Author: Sarah Young (adapted by Tama Fortner)
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Synopsis: One-a-day prayers offer a framework for kids, while richly emphasizing the truth of Jesus’ nearness.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book via the publisher and JustReads publicity tours. Opinions expressed are my own.
Note: While I typically make a point to read the entirety of any book, before reviewing, this is one instance where I opted to “sample” the book, rather than reading all 365 of the daily devotions.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Heb. 4:16
Premise and Subject Matter
Sarah Young is the author of the Jesus Calling devotional and its various follow-ups. While Jesus Calling is written in the voice of Jesus speaking directly to the reader, Jesus Listens is organized as prayers that the young reader is praying to Him. These prayers strongly emphasize the confidence with which we can “approach the throne of grace,” and revolve around trusting God: that He is near, that He cares for us, that He sees and assembles the big picture.
The daily prayers are organized by months, with a page marking each new month, including a meaningful verse. Each devotional starts with a verse written out, followed by a prayer written to Jesus, including embedded (and italicized) quotes from Scripture. The prayer closes in Jesus’ Name, and each prayer highlights a quality of Jesus. For example, March 5th concludes, “In Your bright, shining Name, Jesus, Amen.” June 22nd ends “In Your beautiful Name, Jesus, Amen.”
Finally, there’s a “Read on Your Own” section at the bottom of each devotional, listing a few verses for readers to explore, including some directly referenced in the prayer section.
On a personal note, I have never actually done a daily read through my copy of Jesus Calling. Instead, I tend to read a passage when the Lord puts it on my heart. This tends to be occasional, but the Lord does minister to me, through it. While the Jesus Listens devotions do tend to be generally applicable, I don’t prefer the assignment of a specific prayer to each day of the year. For this reason, I do appreciate the titles, for navigation purposes.
What I Liked
While I am not the book’s target audience, the Lord has used this book to minister truth and rest to me. The themes are so meaningful and important, and invite the reader to rest in the closeness of Jesus. That’s an encouragement I can use on a daily basis, and one that has certainly been a blessing to me, in my reading.
I so appreciate that each day is a written prayer. In recent years, I have found how much I benefit from having prayers written out for me, as I find my thoughts often scramble a bit when it comes to spoken communication (Hence, evidently, my preferring to write things). In addition to being pre-written, these prayers are also clearly steeped in truth, inspired by the Bible.
I’m also glad that Jesus Listens is written in prayer form, as I know that one criticism of the original Jesus Calling book is the idea that Jesus is speaking the exact words written on the page. Even imaginatively, Jesus Listens doesn’t claim to do that. Instead, it formulates prayers for the reader to pray, and it does so in language that is very accessible, even for the young reader, and I feel that Tama Fortner did an excellent job with this adaptation.
This is, I believe, the third of Fortner’s adaptations I’ve read, and the second instance in which I have also read some of the writing of the author of the adult version. Based on my experience with Jesus Calling, I feel that Fortner did a great job of capturing Young’s tone and I am grateful for the rest-laden words that I believe the Holy Spirit has given.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I experienced a lot of fear and morality-based teaching, as a child growing up in Sunday School. For this reason, I’m on the lookout for kids’ books that instead minister the grace of God and the idea that we can really rest in Him. That is exactly what Jesus Listens does!
On the basis of subject matter (written prayers) plus content (so much grace, so much rest, so much peace– all stemming from drawing near to Jesus), this is a book I would highly recommend for kids (and adults, too!). I would add the one caveat that I would not necessarily recommend this as a daily devotion, because the prayers are mapped to specific dates in the year.