Can I Pray With My Eyes Open?

Can I Pray With My Eyes Open?

Book Synopsis

Is there ever a wrong time or place to pray?

Deciding when and where to pray is something every child wonders, and this non-denominational picture book offers an answer. Whether angry and upset, or playing games and counting stars, every child is assured that they can pray when, where, and how they want, and they will always be heard!

Garin Baker, illustrator
Hyperion Books for Children, 1999
ISBN 978-0786803286

Behind the Book

Some books are gifts to the writer and never more so for me than this one. The seed for it was planted when I was very young. The idea for the story came from a frustrating conversation I had with a minister when I was about ten years old. We had differing views on prayer, including whether or not it was okay to pray with your eyes open. That phrase, that future title, stuck in the back of my mind for over 25 years. I can't say what it was that pulled it back to the front of my mind again, but when I sat down to write it, it came out nearly complete in a few hours. That's not because I'm such a terrific writer, but because my subconscious had been working on it for me for so many years. This book was a true gift.


How does one say a perfect prayer? A young girl ponders this question while engaging in the summertime activities of her rural hometown, her thoughts developing into a prayer that, while occasionally awkward grammatically, is perfect in its directness and simplicity: 'If I'm skipping rope or playing ball,/ or walking backward down the hall,/ When building castles on the beach,/ will You still be within my reach?' Baker's warm, vibrant oil paintings blend an almost photographic quality with impressionistic details. The people, the grass, the water, the trees are all energized and moving, the activity of the compositions reflecting the activity within the girl's mind. Together the art and text convey the deep yearning of the child to speak to God during all the moments of the day (at dinner with family, swimming in the creek, climbing a tree, playing soccer) and in all her moods (curious, adventurous, angry, hurt); she is seen with friends, family and by herself. Just as the message is nondenominational, the characters transcend questions of ethnicity: the girl is brown-skinned; her family and friends are multiracial.
—From Publishers Weekly Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In simple and perceptive verse, a child asks God if prayers made during all of her various activities will be heard. The answer is that they will; that no time or place is ever wrong for prayer. Realistic oil paintings in rich colors beautifully illustrate the rhyming text. They show a pretty African-American girl swimming in a gleaming brook, climbing high in a gnarled tree, flying a red kite, quarreling with her brother, feeling angry, Rollerblading, playing soccer, building sand castles at the beach, perching on the monkey bars, and gazing out the car window. Pictures with different perspectives and in a variety of sizes add further interest.
—From Library Journal, Patricia Pearl Dole, formerly at First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In an affecting (and effective) rhyming text, a young African American narrator touches upon many of the questions children might have about prayer: 'When I don't know what I should do, / is that a time / to talk to You?' She even questions whether a prayer can be offered when she is angry. The answer to all her musings comes in the last two-page spread, with perhaps the least compelling lines of text; 'I got an answer right away . . . there's no wrong time or place to pray.' A picture of the girl and her mother embracing in front of a fireplace makes up for this limp ending. In fact, all the oil paintings are expertly executed and are at their most successful when depicting the girl in true-to-life situations, happily rollerblading or pensively looking out a car window. A nice place for parents and children to start a discussion about prayer.
—From Booklist, Ilene Cooper

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10 Things Your Child Should Know About Prayer

Free reproducible handout. Perfect for Sunday School classes.

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