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.

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