A Liturgy before Beginning a Book

John Terrill September 3, 2019

Today, on the UW-Madison campus we begin a new academic year. The semester will fill with football games, friendships rekindled and born anew, classroom assignments, exams, and hundreds of hours of reading. Books can provoke many emotions – fear, wonder, gratitude, and compassion. But one reading experience is universally true. Books take us to new places. As award-winning author, Jhumpa Lahiri writes, books “let you travel without moving your feet.”

As we begin our new academic journey, I offer this liturgy as you engage your reading, whether as a student, faculty member, administrator, or staff member. The prayer comes from Douglas Kaine McKelvey, author of Every Moment Holy (Rabbit Room Press, 2017), and is shared with permission.

Author of Life and Author of My Life,

As I begin the reading of this book, give me sensitivity to listen, not just to the story told, but to the responses of my own heart to what I encounter in these pages.

What does it draw out of me?

What joy?

What longing?

What fears?

What temptation?

What hope?

What mirth?

What love of beauty?

What awe?

What wonder?

What doubt?

What faith?

What resolve?

What unfinished grief?

What untended wound?

Give me ears to hear, O Spirit of God, what notes the reading of this story would strike and what melody it would draw forth from the tuned strings of my own soul.

Waste no moment in my brief years O Lord. Let all things, and this book as well, be tools in your hands, to shape me and make me more truly your own, more fitly a child of hope of the restoration of all things in Christ whose fullness dwells within them.

So let the honest responses of my heart to this reading grant new insight into the story your grace is already telling in my own life that I might be a more willing co-laborer in that process.


As you “travel”  this semester on the wings of books, I offer this prayer as an invitation to God to carry you to new places of growth and discovery.