Guest Post: Hanna Schock on Children’s Books and Prayer Beads

Note: this post is the beginning of a new guest blog series. Periodically, I will invite people to share their expertise, background, and ideas, all of which relate to prayer or prayer beads. Today’s guest is Hanna Schock, who I first introduced you to two weeks ago. 

I’m so pleased to write a guest blog post for my friend Kristen. Like so many of you, her work on prayer beads has been a blessing that has enriched my prayers. Likewise, I am very grateful for her encouragement of me and my work. In her July 28th post, Kristen highlighted my daily blog Picture Book Theology (PBT) where I’m offering a picture book a day for a year to demonstrate that there is an enormous collection of evocative, spiritual material to be found in children’s picture books.


On my PBT blog, I explain how facets of your spiritual journey (everything from prayers to questions and personal stories) can be connected to picture books. I’m not recommending you read these books just because they are nostalgic or fun, though they often do evoke some delightful memories. More importantly, this kind of personal connecting encourages strong, broad, and deep learning, the kind of learning that sticks with you because it is especially meaningful and accessible.

Another reason I am so enthusiastic about picture books is that each year young children’s literature is getting richer, cleverer, more socially provocative, and more beautiful. While exploring this treasure trove, most of which can be found for free in your local library, you will be amazed at the personal significance you can glean from a young children’s picture book.

As Kristen encourages your use of prayer beads for personal spiritual formation, I’d like to encourage your prayer endeavors as well but through reading a picture book called “Knots on a Counting Rope.” This particular picture book has within it a rope which is knotted each time the boy hears the story of his remarkable birth, his mystical connection to his horse, and the way in which together they rapidly ride the trails despite the boy’s blindness.

Knots on a Counting Rope

This ritualized use of knots reminded me of what Kristen taught regarding the ways in which the Desert Fathers and Mothers used knotted ropes to facilitate their recitation of the Psalms in early Christianity. Like the boy in this picture book, the monks and nuns remembered who they were with each knot and Psalm. Both the boy and our religious ancestors were engaged in a grounding ritual, a legacy which they received from their forebears to remind them of their origin and orient them to their future.

Be inspired by this picture book! Hold each of your prayer beads while contemplating particular milestones in your life that have been definitive, both heartbreaking and celebratory. A prayer of thanksgiving can be linked to the next bead where you reflect on how you are thankful for each milestone, even the most difficult. After praying with your beads, you may want to list the milestones in your journal while considering how these experiences still ground you and orient you to your future.

May you be blessed with your use of prayer beads and picture books for a richer, more meaningful spiritual life.
Hanna Schock

6 Responses to Guest Post: Hanna Schock on Children’s Books and Prayer Beads

  1. In August Zondervan will be publishing a children’s book “Love Letters from God” written by a dear friend of mine, Glenys Nellist. Glenys has a heart for children and has written Sunday School curiculum of the United Methodist Church. Her husband, David, is a UM pastor with whom I worked for 8 years as his administrative assistant. Glenys was The Christian Education director for our church at that time, so we all worked together.

    • I hope your friend has success with her book. High quality spiritual literature for children is so crucial, Anita. Grace and peace, Hanna

  2. Hanna, thank you for your reminder of the gifts of children’s books. Once our little ones aren’t so little anymore, it’s great to be reminded of the rich lessons these books can provide.

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Betsy! Those little ones do grow up so fast, but I refuse to give up picture books! Hanna

  3. Many years ago I used my favorite children’s book, The Little Engine that Could as the basis of a sermon. Along with the scripture text I read the book to the congregation (mostly elderly). The reaction/response to the sermon was mixed. Some were offended that I would read them a children’s stroy while a few were encouraged.
    John Searcy

  4. John, please forgive my delayed response. I’m sorry your congregation’s reaction was mixed. There is always a risk when reading a picture book to adults that some of your audience will be critical, but many adults enjoy the nostalgia of the experience and “get” what you are doing. Besides, stories, even simple ones, are some of our best tools for connecting with God and with others. That’s why so many of us have favorite Bible stories. I hope you’ll try again. Children’s literature just gets better and better. Check out my blog for some picture book suggestions. Also, consider introducing the picture book by pointing out that many of Jesus’ parables would make (and a few probably are) wonderful picture books. Coincidentally, when I started my 365 daily blogs on Easter, I first offered The Little Engine That Could as a kind of encouragement and prayer that I could stick it out. Good luck and blessings for your ministry! Hanna Schock, Picture Book Theology Blog