How Prayer Can Prepare Us For Death

Douglas McKelvey has been writing short prayers for years. Formerly a lyricist for artist Charlie Peacock and other Christian bands, McKelvey was also involved in the early work of Art House America, a self-described “artistic hub” and nonprofit founded by Peacock and led by Christian creatives such as Sara Groves.

In 2017, McKelvey published a book of daily liturgies called Every Moment Holy, Vol. 1 through a creative collective called Rabbit Room founded by singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson. McKelvey’s recently published second volume is filled with liturgies for grief, death, and dying, released 12 months after the coronavirus pandemic swept the United States and killed hundreds of thousands. CT interviewed McKelvey about how his latest volume and the past year’s events shaped his beliefs on death and dying.

What was your inspiration for Every Moment Holy?

I was working on a science fiction novel but kind of felt like I was spinning my wheels. A lot of days I just wasn’t making any progress. And at a certain point, I thought, I really need a prayer that I could pray when I sit down in the morning to work—to write something that would reorient me in terms of my relationship to my Creator and my relationship to my craft and whatever gifts I’m a steward of. So, I wrote this prayer and called it a liturgy for fiction writers.

Douglas McKelvey
Image: Photo by Lancia E. Smith – Douglas McKelvey

That was a couple of months before a conference where I was speaking with Andrew Peterson and author Heidi Johnston. I emailed that prayer for fiction writers to Andrew, and he responded pretty quickly and said, “Hey, this is great, but man, I wish I had a liturgy for beekeeping” and a couple of other things.

That was the immediate moment where the lightbulb just turned on and I realized there’s actually something here that might really be of service to the body of Christ—to create a collection of prayers that that would help people to unpack moment by moment in their lives what it might mean that God is present and active in this moment. It’s his pleasure to work in and through us as our hearts are yielded to that process moment by moment. To look at different moments of our lives in light of Scripture and say, okay, if we’re changing a diaper, how does that touch on eternity? How is that tied to the advancing kingdom of God, to the coming new creation?

What would you say is the value specifically in the Every Moment Holy liturgies?

I find that it is helpful to define terms because people can mean very different things when they use the word liturgy because there is the overarching meaning of the word, which is just the order and content of a worship service. Then there’s the sense of the word that means those rhythms of our lives, those repeated practices that have the power to shape our hearts into something that better reflects the image of Christ or to misshape them away from that. So there are negative liturgies as well as positive liturgies.

An example that I’ve used before is that, if I am habitually posting dozens of selfies every day, there’s nothing in and of itself that’s inherently wrong with posting selfies. But if that becomes this repeated rhythm in my life, then it’s likely that it could begin to shape me, to shape my heart, or misshape my heart toward caring an awful lot about what other people think of me.

And that could be an overriding and consuming and shaping factor in my life as opposed to if I have the regular practice of taking walks in the woods and taking time to pause and consider the creation and the beauty that God has created there. Well, there’s nothing that is inherently righteous about taking a walk in the woods, but that practice is going to be much more likely to draw my heart to the beauty of my Creator.

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Source: Christianity Today