Every Moment Holy: New Liturgies for Daily Life

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Several years ago some good friends gave me a book. The fact that they gave me a book and not a gift card is evidence of our friendship, because my love language is books.

The book I received was Scottish minister John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer, and it not only reminds me fondly of those friends, but it represents my earliest realization that I need help praying.

Growing up in a nondenominational church in the American south, I was suspicious of anything that could be described as liturgical, assuming as many do that prayer should be extemporaneous and “from the heart,” and anything less was in danger of becoming rote at best and ritualistic at worst. Baillie’s book is arranged into morning and evening prayers for each day of the month, plus special prayers for Sundays. Our family tried them hesitantly at first, but soon found ourselves reaching for the book more and more, in the end treasuring it so much that I bought copies and gave them to friends.

While I love those old prayers, the last few years found me wishing I had new ones.

Andrew Peterson

Baillie’s words lead me gently but firmly into prayers I would not have otherwise thought to pray. In them I’m confronted by my own darkness—not just of obvious sins, but of the sins that lurk beneath them—as well as the light of God’s great mercy, as the revenant of that Scottish saint takes me by the hand and leads me through the thorny hedges of godly shame and repentance into the wide, golden fields of gratitude for God’s mercy in Christ.

“King of Creation” by Ned Bustard (copyright 2017)

If you come from a liturgical tradition you may find it surprising that I was so surprised by all this; it may be perfectly obvious to you that there’s a good reason certain prayers have survived for centuries. But the fact is, there are millions of Christians the world over, for a host of reasons, who have never engaged in liturgical worship. For many of us, this old thing is a new thing, and that brings with it some discomfort—but also a heightened appreciation for the ancient rhythms of prayer and meditation which have been more or less absent from our experience.

And as much as we may need this new (to us) language for prayer, those who grew up with it may also need our fresh enthusiasm for it to remind them what a profound gift it is to speak these ancient tongues, not just to know but to be reminded by all the saints how wide, high, deep and broad is the love of God in Christ. It is through this great cloud of witnesses that the Lord is teaching us to pray.

The fact is, there have always been poets underfoot. God just keeps making them. If Cranmer and Baillie and Oswald Chambers and George Herbert and the puritans who wrote The Valley of Vision had so much of value to say, then aren’t there new voices we should pay attention to? Aren’t there new prayers that we need help articulating? While it’s true that our struggles at their core are the same as those of the saints before us, it’s also true that the world of the 21st century is vastly different than they could have imagined: a world of smartphones and high speed internet and high-tech terrorists and pollution and ubiquitous pornography and selfies and Netflix.

There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.

Wendell Berry

Sometimes I look up from reading those old prayers to find myself in a clamorous culture so far removed from the authors’ experience that their words can feel irrelevant. Our lives feel at once too frenzied and too mundane, too connected and not connected enough, too demanding and too sedentary. So while I love those old prayers, the last few years found me wishing I had new ones, prayers that were not just speaking to my current situation, but crying out from within it.

Wendell Berry wrote, “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” In that spirit, this new book of prayers, Doug McKelvey’s Every Moment Holy, reminds us that there are no unsacred moments; there are only sacred moments and moments we have forgotten are sacred.

If that’s true, then it is our duty to reclaim the sacredness of our lives, of life itself. And the first step is to remember—to remember the dream of Eden that shimmers at the edges of things, to remember that the madman on the corner was made in God’s image, to remember that work and play and suffering and celebration are all sentences in a good story being told by God, a story arcing its way to a new creation.

By remembering the holiness of each moment we banish that old Gnostic ghost and thwart its lie that there’s nothing holy about flesh and bone, soil and stone, work and pleasure and all tangible, tactile, visible things. The resurrection of Jesus sent shockwaves into every molecule of creation, even into this crazy century of ones and zeroes and jet engines.

It is our duty to reclaim the sacredness of our lives, of life itself.

Andrew Peterson

If the Gospel is true, then it matters in all of time and space—from a thousand years ago at the Norman conquest of England to ten minutes ago when I ate a cookie; it matters from the moons of Jupiter to the couch where I’m writing this. Yes, I realize that I just conjured the less-than-flattering image of myself lazing on a couch, brushing cookie crumbs from my laptop—but that’s exactly the point. The Gospel matters even here. Even now. A wise man taught me, “Christianity ought to be as normal in your home as dirty laundry and Corn Flakes.”

In the same way that my friends once gave me John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer, we at Rabbit Room Press want to give you Every Moment Holy in the hope that it will become a book you’ll find yourself reaching for again and again.

