How do you put church history, theology, and practical instruction on prayer all together into a children's book? You write about Martin Luther getting a haircut, of course!
In "The Barber Who Wanted to Pray", R.C. Sproul has come up with a clever way to bring down to a children's level Martin Luther's occasional tract, "A Simple Way to Pray". As one would expect from Sproul, the text is weighty and informative, yet written in a clear and simple style. And to further hold the attention of children (and adults), each page of Sproul's text is complemented by a beautiful full-page illustration from T. Lively Fluharty.
The book starts out with fictional Mr. McFarland leading his children in family devotions. His daughter asks how to pray like her Dad, which launches Mr. McFarland into the true (but obviously embellished) story of Martin Luther's barber, Master Peter, asking Dr. Luther how to pray. Luther is cheered that Peter wants to grow as a Christian so he goes home and writes "A Simple Way to Pray", and then comes back and talks with him about praying through the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, and the Apostle's Creed (which can be found at the back of the book). Peter thinks that this means just repeating the Lord's Prayer a lot, but Luther explains that it means to take each line of the prayer as a launching point to pray about what it means that God is Father, gives us our daily bread, etc. Master Peter is glad for this helpful instruction in prayer from the great Reformer, as is Mr. McFarland's daughter who requests another round of family devotions so that she can try out this new way to pray.
Practical History for Kids
Most of the Christian children's books available are either Bible stories or simple devotional tales, some very fluffy. For that reason, "The Barber Who Wanted to Pray" is a unique children's book, as it draws from the well of church history for its teaching. Most people, including adults, don't know a lot about history, especially church history, so this book is a great way to introduce kids to a very significant bit of Protestant history. And because it is a practical book about prayer, there is the added benefit of showing kids that history is not just about boring names and dates, but offers us valuable resources for the Christian life.
For Older Kids
As soon as I got the book in the mail, I sat down to read it with my 5 year old. He sat fairly attentively, but when I got to the end, he said, "Never read that to me again." I thought, "Oh no, how am I going to write a book review about this?!" A few days later, however, when I was out, my wife reported that he requested the book specifically and really enjoyed it. And he has started to spontaneously integrate paraphrases of the Lord's Prayer into his own prayers. With that said, I got the feeling that as good as it is, Sproul's book is aimed at kids who are bit older than mine, maybe in the 8-10 year old range and above.
The Family Context - Ideal and Otherwise
One of the nice features of Sproul's telling of the Luther and Master Peter story is that he bookends it with the tale of a family doing their evening devotions. I appreciated this context to the rest of the book because it models how fathers should be leading their families spiritually and instructing their children. As a model of how devotions can be done, I thought it was great -- albeit a bit idealized. After family prayers, Mr. McFarland's daughter asks, "Daddy, can you teach me how to pray in a way that will make Jesus happy and make me feel more comfortable?" On occasion, my kids have a good question like the girl in the story, but usually they just ask, "Can I get down now?" or "Can I have cookie?"
Overall, I really enjoyed Sproul's story of Luther and the instruction on prayer that was brought out in a practical way.... though I may need to wait a few years before my own kids are old enough to appreciate it. "The Barber Who Wanted to Pray" is a brilliant little nugget of church history for kids, and I hope more books like it are produced so that the younger generation will know the blessings to be had from our the rich heritage of faith.
Written by R.C. Sproul, I knew when I ordered it that I had a very good chance of being quite pleased - and I am! I teach 4th, 5th and 6th grade Sunday School and it was an excellent story and opportunity to introduce the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer. You will not be disappointed.
This book is an excellent book if you want to teach your child how to pray. They learn how easy it is to pray according to the Bible from author, R. C. Sproul, and Martin Luther. This book is based on a true tale. The author uses the Lord's Prayer, 10 commandments and the Apostles' Creed as the model to praying. This book is just a wonderful tool to have and will be referred to often I'm sure. The illustrations will delight both adults and children. They are just as beautiful as the story itself. They are painting by accomplished artist, T. Lively Fluharty.
a copy of this book was provided by crossway in exchange for my honest review.
In the storyteller fashion that has become his trademark R.C. Sproul once again delivers an engaging story that brings history, theology and practical religious training to life for children. As the story opens Mr. McFarland is leading family devotions. When one of his children wants to learn how to pray better he tells them the story of The Barber Who Wanted to Pray. Master Peter is the town barber and one day an outlaw walks into his shop for a cut and shave. Master Peter feels privileged that this outlaw would come and visit his shop, for the outlaw is none other than Martin Luther. While he is working Master Peter asks Dr. Luther a question that he has been struggling with - how to deepen his prayer life. Dr. Luther is happy to help and promises to return with help. The letter he writes is a book we know today as A Simple Way to Pray. Dr. Luther teaches us to pray through the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and The Apostle's Creed as a model to deepen our prayer life.
Positives: Children will love the storytelling abilities of R.C. Sproul! He has proven once again that he can weave a masterful tale. I loved the history that was incorporated into this story as well. This is a great introduction to young children of who Martin Luther is and gives them a glimpse of his passion for the gospel. I also enjoyed the end of the book when the father, Mr. McFarland encouraged his children to practice praying. Children should be encouraged that prayer is a discipline and that, while God always hears the prayers of His children, we can become better at prayer as we grow spiritually. The artwork is exquisite as well.
Negatives: Just a word of caution for those with young children, there is a part of the story that may cause concern. As Master Peter is using a razor it speaks of the idea of pressing hard on the razor on the mans neck and killing him. Use your best judgment with your children as to if this is appropriate.
Talking Points: Continue to talk to your children and teach them about the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) and the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3-17). While the story begins the explanation and gives wonderful examples of how to pray through these Scriptures children may need continued instruction. It is important that you teach them what these Scriptures are teaching. Instruct them on the meaning of these passages so that they can learn to pray in the truth. Take the Apostles' Creed (written in the back of the book) and find Scripture verses that correspond with the truths written in it. HERE is a link that may be helpful. Encourage your children to talk to God often and give them an example to follow by praying with them regularly as well. This is a discipline so many of us want to grow in, why not give your children all the help you can when they are young!
Age Level: 3-10 years of age
I received a free copy of this book from Crossway Publishers for this review.
When we read a book that is theological in nature, we ought to be asking ourselves "Does this present truth? Is this glorifying to God?". When we are reading a theologically based book to our children, we need to be doubly sure of the firm standing of the author and of his work. In these days of weak, me-centered, man-exalting, theological quagmire, this is a very difficult assignment for parents. However, where difficulties for godly parents arise, God comes and gives more grace. He has granted us a bit of grace in the books written for children by Dr. R. C. Sproul. Beautiful pictures, deep theological truths, exceptional writing: these are the ingredients that make up most of the books for children that he has written. The Barber Who Wanted to Pray is no exception.
One of the weaknesses in modern Christianity is that most Christians either don't understand how to pray or simply rarely take the time to pray deep and hard. Dr. Sproul is obviously aware of this need and, like the theologian, teacher, father and grandfather that he is, he has responded to it. The Barber Who Wanted to Pray is an excellent resource for parents and is based upon Martin Luther's book on prayer, A Simple Way to Pray, that he wrote in answer to a request by his barber.
This book, like Martin Luther's, shows us how to exalt the name of the Lord in prayer, how to go deeper in prayer, how to pray in such a way that, not only are our needs met, but that, more importantly, we learn to know God in a deeper, more intimate, way.
My children thoroughly enjoyed this book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It has earned a permanent place on our shelves and in our hearts.
DISCLAIMER: I received a free copy of this book from Crossway as part of their blogger review program. I was not required to give a positive review, only a fair and honest one. My opinions are my own.