Illustrated By: Hergie Hergenroeder
Geared Towards: Ages 3+
Publication Date: 2008
Several months back I was given the opportunity to meet with a local author, Cherlyn Sunflower, to discuss her up and coming children's devotional series titled Prayers from the Heart. As we sat down at Cherlyn's kitchen table and she began to tell me her thoughts behind the books and her vision for where it would go, I couldn't help but follow along and silently complete her sentences. So much of what she had to say regarding current children's devotional materials out there was an exact replica of my own thoughts.
As I've been thinking since my oldest was about two years old, it seems that so many of the available products today don't really teach the participating child how to pray. The devotional products themselves aren't bad but they are lacking. In order to train a child to explore and grow their relationship with God they should know how to actively communicate with God on more than a basic level. Prayer is a direct lifeline from God to man and visa versa, and not all prayers suit every circumstance. The prayers you'll likely find in most children's devotionals you see on any Christian bookstore shelf are cookie cutter prayers. They treat prayer as an impersonal, one size fits all, kind of thing. In reality though, prayer is the way we communicate with God and to do so on a personal level we should be praying prayers that mean something to us and relate to the life situations we are currently dealing with. A child who learns at an early age how to actively and personally connect with God will be eternally grateful.
"Prayers from the Heart is based on the results of six decades of
research on accessing children's thoughts and designing ways to help children
express themselves. Begun twenty years ago, the prayer topics, interactive
questions, and Bible Nuggets have been refined based on use with children and
parents of Protestant, Evangelical, Lutheran, Catholic, and other Christian
What is so great about Prayers from the Heart is that each book is packed full of wonderful lessons that help parents and teachers guide their children, ages 2 and up, to pray applicable prayers that they themselves develope to share their own feelings and thoughts with the Lord. The planning layout is simple, easy to understand, and even easier to apply.
The steps as laid out in Prayers from the Heart are as follows:
- Choose a prayer that relates to a REAL LIFE SITUATION currently in your child's/youth's heart. (Choose a prayer, type not actual pre-worded prayer, from the table of contents.)
- Tell child/youth that now is a good time to pray. (Move to the Get Ready to Pray step of the lesson.)
- Review a Bible Nugget. (Each lesson has a Bible Nugget section which is simply a selection of Bible verses that directly apply to the lesson topic.)
- Ask Questions that get your child/youth to apply this info to his/her life. (Move to the Brainstorming step of the lesson.)
- Ask child/youth to pray their own prayer. (Moving to the Let's Talk With God step.)
- Reassure your child/youth that God hears our prayers.
In this format, parents and teachers can aptly guide their children to focus their prayer time on something that actively affects them and is on a level they can personally understand. If they are praying for a person specifically instead of just a general all encompassing prayer, they are much more likely to invest themselves in the prayer and share deeper thoughts and emotions on that person's behalf than they would with a generic prayer on that unspecified person's behalf.The one thing that I really love about the Prayers from the Heart books is that they are not designed with any particular day to day structure in mind. In otherwords, unlike a traditional devotional that has you go from day one to day two to day three to day four in succession, Prayers from the Heart is designed to be followed as the child feels led. For instance, if today the child is feeling sad, you can flip to the lesson dealing with sadness. In it the child will be lead to ask, in his/her own words, God to help him/her overcome their sadness. If tomorrow the child is wanting to give thanks to God for helping him/her feel happy you can flip to the session on giving thanks. So while you could go straight through the book from one section to the next this really wouldn't behoove you or the child because you'd no longer be following the child's heart regarding what to focus his/her prayers on.
Another great aspect of the Prayers from the Heart books is that they are designed to grow with you and your child. As each prayer section comes with an EASY, NEXT STEP, and GOING DEEPER difficulty level. What this means is that each level inspires the child to think about what they are praying for and apply the concepts of the level in multiple different degrees. By doing so this allows the child to develope aneven deeper connection with God through their prayer life.In each book the author has included the Bible Nuggets on small wallet sized cards, so older readers can cut out the cards to carry with them when studying, applying, and possibly memorizing them to hide in their heart. Also to cut out their are prayer cards featuring important people that the child might pray for. He/she can cut out and color these cards, and then save them someplace safe as a reminder to include these people in their daily prayers. There are also several activity pages throughout the books that allow the child to list their blessings, portions of a particular prayer, thoughts, pledges to God, etc.
In short, I am honored to have been given the opportunity to sit down and talk with Dr Cherlyn about these books. She has spent countless hours researching, writing, revising, and more. And the hard work shows. I'm ashamed to say after all this time I still haven't sat down to actively begin going through these books with my daughters, but I have read through them both on my own and love the concept and material thoroughly. My goal is to do a prayer overhaul on the daily prayer time my girls have, and I intend to start this immediately with the Prayers from the Heart books by my side. I would strongly encourage anyone with children to look in to getting copies of these books for themselves. It is my belief that our children grow up way too fast, and in light of that fact we, as parents and teachers, need to be doing everything we can today to get them on the right path to having a fulfilling and meaningful relationship with the Lord. And I believe that Cherlyn's books are the right materials we need to help us do just that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
For the first twenty years of her career, Dr. Sunflower taught elementary and special education students in both private and public schools. For the last 25 years, she has provided instruction for prospective early childhood, elementary, and middle school teachers at University of Minnesota: Moorhead, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, Oral Roberts University, and Northeastern State University. She has taught Language Arts workshops all over the United States for classroom teachers and parents. Since retirement, Dr Sunflower has been active in children's and youth's ministry.
Dr. Sunflower's field of expertise is helping children express their thoughts and feelings. She has authored four popular resource books for teachers that help children capture their thoughts. Over 300,000 copies of these valuable resources have been printed and used in 63 countries:
- Really Writting (2006) - J. Wiley Publishers
- Real-Life Writing for Young Authors (2000) - Prentice Hall Direct
- Really Writting (1994) - Simon and Schuster
- 75 Creative Publishing Ideas (1993) - Scholastic Professional Books
Dr. Sunflower's training and experience in language arts, especialy with the composing process, has allowed her to cross over into this area of children's ministry. The same research-based methods for getting children to communicate with other people has proved extremely effective in getting children to compose and share their thoughts and feelings with God, their Father.
If you would like to order a complete copy of the Prayers from the Heart books to study or have any questions for Cherlyn, please feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. And visit her website at PrayersForChildren.org.