In this talk, Kim teaches us how to sing the Psalms. She also shares her personal experience in her journey with them and encourages and challenges us to learn and sing these prayers as part of our prayer life.
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Reflective Study Guide Questions
“Blessed be the LORD, who has shown me wondrous love, and been for me a city most secure. Once I said in my anguish, ‘I am shut out from your sight.’ Yet you heard my plea, when I cried out to you.”(Psalm 31:22-23)
- The Psalms offer us an opportunity to pray on our own, or with a community, or even on our own while simultaneously also praying with the Universal Church (as is the case when you pray the Liturgy of the Hours). Which of these is most appealing to you? In some instances, it’s easy to see how God may be calling us to pray more when we look at our preferences and what comes naturally to us; in that way, we can become stronger pray-ers in the ways we most enjoy prayer. Looking at it this way, it can also allow us to work on praying in ways that we find uncomfortable or not as natural. It can be good and fruitful to get out of our comfort zone.
- God gave you your voice, and He wants to hear it. Do you allow yourself the time to speak to Him — to speak up to Him, aloud? Or to sing to Him? If you don’t, try to incorporate that more into your weekly prayer. God wants to hear your beautiful voice. You can do this by joining in song at Mass, or by speaking aloud to God in the privacy of your own home.
- Choose a Psalm or a passage of a Psalm, meditate on it, and try to put that psalm into your own words. What does that Psalm mean to you, today, and in your particular situation or circumstance?
- St. Augustine taught that, “if the psalm prays, pray. If it laments, lament. If it rejoices, rejoice. If it hopes, hope. If it fears, fear. For everything which is written here is a reflection of us.” There is a Psalm for each of these human emotions, and they reveal God’s heart for us. If you’re ever in a place where you’re having a hard time finding the words to pray, look through the Psalms to see whether there is one that vocalizes how you’re feeling. If you can’t think of the words to say, turn to the Psalms, and choose one that closest matches your experience.
The Seven Penitential Psalms
(Psalms for Lent)
“Lord, do not reprove me in your anger: punish me not in your rage. Have mercy on me, Lord, I have no strength; Lord, heal me, my body is racked; my soul is racked with pain. But you, a Lord, how long? Return, Lord, rescue my soul. Save me in your merciful love, for in death no one remembers you; from the grave, who can give you praise? I am exhausted with my groaning; every night I drench my pillow with tears. My eye wastes away from grief; I have grown old surrounded by my foes. Leave me, all you who do evil; for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will accept my prayer. All my foes will retire in confusion, foiled and suddenly confounded.”
“Happy the man whose offense is forgiven, whose sin is remitted. a happy the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no guile. I kept it secret and my frame was wasted. I groaned all the day long, for night and day your hand was heavy upon me. Indeed, my strength was dried up as by the summer’s heal. But now I have acknowledged my sins; my guilt I did not hide. I said: “I will confess my offense to the Lord.” And you, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sin. So let every good man pray to you in the time of need. The floods of water may reach high but him they shall not reach. You are my hiding place, a Lord; you save me from distress. You surround me with cries of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will give you counsel with my eye upon you. Be not like the horse and mule, unintelligent, needing bridle and bit, else they will not approach you. Many sorrows has the wicked but he who trusts in the Lord, loving mercy surrounds him. Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord, exult, you just! a come, ring out your joy, all you upright of heart.”
“O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not punish me, Lord in your rage. Your arrows have sunk deep in me; your hand has come down upon me. Through your anger all my body is sick: through my sin, there is no health in my limbs. My guilt towers higher than my head; it is a weight too heavy to bear. My wounds are foul and festering, the result of my own folly. I am bowed and brought to my knees. I go mourning all the day long. All my frame bums with fever; all my body is sick. Spent and utterly crushed, I cry aloud in anguish of heart. O Lord, you know all my longing: my groans are not hidden from you. My heart throbs, my strength is spent; the very light has gone from my eyes. My friends avoid me like a leper; those closest to me stand afar off. Those who plot against my life lay snares; those who seek my ruin speak of harm, planning treachery all the day long. But I am like the deaf who cannot hear, like the dumb unable to speak. I am like a man who hears nothing in whose mouth is no defense. I count on you, O Lord: it is you, Lord God, who will answer. I pray: “Do not let them mock me, those who triumph if my foot should slip.” For I am on the point of falling and my pain is always before me. I confess that I am guilty and my sin fills me with dismay. My wanton enemies are numberless and my lying foes are many. They repay me evil for good and attack me for seeking what is right. O Lord, do not forsake me! My God, do not stay afar off! Make haste and come to my help, O Lord, my God, my savior!”
“Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offense. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. My offenses truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done. That you may be justified when you give sentence and be without reproach when you judge. O see, in guilt was I born, a sinner was I conceived. Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom. a purify me, then I shall be clean; O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear rejoicing and gladness, that the bones you have crushed may revive. From my sins turn away your face and blot out all my guilt. A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit. Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervor sustain me, that I may teach transgressors your ways and sinners may return to you. O rescue me, God, my helper, and my tongue shall ring out your goodness. O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise. For in sacrifice you take no delight, burnt offering from me you would refuse; my sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn. In your goodness, show favor to Zion: rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice, holocausts offered on your altar.”
“O Lord, listen to my prayer and let my cry for help reach you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Turn your ear towards me and answer me quickly when I call. For my days are vanishing like smoke, my bones bum away like a fire. My heart is withered like the grass. I forget to eat my bread. I cry with all my strength and my skin clings to my bones. I have become like a pelican in the wilderness, like an owl in desolate places. I lie awake and I moan like some lonely bird on a roof. All the day long my foes revile me; those who hate me use my name as a curse. The bread I eat is ashes; my drink is mingled with tears. In your anger, Lord, and your fury you have lifted me up and thrown me down. My days are like a passing shadow and I wither away like the grass.
But you, O Lord, will endure for ever and your name from age to age. You will arise and have mercy on Zion: for this is the time to have mercy; yes, the time appointed has come, for your servants love her very stones, are moved with pity even for her dust. The nations shall fear the name of the Lord and all the earth’s kings your glory, when the Lord shall build up Zion again and appear in all his glory. Then he will turn to the prayers of the helpless; he will not despise their prayers. Let this be written for ages to come that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord; for the Lord leaned down from his sanctuary on high. He looked down from heaven to the earth that he might hear the groans of the prisoners and free those condemned to die. The sons of your servants shall dwell untroubled, and their race shall endure before you that the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion and his praise in the heart of Jerusalem, when peoples and kingdoms are gathered together to pay their homage to the Lord.
He has broken my strength in mid-course; he has shortened the days of my life. I say to God: “Do not take me away before my days are complete, you, whose days last from age to age. Long ago you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish but you will remain. They will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like clothes that are changed. But you neither change, nor have an end. The children of your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before you.”
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice! O let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading. If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord, who would survive? But with you is found forgiveness: for this we revere you. My soul is waiting for the Lord; I count on his word. My soul is longing for the Lord more than the watchman for daybreak. Let the watchman count on daybreak and Israel on the Lord. Because with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption; Israel indeed he will redeem from all its iniquity.”
Psalm 143, 1-11:
“Lord, listen to my prayer; turn your ear to my appeal. You are faithful, you are just; give answer. Do not call your servant to judgment, for no one is just in your sight. The enemy pursues my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead, long forgotten. Therefore my spirit fails; my heart is numb within me. I remember the days that are past: I ponder all your works. I muse on what your hand has wrought and to you I stretch out my hands. Like a parched land my soul thirsts for you. Lord, make haste and answer; for my spirit fails within me. Do not hide your face lest I become like those in the grave. In the morning let me know your love, for I put my trust in you. Make me know the way I should walk: to you I lift up my soul. Rescue me, Lord, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will for you, O Lord, are my God. Let your good spirit guide me in ways that are level and smooth. For your name’s sake, Lord, save my life; in your justice save my soul from distress.”
More Psalm Resources
“A Psalm For When Your’e Lonely” (FR. ED BROOM, OMV, Catholic Exchange)
Discover Psalms – The “School of Prayer”! (Sarah Christmyer, The Catholic Year of Faith)
Text: How to Pray with the Psalms
Hi everyone, it’s Kim. I’m excited to be here to share some thoughts with you today about praying with the Psalms. This was the first idea that came to my mind when Annie and John-Paul first approached me about participating in this prayer conference. I love praying the Psalms! And I think the reason is two-fold. Number one, I love to sing! And, the Psalms are sung prayer. And so, I grew up singing the Psalms in church. I still sing them and it’s something that brings me a lot of joy. The other reason is that the Psalms are prayers from the heart. They encapsulate or expand over so many different emotions. Psalms of sadness and grief. Psalms of longing. Where are you Lord? Psalms of joy. Shouting with joy and dancing for joy! And cymbals and harps! Psalms of victory! Psalms of penance. The Psalms are a beautiful expression of the human experience.
