Book Review: The Barber Who Wanted to Pray

Teaching children to pray is one of the most important aspects of discipleship in the home. The discipline of prayer is one that is learned best through daily demonstration. Teaching children prayers that they can memorize can be helpful, especially at an early age. Helping them learn scripture is another great way to teach children how to pray. This is what the late R. C. Sproul sought to accomplish in one of his children’s books The Barber Who Wanted to Pray published by Crossway (2011).


The book opens at the home of the McFarland family. They are in the middle of family devotions, when one of the children expresses her disappointment with her ability to pray. Mr. McFarland then tells a fictitious story that becomes the focus of the rest of book. He tells the story of a sixteenth century barber in the town of Wittenberg who has an encounter with the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther. The barber, who is an admirer of Luther, asks him for some advice on how to pray. In the story, Luther goes home and writes a short book teaching the barber about prayer. His instructions are simple, pray through the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostle’s Creed each day. As one prays through each of these, they will be reminded of varying concerns and each prayer will be different. The book ends back in the McFarland home with each child wanting to take turns praying.


One important point that the book makes that is helpful for parents is that prayers are not meant to be a religious duty, but as a conversation with the living God. In the story, Martin Luther teaches the barber not just to recite the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostle’s Creed, but to pray through them. This proves helpful to teach children to use each of these as a guide in prayer, personalizing each to fit what is going on at they are praying. Although the guide is the same, each prayer will be different. 


The Barber Who Wanted to Pray is a great resource to use with children to teach them how to pray. The story is engaging and age appropriate. the illustrations by T. Lively Fluharty are well done and serve to aide the reader in story being told. Along with teaching children how to pray, the book can also serve as an introduction to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. I would recommend it to Christian parents who are looking for an engaging way to teach their children about prayer. 

Editor’s Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the book.