Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Barber Who Wanted to Pray

If you want to encourage your kids to show interest in family devotions or you want to give them ideas on developing a prayer life, R.C. Sproul's The Barber Who Wanted to Pray could be just the thing for your family.

The story begins with Mr. McFarland, a father who sits down nightly with his children to read the Bible and pray. One of his younger children complains her prayers are too simple and "weak." How can she learn to pray as beautifully as her daddy? So her father tells his children a tale from history:

Once there was a skilled barber named Peter who spotted an outlaw in his shop. The barber knew the man was wanted dead or alive, but he said nothing while he finished shaving another customer. When the outlaw finally sat down for a shave, Peter thought about the fact that he could easily press too hard with his razor, killing the outlaw and earning a lavish reward. But he didn't...because the outlaw was his hero.

The outlaw is none other than Martin Luther, who had made the "whole church...better because the reformer had been brave enough to stand up for the truth of the gospel of Jesus, as no one had since the days of the apostles." He had "recovered the gospel from darkness." Which got him in trouble with the powers that be.

Instead of turning Luther in, Peter asks him how he can learn to better pray. In response, Luther writes a book for Peter, called A Simple Way to Pray. He suggests Peter and others begin by "praying through" the Lord's Prayer.

"Think about the first petition in the Lord's Prayer, 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name.' When you think about these words, allow you mind and your heart to give careful attention to what these words say, and let them move you to deeper prayer....like this: 'O, God, it's hard for me to believe that You are really willing to be my heavenly Father. In our family, we have our father, whom we love, but You are the Father of all of us who put our faith in Jesus. It's because Jesus is Your Son and through Him You have adopted us into Your family, that we have the privilege to pray to You as our Father..."

Luther suggests the same process for "praying through" the Ten Commandments and the Apostle's Creed.

This story excites Mr. McFarland's children, and they can't wait to try it themselves.

The book ends with the full text of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the Apostles' Creed.

What I Liked: First and foremost, T. Lively Fluharty's illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. Set in shadowy circumstances, the images evoke classic art. They, alone, may hold your child's attention. I also appreciate the ideas about prayer presented here.

What I Dislike: It's not easy to critique the well known minister and theologian R.C. Sproul, but a better writer could have made this book more interesting. As it is, the book is short on story and big on "how tos." I would have preferred either a full fledged nonfiction book or a picture book with more emphasis on the story. This book did not hold the attention of my 6 year old, who normally can enjoy almost any book.

Overall Rating: Despite this book's flaws, it does offer parents some good ideas about teaching their children about prayer. I give it a rating of Good for younger children and Very Good for older children.

Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 4 to 8, but I think it will better hold the interest of children 8 and up.

Publishing Info: Crossway; 2011; ISBN: 978-1433527036; hardback, 40 pgs., $17.99.

Buy Now at Amazon.com for $12.23

OR buy at ChristianBook.com for $5.99

Special Info: Read our reviews of other R.C. Sproul books here. Read our reviews of illustrator T. Lively Fluharty's books here. Read Martin Luther's (adult) book A Simple Way to Pray.


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