Children’s authors often use animals as the main characters in their stories. Anthropomorphism, also known as personification, is attributing human characteristics to anything other than a human being.
Using animals as characters works well for children’s stories for many reasons:
- Children love animals and like to read stories with animals as characters.
- Using animals gives the author more freedom in creating his or her characters and stories.
- Animal characters appeal to both boys and girls.
- Using animals as characters avoids the issues of stereotyping in race, gender, or age.
- It is more acceptable for an animal to disobey than for a young child to disobey, therefore the author can teach deeper lessons with stronger emotions.
- Animal characters can add kid-friendly humor to the story.
Writing stories using animal characters works well for the Christian market as well as the secular market. However, authors need to be careful when getting into spiritual matters. For example, can bunnies (or any animal) pray?
There are two answers: YES and NO.
When anthropomorphism is used and the animals are given human characteristics, then the animals can pray. If Bunny talks like a real person, lives in a house, wears clothing, and goes to school, then when the Bunny Family gathers around the dinner table to eat their meal, they can ask God to bless their meal or thank Him for their food. When Bunny gets lost, or he meets a bully, or anytime he is afraid, he can pray to God to help him. Mother and Father Bunny can tell Junior Bunny about God and how He is always with them. The Bunny family can read Bible stories at bedtime and say their bedtime prayers. This is fine!
When the characters in the story are humans and there are animals in the story who are "real" animals, then the animals do not pray. I once read a children’s story by a Christian celebrity. In her story a little boy is following a bunny (a real bunny) and the bunny gets lost. The author wrote that the bunny was frightened and prayed to God to help him. Not okay! It would be okay for the little boy to ask God to help him find the bunny, or for God to keep the bunny safe, but real bunnies do not pray because they do not have a personal relationship with God.
God and Animals
We can teach children that animals are an important part of God’s creation and that He cares for them just like he cares for the people He created. In my devotional book, My Mama and Me (Tyndale, 2013) I have a verse that says:
God helps the squirrels find nuts to eat.
He helps the bees make honey sweet,
He helps the robins build their nest
so they can have a place to rest.
Do Pets Go to Heaven?
I once read a book where a mom tells her little boy about heaven. He wants to know if his bird went to heaven after it died. The mom tells him that because he loved his bird, it is in heaven. Really? Though this may be comforting to a child, we do not have Scripture to back this up. In Isaiah 11:6-7 we read the prophesy of animals co-existing in peace and harmony, but this refers to the future and does not mean there are animals in heaven right now hanging out together. There might be—I don’t know—and so my advice is to avoid this topic and stick to what we clearly know from Scripture.
As long as there are authors writing books for children, there will be stories with animal characters. I hope this discussion helps to clarify the issue of animals praying. I am open to feedback and would love to hear your opinions.
Always writing for Him,