Douglas McKelvey is one of the finest writers of our time. He’s labored long over every word in this book, bringing his love for Jesus, his poetry, and his storytelling to bear on a work that has already blessed our family. When we’ve feasted with friends, when our family dog died, when we arrived at the Atlantic for holiday, when we sat on the hill over our home to watch the sunset, when I planted flowers in the garden, when my sons and I watched a series on Netflix, we read aloud Doug’s liturgies to remind ourselves of the sacredness of all things, of the pervasive truth of the Gospel.

Maybe you’re new to liturgy, maybe it has long been part of your tradition—either way, our hope is that you would let these prayers edify you, reshape your thinking, recalibrate your compass, ignite your imagination, and pique your longing for the world to come. Doug’s robust theology has come together with artist Ned Bustard’s profoundly meaningful artwork (every inch of every illustration is crammed with Christian imagery) to create a book that we hope will live on for generations to come, giving voice to prayers we didn’t know we needed to pray, as the kingdom comes on earth—in every holy moment—just as it is in heaven.


[Every Moment Holy is now available exclusively in the Rabbit Room Store. Visit EveryMomentHoly.com for free downloads and more information.]

 

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


5 Comments

  1. Judy

    For many years, John Baillie’s “Diary of Private Prayer” has been a precious gift of grace in my life, helping to shape both how I’ve prayed and how I’ve sought to live. And now, I am very much looking forward to the addition of this volume of prayers.

    Thank you in anticipation.

  2. Hannah (Holder) Weston

    This summer my husband and I started attending Wheatland Pres. in Lancaster, PA. If people asked what I did, I’d say some version of “artist and calligrapher” and they’d say “Have you met Ned Bustard?” We’d visited the art gallery he runs here and figured out who his wife is (very friendly!), but after about 10 queries re: meeting Ned, we were beginning to wonder if he was a myth! Well, last weekend at a Reformation conference, Ned was manning the book table and giving a presentation on Reformation art, among other events held at the church. After finally making introductions but still not talking about art, he gave me It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God. Now I find that he has coauthored or illustrated a number of books that look fascinating, is involved with CIVA, and has a connection to the Rabbit Room! Whatever comes of this new connection in a new city at a new church, I’m grateful to have come across a serious, godly artist and another person who has ties to other Rabbits. And I look forward to seeing Every Moment Holy now that it’s in hard copy.

  3. Scott R

    @scottrbw

    Yes!  Received my copy (happily!) yesterday, and began to leaf through it.  We have some friends who are in Oregon for the birth of their grandchildren (twins!  overdue!), and I was hoping to find a liturgy for the birth of twin grandchildren, or something like it.  The liturgy for celebrating a birthday would have to do, and it certainly did.  My wife recorded me reading it, and sent it to them … mom, dad, grandma and grandpa were blessed and encouraged.

    This is a triumph!  I, too, am decidedly NOT from a liturgical background (but have eventually learned to pray, even though my background was sadly lacking in prayer, as well.  Not only did we not pray from books, we didn’t pray much at all!), and I can hardly wait to put this to use liberally, often, frequently, and fervently.  The web resource where one can print off copies of various prayers sounds VERY practical (my first thought was, “How many copies of this will I have to buy!?”).

    This is beautiful and meaningful.  Thank you!

  4. Hannah Eagleson

    Hi there, This is slightly off topic, but Hannah, I have to ask if you know about The Row House and The Rabbit and Dragonfly in Lancaster (PA). I grew up in the area though I live elsewhere now, and both of them remind me so much of the Rabbit Room in spirit and action. The Row House is a forum hosted by Tom Becker that tries to think through cultural activity and the common good through Christian theology and practice – their tagline is “Engaging Current Culture With Ancient Faith.” I believe Ned Bustard has presented there before, and he’s bringing out a book by the host of the Row House soon through Square Halo Books. The Rabbit and Dragonfly is a really charming space in downtown Lancaster which is also named after the Rabbit Room in which the Inklings met – it’s Lewis and Tolkien themed and has the best coat closet ever (you’ll see what I mean if you go). They even had elevenses last I checked! I promise that neither of them give me kickbacks on referrals – I just really love both and think most Rabbit Roomers in the area would too. 🙂

  5. Sillyoldbear

    I recieved my copy yesterday. Might be the first copy halfway around the globe in Germany.

    I didn’t imagine it to be so beautifully made. Thank you for all the effort and love you put into this book! May it be a blessing to many People.

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