It can be challenging to know how to read the Scriptures for ourselves, let alone with young children. The key is believing that when we hear (or read) the Scriptures we can encounter Jesus Christ. He can be present to us. This was Bishop Boyea’s intention for initiating this Year of the Bible. But how can we help children encounter the Lord through his word, to wonder at God’s majesty and the amazing gifts he has given us? While they may not understand every word, children are often struck by the beauty of the words of Scripture and by imagery related to the world around them and the greatness and love of God. A meditative reading of a verse or two each day, along with a few contemplative questions can be the beginning of a lifetime of meditating on the word of God.
If you have a prayer corner in your home, you may wish to light a candle there before a sacred image. Or if your children are as wiggly as mine, a few minutes during breakfast or dinner can ensure a captive audience. Choose verses with striking images—like stars, animals, angels—or with glorious language praising God. Read from a real Bible if possible, not an app or a printout. After reading the verses aloud, pause, then ask a meditative question about the reading—I wonder what makes God’s word so sweet? or What is it like when a light shines in the darkness?
If even a short daily reading feels daunting, here’s an idea that has made it easy for us, despite a passel of squirrely boys: I recently heard of an old Jewish custom of giving children a taste of honey while reading the words of Scripture. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103) After incorporating this into our daily Scripture reading, my children now remind me each day that it’s time for “Honey and the Bible”!
It’s easy to underestimate a young child’s capacity for God, to think we need to wait till the age of reason when they can better understand. But these little ones have a tremendous capacity to wonder at God’s love and power and the gifts he’s given us. As they internalize the words of Scripture, they are laying a foundation for a lifetime of prayer and love for God.
- Watch this video to see how to set up a prayer space in your home.
- For a short tutorial on how to read the Bible to children, watch this video.
- And for how to wonder about God using the Scriptures, watch this video.
Here are readings from the prophet Isaiah. There are a number of readings to choose from below. They have been chosen because they are appropriate for your child’s developmental ability. It would be good to choose one and follow the advice above. You may find that your children want, over the course of the week, to read the same verse again so they can wonder about its meaning and experience the presence of God. If they ask for another than move on to another one. Resist the temptation to “get through” all of these each week. Respond to your child and his/her desire for God.
"[Those] who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants...these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer." (Is. 56: 6-7)
- I wonder what it means to join yourself to the Lord...
- I wonder what it means to be the servant of the Lord...
"Peace, peace, to the far and to the near, says the Lord; and I will heal him."
- What does it mean to be at peace?
- I wonder how God might heal us...
"You shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am...The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things."
- Have you ever called to the Lord? I wonder what answer he might give...
- What good things might we desire from the Lord?
“And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore.”
- I wonder what it means for God’s spirit to be upon you...
- What words has God put in our mouths?
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you...And nations shall walk by your light, and kings in the brightness of your rising.”
- I wonder how we can arise and shine…
- What is it like when the glory of the Lord rises upon us?
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
- Have you seen a bride in a white gown with beautiful jewels?
- I wonder what a robe of righteousness would be like...
“You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord.”
- I wonder what name the Lord has given to you…
- What does it mean to be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord?
“I will recount the merciful love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness...which he has granted according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”
- What great goodness God has granted to us!
- How can we tell of the merciful love of the Lord?
“O that you would tear the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known...and that the nations might tremble at your presence!”
- Can you imagine God coming in his mighty power?
- Do you think it would make the mountains shake and all the people tremble in amazement?
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth...be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create...The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”
- I wonder what the new heavens and the new earth will be like?
- Can you imagine a place where no one ever got hurt?
“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants.”
- How does your mother comfort you?
- I wonder how God comforts us?