Prayers Before and After Reading the Scriptures

With my new decision to read Scriptures related to next Sunday’s readings every day, I remembered there are prayers to say before and after reading the Scriptures.

So I whipped out the (old - 1980) New Saint Joseph People’s Prayer Book, flipped to the index, and found… nothing.

I mean there was a prayer to St. Jerome for Scripture Scholars, there were many pages of prayers from the Bible, but I couldn’t find the prayers to say before and after reading the Scriptures.

Then it came to me - I whipped out the old (1963) Confraternity Edition Bible, flipped past an Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XII and the General Introduction, and there they were.

The first prayer is actually not easy to find on the Internet, along with the Indulgences. It’s almost as if they are starting to be forgotten and lost.

The prayer to the Holy Spirit may even be an Icelandic Rosary Prayer. Which I think is cool.

So I decided to share:


Before Reading the Holy Scriptures

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created,

R. and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Indulgence of five years, Plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, if the prayer has been recited daily for a month. (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, 289)

After Reading the Holy Scriptures

Let me not, O Lord, be puffed up with worldly wisdom, which passes away, but grant me that love which never abates, that I may not choose to know anything among men but Jesus, and Him crucified. (1 Cor. 13:8; 2:2.)

I pray Thee, loving Jesus that as Thou hast graciously given me to drink in with delight the words of Thy knowledge, so Thou would mercifully grant me to attain one day to Thee, the fountain of all Wisdom and to appear forever before Thy face. Amen. (Prayer of St. Bede the Venerable)


An indulgence of three years is granted to the faithful who read the Books of the Bible for at least a quarter of an hour, with the reverence due to the Divine Word and as spiritual reading:

To the faithful who piously read at least some verses of the Gospel and in addition, while kissing the Gospel Book, devoutly recite one of the following invocations: “May our sins be blotted out through the words of the Gospel,” – “May the reading of the Gospel be our salvation and our protection,” – “May Christ, the Son of God, teach us the words of the Holy Gospel”:

an indulgence of 500 days is granted;

a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions is granted to those who for a whole month daily act in the way indicated above;

a plenary indulgence is granted at the hour of death to those who often during life have performed this pious exercise, provided they have confessed and received Communion, or at least having sorrow for their sins, they invoke the most holy name of Jesus with their lips, if possible, or at least in their hearts, and humbly accept death from the hand of God as the price of sin. [Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, 694]

I think the most generally ignored prayer in scripture is Dt 6:4 ff and its NT version

Hear O Israel The LORD our God, the Lord is one God. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.

This, the sh’ma, is the central prayer and theology in Judaism and is affirmed by Jesus. It is considered to be a personal affirmation of the covenant.

A pious Jew says this after rising and morning daily routines, before evening routines, and at least one more time during the day.

the simple explanation is that to love God with one’s heart is most represented by prayer to God, with one’s soul by willingness to die for one’s faith, with all one’s strength to use all one’s resources even financial for the sake of the kingdom of God. Jesus added “with all your mind” to the sh’ma. What do you think it represents? Maybe first of all, surprise surprise, to read the word of God and to obey it (act on it)?

My prayer to the Holy Spirit has been answered many times and I love even that simple devotion to the Holy Spirit.

Psalms 1 and 119 contain many meditations on the word of God. “Thy word, Oh Lord, is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” “Thy word I have hid in my heart that I may not sin against thee.” And, elsewhere in the psalms, create in me a clean heart, O Lord. These never grow old or useless.

The indulgences attached have been abrogated and replaced by the promulgation of the new Enchiridion. The terms for gaining it are slightly different today (and there is no such thing as X days or X years partial anymore.)

I normally read various versions of the Confraternity Bible (1941-1969), the US English translation that was used immediately prior to the New American Bible. Several of them have the prayers printed inside of the front and back covers. I truly wonder at the wisdom of the decision to remove them from American bibles, as is seen in the NAB. Who guides us when we read, if we do not implore the guidance of the Spirit?

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This is true. I’m not as surprised these prayers (or similar invocations of the Holy Spirit) are not in the New American Bible as that they were not in my Prayer Book. My edition is rather old, and these or similar prayers may be in newer editions. And though the Saint Joseph New People’s Prayer Book is not and can not be all encompassing - for example there is no prayer to Saint Barbara, I keep a holy card in the saints section - the absence of one side of page for prayers before and after reading the Scripture confuses me. Because I think it is important.

Before I looked for the prayers for personal reading of the Scriptures I found a very nice series of different prayers for Lectors at that also invoke the Holy Spirit before proclaiming.

Thank you, Elizium23.

I did not realize this. The abrogation of these indulgences explains why they are difficult to find on the Internet.

But these acts are still pious.

Here is what I found in the New Enchiridion of Indulgences:

50. READING OF SACRED SCRIPTURE. While a partial indulgence is granted to those who read from Sacred Scripture with the veneration which the divine word is due, a PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who read for at least one half an hour.

But then if the only reason someone performs a pious act is to gain the indulgence, I would wonder about the piety.

I believe an indulgence is more like a value-add, or pleasant side effect.

It is not the same as, but is similar to Matthew 6:3-4

“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

The audio version of the Shema in Hebrew is at This is how Jesus would have spoken it, but probably with a heavy Aramaic accent.


I think the portion of this statement highlighted above is key. One cannot *truly *venerate something or someone unless they possess at least some measure of love or piety.

My own personal prayer before reading has always been;

O God, grant me your permission to read your holy word, to my salvation and to your glory through Christ our Lord Amen.

This is also a good prayer. I think I’ll add it to the one I recorded above before I read. It’s really only been in the last few hundred years that lay people have been even able to read the Holy Scriptures.

And incorrect or personal interpretation has caused anger, enmity, wars and death.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’

Matthew 10:34

One thing to consider is that the laity also consists of Religious Brothers and Nuns. Down through the centuries they have been reading Scriptures (sometimes in Latin and not the vernacular) although in many Eastern European countries the Scriptures were read by the laity even in the vernacular tongue. The laity in Catholic Western European countries, like France and Spain soon had the Scriptures in the vernacular after the invention of printing. We see some restrictions on the wanton, vain reading of Scriptures of course, but it was never an absolute prohibition. Besides the common man, the Royalty and Nobility often had the Scriptures in Latin or the vernacular which they were free to read.

It is an “urban legend” created by English speaking Protestants, more than anyone, that kept the myth alive that Catholics were forbidden to read the Scriptures. It was never a Universal Church law.