Sometimes, you go out looking for books. You pillage the shelves of the used bookstore or library, book list in hand, or you find in the free boxes outside either place books you didn’t know you were looking for, books whose covers call to you or whose titles ring some bell in your memory and so you bring them home for closer scrutiny.
Sometimes you find books at library book sales, where the room is too small and the patrons surprisingly aggressive (these are books and they are dirt cheap and people really, really want them), but you have found so many diamonds in the rough this way that you stand outside the library at 9:58 on the first day of each sale with two dozen or so other dedicated hopefuls. When the doors open, you try to be civilized.
Sometimes, you go out looking for books. And sometimes, books find you. You receive them as a gift, or they show up in a box of odds and ends from your mother-in-law who is cleaning out shelves and closets and found a few things she thought you might like. If you had not just heard the book read on Read-Aloud Revival, you might have overlooked it, but you did just hear it read and so you recognize it for the treasure it is when you open the box.
That is the origin story of our copy of Prayer for a Child. This is a short book, perfect for a small child, and it walks through a simple prayer line by line, illustration by illustration, touching on the different parts of a child’s life that are worth thanking the Lord for but that are so easily overlooked: parents, shoes, a favorite chair. The author’s emphasis on gratitude and the lilting cadence of the prayer make this a lovely read aloud.
I will be honest, though: Elizabeth Orton Jones’s illustrations didn’t appeal to me at first (even though she won a Caldecott medal for them). It wasn’t until I looked closely at the illustrations and realized that they encapsulate an aspect of childhood in the 1940s that I came to appreciate the historical depth that they add to the book. The dated look of them underscores the fact that this prayer is timeless, as applicable for children of our era as it was for the children of World War II.
And that is a beautiful truth: when it comes to gratitude, our kids need to hear it from children of other times and places, where things weren’t (or aren’t) as plentiful as they are here and now. They need us to show them what it looks like, to lead them along gently into those moments of reverence, when we see a good thing and tilt our chins upward in delight over the God who made such a thing—a bumblebee fumbling with a long-legged poppy, or the sun through a little sister’s golden hair.
Our children need prayers like this one—we need them—to help us notice and name the good gifts our Father has set out before us.
Prayer for a Child
Rachel Field, Elizabeth Orton Jones (1944)