Little Prayers for Ordinary Days by Katy Bower Hutson, Flo Paris Oakes, and Tish Harrison Warren isn’t a bad book, but it’s very much an incomplete one. The book includes twenty-nine prayers that cover most of a day, from waking up to bedtime. A typical prayer is the one “For when I have to eat something I don’t like”
“God, I’d rather be eating something else.
Help me to still be grateful.
Thank you for the way this food makes my body strong.
I wonder if you ever had to eat something you didn’t like.
Let me ‘eating it anyway’ give you praise.”
This is a fine prayer–and certainly not one restricted to children. It’s not like I’m super-psyched about eating kale or lima beans or whatever. The prayers in this book are solid and worth working through with your children.
With that said, there are two things missing from this book that are essential–one of which is definitely a part of every child’s “ordinary day” and one which we pray will be part of every child’s ordinary day. The first is sin. Yes, there’s a prayer for “when I do what I shouldn’t”, and another “for when I break something.” Both prayers are fine, but both also… soften… the reality of sin. I don’t know that they need to go full Puritan “New England Primer“:
“When wicked children mocking said,
To a good man, Go up bald head,
God was displeas’d with them and sent
Two bears which them in pieces rent,
I must not like these children vile,
Displease my God, myself defile.”
But there should also be something more than the bit included in this book. Because sin is very much a part of a child’s “ordinary days.” (And an adult’s “ordinary days,” of course. But that’s not what this book is about.)
Which leads to the second thing missing here that we should pray will be a part of every child’s ordinary day: Christ. Jesus is utterly absent from this book of prayer. Which means that any kind of meaningful atonement, substantive ideas of forgiveness, intercession, substitution, and all the other components of the Gospel that make Christianity actual good news are absent. Obviously in a children’s prayer book we may not use those specific theological terms, but by leaving out Christ even the ideas are absent. And here we should go a bit Puritan, also from the New England Primer: “I pray thee for Christ’s Sake, forgive me whatsoever I have done amiss this Day, and keep me all this Night, while I am asleep.” That simple line includes forgiveness, sin, and atonement not in full-bore theology, but in simple child-like form. Leaving this out (in whatever form) is leaving out the Gospel, and that’s the one thing we can’t do.
Again, none of this says this is a bad book, just that it’s one that you’ll definitely need to supplement if you use it.