far away. 
The thumb prayer is a reminder to pray for those closest to you - your family members. Consider having them place their thumbs on their chests or hearts.
The pointer finger is a cue to pray for all those who show us the way (teachers at church & school). I would include prayers for those who teach them elsewhere, such as sports or scout leaders.
The ring finger is the weakest so it encourages us to pray for those who are vulnerable whether weak, sick, or small.  
The pinkie finger is a wiggler. It will remind your audience to pray for their own wiggly selves. Wiggling here can be about wiggling bodies and attention spans.  
The book ends with encouragement to start all over again. I think for the sake of practice and recall that is a good idea, but during authentic prayer, I would encourage that they move to prayers of thanksgiving. Here each finger could be a reminder to be thankful for those same categories of people or even situations. 
Hanna’s Comments: I'm not sure why this book starts with the middle finger. Feel free to adapt this method as you see fit. If teaching to older folks, you might even add a hand gesture and pair it with another type of prayer. For instance, the whole hand could remind you to pray for the entire Body of Christ. The back of the book says this prayer form is not new but has been lately connected to Pope Francis' time as Archbishop of Argentina. Regardless of its origin and size, this little book offers a powerful set of prayers that could be meaningful for anyone since it offers an accessible tool for 5 simple but important prayers.
Original Publisher & Date: Paraclete, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Call to me and I will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things (Jeremiah 33:3); When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases… (Matthew 6:7); Ask, and it will be given to you… (Luke 11:9); Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17); 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 preschoolers and practice the prayers together. OR Adapt these prayers and hand gestures for a lesson to elementary-aged children and encourage them to come up with other body prayers. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Centering Prayer for Everyone

Picture Book: Journey to the Heart:                                                              Centering Prayer for Children
Author: Frank X. Jelenek
Illustrator: Ann Boyajian
Summary: This beautiful book encourages all children of God to take a journey by simply sitting quietly and being with God. Even preschoolers can follow these simple steps. 

First the concept of soul (the deepest part of your heart - the home of God inside you) is introduced and explained as the destiny of this holy journey. This book is trinitarian: I am made in God's image and I'm like Jesus, too, and a part of me is filled with the Holy Spirit.

It is recommended that you choose a secret word or phrase for the Holy One you seek. It's like a key that opens the door to begin the journey. After sitting  silently, with eyes closed and feet on the floor, repeat your word like a whisper in your heart where only God can hear it and will whisper back "I love you." An introductory phrase is suggested (Welcome Holy Spirit, pray with us and in us today.)
The book addresses the inevitable distractions, the noises outside and inside of you. (...that's okay just say your secret word again, silently and slowly in your heart. Let your thoughts go... Let them float right out of your head.)
Six minutes of silence are suggested. It is important to know and trust that God will hear you. 
The directions are geared toward a small group experience, but praying in this way while alone twice a day is encouraged, such as part of a morning routine and before going to bed. The author is a member of Father Keating’s Contemplative Outreach, a highly respected organization dedicated to teaching centering prayer practices.
Hanna’s Comments: I think meditation is key to a balanced, meaningful life. Centering prayer is the church's purest form of it. Teaching this practice to your faith family would be a gift and a way to make them not only more resilient but also more godly. Unlike most PBT books, I do not recommend reading this entire book aloud. Glean from it wisdom for yourself and your audience. Use the words in a way that best serves them and your particular objectives. I used this book at a prayer station recently. The program was for adults, but centering prayer is so intimidating that I thought adults might respond to the picture book since it is so inviting. They did. Most importantly for this book, it gives you the conceptual grounding and language to help anyone access the beauty and benefits of the practice of centering prayer. This book comes from The Roman Catholic Church, so it recommends ending the practice with the Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer). This is optional, of course, but it would be a nice way to integrate Jesus' teaching about prayer into your lesson. 
Original Publisher & Date: Paraclete, 2007
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently… (Psalm 37:7); Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10); Call to me and I will answer you (Jeremiah 33:3); When you pray, go to your inner room… (Matthew 6:6); The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13); … the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
Idea(s) for Application: Use parts of this book to help folks of all ages in your faith family learn more about the grounding spiritual experience of centering prayer. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

More Books for Lent & Easter

Today I’m adding to last Friday's post with lists of PBT books I've featured more recently. Like before, I'll give you hyperlinks via the book titles. Books for younger children are first in each list. Keep in mind that some books could be in several lists. 
Remember these books may not directly relate to the themes I've listed. Instead, many books are starting points. Your job will be to steer your audience to the themes you most want to explore. For more explanation of these particular liturgical events, read my previous post.

Ash Wednesday and Lent in General
On this day, we remember Jesus' time in the wilderness being tempted by evil. Lent in general is a time of being inspired by Jesus' devotion and humility. Prayer and repentance are other important themes. These books will help you talk about these difficult subjects:

These books could lead to a conversation about refraining from distractions or waiting with hope for Easter:

These are books about prayer:
Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday is a celebration of the hope that Jesus brings and abounds with praise that he deserves. In this list are books about both of these concepts:     
About Hope:
God's Dream                                      
Psalms for Young Children                         
The Upper Room (Maundy Thursday)
Here we have the first communion ritual (bread, wine, and a call to remember) and Jesus washing his disciples’ feet (a call to service).
These books connect with at least one of these themes: 
Connect these picture books with the story of Jesus on the cross because they are either about the concepts of sacrifice, forgiveness, death or grief:
The Rainbow Fish
The pivotal event of the Christian faith is a celebration of joy, beauty, divine power, possibility, and transformation. At least one of these themes are connected to these picture books: