Saturday, February 6, 2010

This Little Prayer of Mine--A Mother's Review

         In January 2010, WaterBrook Press published Anthony DeStefano’s third book, This Little Prayer of Mine. Anthony DeStefano has a unique approach to the promotion of Christian beliefs in secular society. His first two books, A Travel Guide to Heaven and Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To are imaginative and colorful road maps to religious topics that are often discussed yet vaguely understood. Although he uses the Bible as a guide, DeStefano interprets heaven and prayer through the lens of his own creative vision and heartfelt convictions. Unlike a religious authority haranguing from a pulpit, DeStafano is a regular husband, father and businessman who also happens to be a modern Christian mystic. He is the CEO of a Catholic not-for-profit organization and has received numerous awards from international religious organizations, including the “Defender of Israel” medal from the Jerusalem Center for Peace Studies in 2003.

        This Little Prayer of Mine is a children’s book aimed at facilitating the practice of prayer in the home from a tender age. Parents and small children can be inspired by the simple and positive message contained within 33 pages delightfully illustrated by Mark Elliott. Upon receiving my hand autographed copy in the mail, I read This Little Prayer of Mine to my 1 year old and 3 year old sons. Like many parents of toddlers, my husband and I read to our boys each night before bed. Recently we have introduced books about God, the Bible, Jesus and prayer into the usual circuit. Religious instruction at such a young age is a delicate subject in many families, especially in modern society. Many families have mixed religious backgrounds and may not attend any place of worship regularly. Parents are often concerned about introducing metaphysical concepts to little children.

        How can we expect our children to understand communication with the Divine, a spiritual realm or an afterlife when our own beliefs on these subjects exist in such a nebulous territory? My own opinion closely mirrors this quote from Bernice A. King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King: “Every day we must live in a close, trusting relationship with God, always looking to Him for comfort and direction through prayer. This Little Prayer of Mine is the springboard for helping children to establish that type of lifelong relationship with our heavenly Father.” Throughout my journey in this life, I have always had the comfort of faith in God and the confidence and ability to pray to Him. Like anyone, I cannot claim to follow a perfect spiritual path. We should beware of any human claiming total mastery or perfection. Nonetheless, the lessons I learned as a toddler about taking my cares to God in prayer have remained with me to this day. We all have our trials to endure and we know that our children will suffer as well. Suffering is part of human existence. Teaching our children to pray is among our most noble and essential tasks as parents; Anthony DeStefano offers this accessible and enjoyable tool to get us there.

        For me, the defining characteristic of this children’s guide to prayer is its emphasis on honest communication with the Creator rather than ritualistic phrases or repetitive requests. From this book, children will learn that prayer is about sharing thoughts and feelings with God, not just asking for things they may want. Most importantly, there is no need to hide fear, sadness, regret or confusion from God. This Little Prayer of Mine teaches that God loves us as we are, children and adults alike. DeStafano seems to understand that God loves the whole person, not just the idealized version of who we are supposed to be as believers. This is an advanced concept, but one that can be modeled from early childhood. I want my children to share their deepest dreams and desires with God to nurture confidence in their own abilities. It is also crucial for me that my sons learn to accept themselves in the truest sense, and I believe that open communication with God is a cornerstone to healthy self-esteem. If there is one phrase I would like them to remember, it is this one: “But when I trust in you, my God, and in your plan for me, I know there’s nothing in the world that I can’t do or be.”

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