My Prayer Journal
My Prayer Journal from International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is a good start to helping our children learn about what the IOCC is doing, both in our country and abroad. It helps the children learn about other places, recognize the needs there, and formulate prayers to ask God to meet those needs.
Each month, the journal presents one area of need and the IOCC’s response to that need. Each spread features a map of the world, showing where the needy area is, and outlining the shape of the country in need. The spread includes several pictures from that country, a fast fact about the country, a related quote from the church fathers, a selection of a prayer from the Divine Liturgy, and a verse from the Scriptures. There is also room for the children to write what they’re praying for and what they’re thanking God for.
When I first used the book with my children, I had to talk them through what they could pray about. As they have continued to work in the book, however, I am amazed to see them begin writing almost as soon as we have finished reading the information. They find ideas or inferences in the information that leads them to praying for the needy people, and they always have something to thank God for, as well.
After we read and the children write their prayers, we stand before the icon of Christ blessing the children that we have on the wall in our schoolroom, and pray. The children have prayed their written prayers as well as other unwritten ones, for the people they’ve just learned about. It has been a beautiful way for us to work on helping the children pray in their own words for the needs of others.
In addition to the journal, the IOCC offers "extenders" online which give more information about the country, a fun activity related to the country to do together, a story from someone in the country about how the IOCC’s intervention has been helpful, and an idea for how kids can help. This added information helps to meet the one criticism that my children had of the journal: they wanted more information about each location!
Thaniel, our 7-year-old second grader, likes the journal because "it helps me get to know more about places and what to pray about the places." Our 10-year-old 5th grade daughter Katia recommends the journal to others so that "they would learn more about countries and know that everyone is not like us with all the money and stuff that we have in the USA." She also hopes that readers will "know that they shouldn’t brag about having more money, but should help other places (in need)."
St. John Chrysostom said "For in nothing do we draw so close to God as in doing good to man." Through My Prayer Journal, our family is finding that the IOCC is working at just that. Thankfully, they have created a way for our children to learn about their endeavors and help by adding their prayers and donations. May we all together join the hosts of saints already praying for the needy people of our world, and do what we can to help them. This booklet is a good place to start.
NOTE: The booklets are available in August of each year. To order individual copies, go online at www.iocc.org/journal. For parish orders, contact the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese toll-free at 1-800-566-1088. The prayer journal is free, but shipping charges may apply.
Reviewed by Kristina Wenger. Kristina and her husband Timm help children learn about other cultures with their organization, Kids and Cultures (www.KidsAndCultures.com). They attend St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, Pa.