There is a new Christian film which is opening in a week or two (August 28, 2015 War Room). The underlying theme is prayer, so they are releasing five new books on prayer to support the film. I was given an opportunity to review all of them. I’m still reading the ones for women and men, but wanted to give you my thoughts on the three for children and teens.
Peter’s Perfect Prayer Place by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (illustrated by Daniel Fernandez) is a delightful picture book on prayer for the youngest set. The little boy in the book keeps looking for the perfect place to pray. Of course, no place is just right until he discovers they all are perfect for talking with God. Most picture books on prayer are frankly just not that interesting. This one keeps an engaging story line while teaching an important concept about prayer.
The illustrations are cartoonish, but in a cute way. The back has a prayer journal type area which can be removed from the book. The chart has stickers the child can use to keep track of prayers and their answers. I wish the stickers were a little more clear that “no” and “wait” are answers as well as “yes” and reinforced it with the stickers. I’m afraid too many parents only believe God has answered prayers when he says “yes”. The stickers could unfortunately be used to reinforce the concept. Of the three books for young people though, I would say this is the one I love the most.
Prayer Works: Prayer Strategy and Training for Kids by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (with Amy Parker) is written for older children. The book takes the time to systematically go through many of the basic concepts about prayer. The book is written in a question/answer type format, although often the same question is asked multiple times with it answered in a different way each time. Although one could argue that may be a little confusing, it didn’t really bother me.
I am slightly concerned that there is a rather large developmental gap between the picture book and this one. The vocabulary, style and format are really more appropriate for upper elementary or even in some cases young middle schoolers. I would love to see a book similar to this one, but written more on a second grade reading level for children reading chapter books, but not quite ready for this one.
I had two major concerns with this book. I believe the authors reinforce the concept that God only answers prayers if He says “yes”. The idea of having a section entitled “Will God Answer My Prayers?” with the answer, “Trust Him When He Doesn’t”, really bothers me. The complete response implies God sometimes gives you other things or has different timing than you like, but I believe young children would come away because of the title believing a “no” or “wait” is an unanswered prayer. Perhaps in their view the “unanswered” prayer is not as bad as they once thought, but I still don’t like the idea of children believing a “no” or “wait” is not God answering their prayers.
I am also concerned, the book does not give a completely scriptural view of how to become a Christian. Although faith, repentance and confession are important parts of the process, to throw baptism in as an afterthought does not mesh with the scriptures that give the entire picture of how to become a Christian (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, John 3:5, I Peter 3:21, Romans 6:3 etc.). I am uncomfortable thinking children who are old enough to have reached the age of accountability, would become confused about what God truly wants them to do to become His followers.
Having said that, the book has plenty of value. I would suggest talking with any child who reads it about those two issues and provide some needed clarification. Other than those two critical points, it really is an excellent book about prayer. The other topics are handled well and quite thoroughly.
This Means War: A Strategic Prayer Journal by Stephen and Alex Kendrick with Troy Schmidt is more of a prayer journal than a straight book. Of the three resources they created for children and teens, this was by far my least favorite. I understand they were trying to get cutesy with the theme of the movie, but I felt the entire presentation would automatically turn off a majority of teen girls. I don’t know many who would even pick it up to read the back cover or flip through the book. Movie theme not withstanding, I wish they covered the same topics in a more neutral way for those who aren’t interested in anything related to “war”.
I guess the format on the inside was supposed to continue the military theme. I just feel like the more they push the “war” part of it, the more teens they lose. There are kids raised in certain parts of the country or in families with certain beliefs about guns and war who would also not be very inclined to pick up this book at all. On the other hand, if their target audience is the kids who play war video games for fun – great job! Those kids may just love this book.
This one is a journal throughout versus having the tear out materials in the back. Every entry starts with a “weapon”, which includes scriptures and usually some explanation. Then depending upon the topic, there may be one or more thought questions with space to answer them. Sometimes the journaling section is followed by more explanation of the topic. Each entry ends with a short challenge.
This journal does a great job of tackling more advanced questions about prayer. It also guides the teen through specific topics of prayer and asks the teen lots of thought provoking questions about the topic itself. The record keeping place in the back does show “no” and “wait” as answers. Once again though, they don’t do a great job in explaining how to become a Christian – in this book reducing it to “believe” and in another entry “believe” and “confess”. Sounds great until you remember James 2:19 and other places where demons believed and shuddered. I really believe they needed to add repentance and baptism to be truly helpful to their readers.
These are generally excellent resources for young people about prayer and praying. I would just caution you to discuss with any young people who will be reading them the idea of God answering prayers in multiple ways and how to become a Christian. You may want to even write in your own hand written notes on those pages – it will add your personal touch of love and help others to whom the book may eventually reach.
I can’t tell you anything about the movie that inspired these products, but I do think they will improve the dialogue in most homes about prayer and praying.
These products were given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.