The Liturgy of the Hours
The Church, in her great love for us and in her great wisdom, has given us the Psalms woven throughout liturgical prayer. So, when we attend Sunday mass or mass throughout the week, there is generally a Psalm response after the first reading. Sometimes it’s an old testament canticle but there is some form of a sung response. And even, in addition to mass, there is another official prayer of the Church: the Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office). This is a prayer that I was introduced to many years ago, probably about 20 years ago. And I learned how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours when I was taking some classes in Peoria through the diocese. I fell in love with this type of prayer and so I would pray Morning Prayer all the time. After my foster kids got off to school, I would sit down (I didn’t answer the phone, I didn’t do anything) and I just spent my morning in that prayer time.
Now, I don’t know what happened but, sadly, I got out of that habit and my book got set aside and it was unused for a long long time. Fortunately, I had opportunity to pray Evening Prayer fairly often at my parish. We often did sung Evening Prayer during Lent or, perhaps, on a particular solemnity such as Pentecost. So, I was still familiar with the general rhythm of the Liturgy of the Hours.
And then, a few years ago, almost three years ago I was invited to attend a lay Dominican meeting. And lay Dominicans pray Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer each day. At least, we’re supposed to. I recently made my temporary profession and I’m still working on a lot of my formation and that includes working on the discipline of getting this prayer in every day. Now, having said all that, there’s a lot to figure out with the Liturgy of the Hours that would take me a long time to describe here. There’s different ribbons and prayers and feast days and hymns and responses and I don’t want to go through all of that.
What I want to mention is that, in a nutshell, there is a 4 week cycle. A “Psalter” is what it’s called and each day there are prayers, Psalm responses and a canticle and all of them are for each day; Sunday, Monday and all throughout the week. Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer and these weeks rotate. There are certain, specific, responses for the seasons of the year. Such as, Lent or Advent.
Praying With the World Wide Church
But the Psalms play such a big part of it! I think that’s why I love this form of prayer so much. It’s also a great way to participate in the prayer of the Church. I’m not able to get to daily mass very often but when I pray the Liturgy of the Hours I’m praying with the worldwide Church. And I think there’s something very beautiful and powerful about that. So, if you’re not familiar with this form of prayer, I encourage you; talk with your pastor, see if he or someone else in your parish can instruct you in this. And who knows, maybe a few of you can get together and pray it in community. That’s a great thing to do too.
So, getting back to the Psalms, the Psalms are put in the book in different stanzas. And when you’re in the community you often will have one side read one stanza and the other side will read the next stanza. When you’re on your own, you pray all of them yourself. Makes sense! Reciting the Psalms is perfectly acceptable. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, I want to challenge you, just a little bit. And to think about these as the sung prayers that they were meant to be and still are meant to be. Some of you may be saying, “Kim uh, I don’t sing that much.” You haven’t heard me sing and you don’t want to hear me sing. Well, I haven’t heard you sing but God has. And, in fact, He’s the one that gave you your voice. So, whether your voice is scratchy, or if it’s lyrical, whether you can sing on pitch, or not; it doesn’t matter. God wants to hear your voice. He wants you to just raise your prayers up to Him. It’s a beautiful thing to do.
If you like singing, if you like the idea of singing the Psalms but you’re not familiar with a lot of music for it, the good thing is in this one volume version there are several different Psalm tones that are written out. On page 1718 there are lots of different notes and it gives you samples of how to sing the phrases of the Psalm. Like 4 phrases and you can just follow the notes. Basically, a lot of these are using one note for most of the phrase and then you just change for the last couple of syllables or last couple of words. It takes a little bit of practice but after a while you get the hang of it.
There are several pages of Psalm tones in this book but, honestly, you don’t need to learn all of them. You can learn one, maybe two and then use those throughout the week. Especially if you’re praying on your own you don’t need to worry about having the rhythm all perfect and all that. Just pick one and become comfortable and familiar with it.
I’m gonna sing a couple of phrases that are in this sample. It’s a sample from Psalm 25:[Begins singing] “Lord make me know your ways, Lord teach me your path. Make me walk in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.” [Singing continues] That probably sounds kinda familiar. You’ve heard this type of singing before. It’s not that hard. You can put any words to it. Just give it a try, I promise, you’ll get the hang of it [singing ends].
