Writing to God: Kids’Edition
Rachel G. Hackenberg
You know what I find really hard? Teaching my kids to pray. What if I’m giving the message there’s some technique they have to master? I back off and don’t push them. But then, oh no: maybe I’m not giving them enough guidance? I find myself making suggestions for “improving” their table grace or bedtime prayers. Then I feel like I’m trying to orchestrate their encounters with God, so I give up and do the praying myself – hoping that somehow the modeling will wear off.
As with the rest of my life, so in this: I commend it all to the grace of God and try to get out of the way. (That’s pretty much any parenting book I would write. It’s a short book.)
This summer, though, once school is out and I have my daughter mostly to myself again, we are going to begin daily spending time with a little book called Writing to God: Kids’ Edition. Written by Rachel Hackenberg, it’s the children’s companion to her book for adults called (wait for it) Writing to God. I don’t think it will solve my anxiety around prayer instruction, but it will provide another avenue to actually practice it with my daughter – or better yet, to help her start her own daily conversations with God.
The structure of the book is pretty straightforward: seven different ideas for writing to God, each with a set of prompts to help kids compose written prayers. So, for example, idea #5 is “writing to God about ordinary events in your life.” Some of the prompts are “tell God about a time when you fell down,” “tell God something about waking up,” and “tell God about school.” Each prompt is introduced with a short, chatty paragraph, and the author gives examples of her own prayers or those of other children.
There are other, more imaginative, invitations to prayer as well. Some of my favorites were under idea #6, “try new words or pictures for God.” Kids are invited to imagine how God is like their favorite color, that he is as close to them as breath, and to describe what that’s like.
I’m planning on providing my daughter with her own prayer journal, and setting aside a little bit of time each day when we will both use one of the prompts to write to God. (I like these journals, because they have space at the top for illustrating: perfect for a 6-year old. We’ll spend an afternoon making it special – and less academic looking! – with washi tape. Older children may prefer a nicer leather-bound book.)
You could start from the beginning and work straight through, or dip in and out. She won’t have to show me what she writes, if she doesn’t want to, and best-guess spelling and illustrations are just fine. I’m hoping this exercise will be an introduction to prayer beyond the list of intercessions we recite each night.
To be clear: this book is not a theological treatise on prayer, which is kind of why I like it. In fact, there are sample prayers that are kind of cheesy, or silly: but honestly, so are a lot of my own prayers, too. This is a book that invites children to come before God, with their own words, without trying to come up with something that will please an adult. To invite God into the workings of their imaginations, and to share their thoughts and lives with him. To start what will hopefully be a lifelong conversation.