Rosemary Bogdan reviews Melissa Kirking's new prayer manual for children, available from Ascension Press.
Jesus and Me: Talking with My Greatest Friend by Melissa Kirking is a lovely how-to manual of prayer for children. As the Introduction for Parents says,
This prayer book equips children with a clear step-by-step blueprint for a meaningful conversation with our Lord. It leads children through some basic forms of prayer in the life of a follower of Jesus: praise, contrition, thanksgiving, and petitions (intercessions).
The first few pages answer the questions why, where, and how should I pray. The four kinds of prayers are introduced and the use of a prayer journal is suggested. “Just write and draw what is in your heart and soul as a way for you to get closer to Jesus.” I love this idea. The child is reminded that there is no need to be perfect. Those who don’t yet write can draw pictures. Even those children who do write might find some feelings easier to express in pictures.
“Jesus is THE most amazing friend you could ever have.” What a sweet and true message for a child to hear. “Jesus wants you to share your worries and your joys with him. In fact, he wants to share everything with You!” Yes, He does, and don’t we want our children to know it. I love this message that we spend time with Jesus because He is our friend.
In words a child can understand Melissa Kirking tells how to be still and “Just BE with God.”
She goes on to explain how to listen to God and how He might speak to you. Examples are through your thoughts, your feelings, or through Scripture.
Sometimes, he talks to you when you read or listen to a prayer or hear the homily at Mass. It may make you light up and think, "Oh!" Other times, Jesus’ words might cause a feeling of peace or love to come over you.
This is not a picture book, but there are some beautiful fine art pictures at the beginning of each section. It’s 151 pages plus notes. Sturdily spiral bound it is easy to lie it open and flat while looking at a double page. The print is also large for simpler reading for children. Each section is conveniently color coded for easy reference.
There are saint quotes, sample prayers of saints, prompts for writing in your prayer journal, lists of words to know, and even suggestions for contemplation, such as this one after reading Psalm 100: “Imagine making a joyful noise to God. What does it sound like?”
I would suggest this book for children maybe ten and up, or younger children reading together with a parent. There are some rather advanced theological concepts explained in simple words, but still best understood with a parent to further explain and to answer questions. Reading a few pages with children before going to bed might be a wonderful way to relax and turn little hearts toward God before nodding off to sleep.
Jesus and Me would also make a wonderful homeschool resource. Writing practice could include the journaling or copying of saint quotes or Scripture. There are praise litanies written in children’s language that could be said as a family. The Words to Know sections could be great for vocabulary as well as religious ed.
The “Prayer in Praise of God” by Saint Francis of Assisi would be a wonderful memorization or writing assignment. There are others as well: “Offering and Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola” and Saint Augustine’s “Prayer to the Holy Spirit.”
I love some of the images presented in this book. “Closing your eyes, imagine that you are a sponge. But instead of soaking up water, you soak up lots and lots of Jesus’ love. So much love that you drip his love everywhere you go and on everyone you pass. You could even squeeze Jesus’ love on someone else who might be ‘dry,’ sad, or in trouble.” Children will be able to understand this idea of receiving the love and grace of God through prayer and then passing it on to others. The concrete metaphor is one children can grasp.
One activity suggests, “Ponder how God sees things differently than you do.” The child is reminded, “If you look at people sitting by themselves, you might think they want to be left alone, but God sees that often those people feel all alone and could use a friend.” Adults may also learn from this book. Such good yet simple reminders. “Close your eyes now and know that Jesus is here with you this very second. Even if you can’t feel it, his love warmly and wonderfully surrounds you.”
There is a discussion of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Corporal Works of Mercy, how to pray the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, as well as a section on Eucharistic Adoration. Just reading a few pages at a time could make for wonderful family discussions.
I recommend Jesus and Me as a resource for families with children of any age. Children maybe ten and up could enjoy reading and praying with this book on their own. It would also be a great resource in parish and Catholic school libraries.
Jesus has said to let the little children come unto Him. This book can help our little ones to do just that.
Ask for Jesus and Me: Talking with My Greatest Friend at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from the publisher, Ascension Press.
Copyright 2023 Rosemary Bogdan
Images: (top, bottom) Canva; others courtesy of Ascension Press
About the Author
Rosemary Bogdan is a wife, mother of six adult children, and a grandmother. She homeschooled her children when they were young and currently substitute teaches at her favorite Catholic school. When not spending time with her family, Rosemary writes at A Catholic Mother's Thoughts and Catholic365.com.