Thursday, October 15, 2015

Teaching your children about prayer

An interview with Catherine DeVries,
Author of Let’s Learn about the Lord’s Prayer


This fall, David C Cook is launching a new series for toddlers and preschoolers that combines word and song to help young children memorize scripture. The first book in the HeartSmart series, Lets Learn about the Lords Prayer (September 1, 2015/ISBN: 9780781412698/$10.99) by bestselling author Catherine DeVries, not only introduces children to Bible memory, but teaches them about how to pray.

Q: Your new book, Let’s Learn about the Lord’s Prayer, is the first installment in the new HeartSmart series for children. Can you tell us a little bit about the series?

HeartSmart is a Scripture memory series designed to create opportunities for children to fill their hearts with God’s Word. HeartSmart combines key scriptures with songs, giving parents a spiritual formation path for building a strong foundation of faith.

Q:  Why did you decide to use the Lord’s Prayer as the first passage of scripture in the series?

I was thinking about what Scripture is generally memorized by children — not just one verse but a complete thought. That led me to the Lord’s Prayer. Not only is it the model Jesus gave us for how to pray, but it also invites us all to talk with God through prayer. God wants to have a relationship with us, and it is important to express that to children early in their faith development. The Lord’s Prayer is often said around the dinner table, so I also wanted to equip parents and grandparents with a natural way to invite children to participate in this tradition at home. Many churches still say the Lord’s Prayer during the service, maybe not every week, but at least a few times during the year. By knowing the Lord’s Prayer, children are also invited to participate in community worship.

Q: Emma, the narrator of your story, could be compared to another little girl popular among pre-schoolers, Dora the Explorer. In what ways are they similar, and what makes Emma unique?

This part of the series is geared toward preschoolers, so I want to offer readers an opportunity to interact with the story and even to be part of the story. When I have observed children, including my own, watching Dora the Explorer, I love how engaged they are with her. They actually do talk to her through the screen and answer her questions. It’s all part of their beautiful, creative imaginations at work. To them, talking to a screen is natural. My hope is that talking to a book also feels natural. Every time parents sit down with their child and this book, the reading experience will be slightly different, depending on the child’s response to Emma’s questions. This interactive nature of the text is true for all the board books in the series, and children will get to meet a different child in each book.

Q: Why did you choose to have Emma teach the Lord’s Prayer to her toy bear, Blueberry, instead of Emma learning it herself?

Preschool children learn through play and, more specifically, play scripts. Have you ever heard a child speaking to her stuffed animals and dolls or to his dinosaurs and legos? These times are not only fun, but they are times when children process information. They “try on” various things they have heard and start to synthesize what they are learning. It seemed natural that Emma would involve her teddy bear and want to teach it something important to her. Again, fostering that emotional connection to the Lord through relationship is so important. That’s why Emma says that Blueberry reminds her of another friend she has: Jesus.

Q: At the end of the book there is a code to download a song that accompanies the book. Please tell us more about the song.

This song is the exact wording of the Lord’s Prayer that readers will see in the book. It is a custom song created by talented musicians and sung by a mother and young child. The music is simple to follow and is a beautiful expression of this prayer. If you go to the HeartSmart website at Davidccook.com/Heartsmart, you will be able to download the song that goes along with each book in the series. You’ll also find updates about the series and what I’ve been up to as the author.

Q: How do songs help children learn scripture?

Songs engage the audio part of a child’s brain. Rather than just hearing the words, children will remember them better when the words are put to song. As an example, whenever my children needed to learn a new phone number or new house address, I created a simple song to help them remember it. Then we could have fun practicing it together. Thinking back to my childhood, I still remember many Bible-based songs from church: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he!” “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” “Jesus loves me, this I know.” I could go on for a while! Not only do I still know these songs, but I also have a positive, emotional connection to them. I believe we want the same for our children.

Q: Why is it important for our spiritual life and communication with God to understand the Lord’s Prayer?

We need to remember God wants to talk with us. He wants us to share what’s going on in our lives with Him because He wants a relationship with us as His children, no matter what our age. The Lord’s Prayer is structured in such a way to teach us to honor the Lord first, to thank Him for who He is. Once we have acknowledged that, we bring our requests to the Lord — providing for our needs and helping us steer clear from temptation. With thankful hearts, we once again honor the Lord by remembering He is all-powerful and we want to follow Him in all we do.

Q: In what ways have you emphasized prayer in your own home while raising your children?

We try to have meals together as much as possible. Before we eat, we take turns praying. One person prays for us all on that day. On Sundays, we always pray the Lord’s Prayer together as a family. Brad and I have also encouraged our children to pray at night before bed. We started with, “Now I lay me, down to sleep,” but then added on blessings to our friends and family members. When the kids were old enough, we invited them to talk to the Lord about the day. We also have a tradition of praying in the car before leaving on a big trip. We ask for the Lord’s presence with us and that He will give us safe travels and protection. One other thing we do is pray whenever we see an ambulance or Life Alert helicopter. We live near a hospital, so this is a regular occurrence as we drive around town doing errands. I just love how my kids initiate it now when they see these visual reminders to pray for others.

Q: Do you think parents place enough emphasis on their children’s spiritual formation?

I think parents aren’t always sure where to begin or what to do. We can no longer assume parents have had a Christian upbringing in the church, have a good grasp of Scripture and the stories from the Bible or even feel comfortable praying. Yet we still get a strong sense they desire to give their child a spiritual foundation. The HeartSmart series is meant to come alongside parents or grandparents with encouragement and support. The beautiful thing about these types of books is the adults are learning right along with the children.

Q: We’ve all heard — and perhaps even chuckled — at the cute prayers of little children. Do you think God hears and answers their prayers?

I have learned so much about faith through the eyes of my children, as well as other children. Jesus talks about how strong the faith of a child is and how we all should seek that depth of faith (Isaiah 11:6; Matthew 19:4). Yes, I know in my heart that God hears every prayer. It is up to Him how He chooses to respond to prayers. He might not answer in the way we expect Him to, but we can rest in knowing He knows our heart, hears us and is with us every step of the way through life’s journey. He wants what is best for us (Jeremiah 29:11), and we can trust in that.

Q: Did you read a lot with your parents when you were little? What do you remember about those moments?

My mother read to me, my older sister and younger brother. I remember “seeing” The Chronicles of Narnia unfold in my imagination and being on the Minnesota prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family on the frontier. It was a special time when we gathered together, pushed pause on life and got swept away to another place. The power of reading is amazing, and when we attach faith messages and learning to it, we are talking about a lifetime faith that begins to develop and grow in the lives of children,

Q: What upcoming releases in the HeartSmart series can readers look forward to?

We will have a book coming out every fall and spring for the foreseeable future:
  • Let’s Learn about Psalm 23 (preschoolers have a play date with Jackson at his grandparents’ farm) will be out in spring 2016.
  • Let’s Learn about the Armor of God (preschoolers have a playdate with twins Olivia and Jacob at the beach) follows in fall 2016.
  • God’s Blessings for Baby for new parents is scheduled for spring 2017.
  • The main HeartSmart Bible Storybook for children ages 4-8 will be coming out in the fall of 2017. It features all the characters from the board books, now a few years older, introducing each Bible story with a scenario from their own lives. They tell the story from their perspective, then join up with a parent, grandparent or mentor to tie it together with a memorable Scripture passage. There will be songs, too!


By the time the entire series is launched, we will have books and songs for parents of newborns and toddlers, preschoolers, all the way to children age 8.


For more information on the HeartSmart series, visit HeartSmart.DavidCCook.com .




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