I can’t believe I just did that! Ha ha! At any rate, I just want you to know that it’s that easy! You can put any words to these notes. Not a problem! So, the notes are in the back of the book, the Psalms are further up front and you might think “I’m going to forget what the notes are”. It’s okay. Especially if you’re just starting this, if you stumble a little bit no one is going to know. The important thing is that you pray from your heart. Sing from your heart! Let the notes kind of flow and whatever happens, happens. I’m sure that God will be pleased.
So, I’ve got here Wednesday Morning Prayer. I have no idea what day you’re listening to this but I’m just going to just sing a couple of sections of Psalm 47 from Wednesday Morning Prayer. [Begins singing] “All peoples clap your hands, cry to God with shouts of joy. For the Lord the most high we must fear, great king over all the Earth. He subdues peoples under us and nations under our feet. Our inheritance of glory is from Him, given to Jacob out of Love.” [Ends singing].
And you can keep going. Again, it’s not like you have to sing the Psalms. You certainly don’t have to sing all of them but I think of this as a way of connecting with God’s people over all the years of the story of our faith, the story of our faith family. I don’t know I just find it very beautiful and very special. There are other settings that you can use. You can find a hymnal from your church, maybe an older hymnal. We recently switched hymnals at our church and I had a copy of my own anyway but some of the Psalms are a little contemporary. They have a little bit more of a modern feel and a modern flow. If that’s something that you like, you can find those as well.
A word of caution, some of the modern settings take quite a bit of poetic license with the text. I used to not be bothered by that. Now, it irks me a little bit. But I think the important thing, again, is to pray these Psalms with your heart in the right state. That you’re really lifting your prayers up to God. When possible use a setting with the text as close to the actual scriptural text as possible.
Before I go, I am just going to sing two verses, one other Psalm, it’s Psalm 100. Psalm 100 is often used in Morning Prayer. It’s one of the options to start Morning Prayer but it also comes up in one of the cycles, or one of the Psalters. And this is a more modern settings but I love the tune. I must confess, I absolutely love it. And so, if you have your bible with you open it up to Psalm 100 and you can follow along, at least with a little bit of this.
[Begins singing] “We are His people, the flock of the Lord. We are His people, the flock of the Lord. Cry out with joy to the Lord all you lands, all you lands. Serve the Lord now with gladness, come before Him singing for joy. We are His people, the flock of the Lord.” [Singing ends].
I was gonna sing my but my throat got dry! So, instead of scratching my throat on this I just want to give you a little sample of that. Allow the music to enhance your prayer experience. Pray the Psalms in you bible, in liturgical prayer with the Church at mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, pray with all of your brothers and sisters in the Church! I hope that you learn how to do this. I hope that you find great joy in it as I have. And I hope to pray with you tomorrow. Bye, bye.
About Kim Padan
Kim Padan grew up in a small town in northern Illinois with her parents, 2 older brothers, and 1 younger sister. Life was pretty “normal” with school and church activities. Part of that “normal” life was growing up with Dejerine-Sottas, a progressive neuro-muscular disorder that impacted her muscle strength and balance. Despite various challenges, Kim always had a sense of her real dignity as a unique person in the eyes of God. Kim’s parents expected much of her, just like her siblings, and always shared their love for her. That foundation of faith and family helped Kim grow into adulthood to have a family of her own. In 1993, she married Bruce, and in 1994 she conceived her only biological child. A routine ultrasound at 14 weeks detected serious anomalies, and Kim was advised to abort. Knowing that all life is precious in the eyes of God, including people with disabilities, Kim & Bruce rejected abortion. The months that followed were filled with brief moments of joy and many tears. Despite the tears, Kim’s testimony is filled with hope and peace as she shares how she learned to cling to Christ in all things.
After her experiences, Kim felt compelled to get involved in the prolife movement. She joined the Board of Directors at HELP Ministries, INC (now doing business as Women’s Care Clinic) and after 7 years on the board became Executive Director. Under her 11 year leadership the ministry grew and added services, including ultrasound, allowing the ministry team to save more babies. Now, God has called Kim out to a broader audience to speak about the blessings He has in store for each of us when we step out of our own plans and into His! Kim currently serves as the Chair of Evangelization for the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, and has been published in the diocesan paper on both prolife and evangelization themes. When Kim is not speaking or writing about faith (http://gabrielsmom.com), she enjoys singing in the church choir, rubber stamping greeting cards, reading, and watching classic movies with Bruce. She also recently made her temporary profession as a Lay Dominic.