Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God
Through the Prayers of the Church
The Revised Grail Psalms
Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition
The New American Bible
Catechism of the Catholic Church
video The Bible as the Living Word of God (40:44)
video Why Memorize Scripture? (4:47)
This online supplemental material coordinates with the lesson that can be found on pages 4–7 of Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. (If you have a first edition, you can find the lesson on pages 60–63 in your study book.) Our Catholic Bible study is based on The Revised Grail Psalms, the English translation of the Psalms approved by the Church for liturgical use. In addition to differences in wording of the biblical texts, other translations also may vary in the way that they number some Psalms and verses.
welcome to our study of the Book of the Psalms
We invite groups and individuals doing this 28-lesson Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study to take advantage of our supplemental online study pages. Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church has been granted an imprimatur and can be purchased from our website shop. If you have a question for the author, click on the “ask us your question” button on our supplemental pages.
open with prayer
It’s always wise to begin any Bible study with prayer, whether we’re reading the Scriptures alone or meeting with others in a discussion study group. You can pray any or all of the Psalms that are the basis for this lesson, compose a prayer using your own words, or use one of the opening prayers on our website. We especially like the following, which Matthew’s Bible study prays together every week.
Lord Jesus, you promised to send your Holy Spirit to teach us all things.
As we read and study your word today,
allow it truly to touch our hearts and change our lives. Amen.
a caution to think before we speak
The title of this lesson—”Set a Guard Over My Mouth”—may give many people pause. The illustration on the left is the first one Tami Palladino created for this Bible study, and it captures the idea that we need God’s help to avoid saying things that we later will regret. There are a variety of ways that we can misspeak. The most serious, of course, appears in the Ten Commandments—taking God’s name in vain. The lesson for Friday Vespers (Week I) on pages 52-55 in Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church covers the Divine Praises, which were written in reparation for blasphemy and profane language. We all can think of many other ways in which we engage in harmful speech. It’s fitting that the prayers for Sunday 1st Vespers focus our attention at the beginning of the week on the words that we allow to escape our lips. With a new week unfolding, it’s up to us to make wise choices regarding what we say about God and others—as well as what we say to God and others. In our prayer we can anticipate challenges we may face, and we can ask God to help us to maintain control over our words no matter what situations may arise in our lives. Click on the image to enlarge Tami’s illustration, which appears on page 5 of Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. (If you have a first edition, you’ll find Tami’s illustration on page 61.)
you could look it up—what has the Psalmist vowed not to forget?
In Psalm 119, the Psalmist considers the decrees of the LORD to be his eternal heritage, and he’s determined to obey them. To learn about the link between religious law and reality, read Lost in Translation, an online column in which Turning to God’s Word author Matthew Phelps helps readers connect with ancient ideas expressed in the Scriptures. New entries are posted on Tuesdays. If you’d like to receive Matthew’s comments about biblical languages by email each week, there’s a sign-up form next to the searchable archives.
encountering Jesus Christ through Scripture
The Book of the Psalms is a collection of intensely personal prayers, so any Bible study based on these prayers necessarily is going to get personal. The questions in Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church attempt to address three different questions about each individual Psalm. First, what did the original Psalmist have in mind when he composed his prayer? Second, what might Jesus have had in mind when he prayed the same words? Third, how do present-day Christians interpret these ancient prayers?
WHAT DO YOU THINK should be the ultimate goal of Bible study?
The ultimate goal of this study is to increase our individual understanding of what God is communicating to us through the Psalms and of what we wish to communicate back to God. Because of this, many of the questions in Sing a New Psalm direct participants to think about the meaning of the Psalms in the context of our own lives. It’s still important to focus on the facts presented in the text.
? Who is praying?
? What is prompting their prayer?
? What is going on historically at the time the Psalm was written?
? What expectation does the Psalmist have regarding how God might respond?
? What can you learn about God from the particular Psalms that you’re studying?
? How are your prayers like the prayers of the Psalmist?
? What motivates you to pray?
? What is going on in your life at the time you’ve chosen to pray?
? What expectation do you have about how God might respond to your prayer?
the popes inspire us—dealing with the temptation to speak evil
How do you handle temptations? “Evil Enticements” on page 4 of Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church addresses the issue of the attractive nature of sin. (If you have a first edition, “Evil Enticements” appears on page 60.) In this general audience, Pope St. John Paul II examines the Psalmist’s indignant condemnation of evil in Psalm 141. The Holy Father points out that the Psalmist’s hostility toward sin is paired with an absolute certainty that it is God who will intervene in history to judge injustice.
read the Catechism—precepts of the Church
The Psalms prayed for Sunday 1st Vespers (Week I) include a portion of Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Bible. In this elaborate prayer, the Psalmist praises God’s law and promises to uphold it. At the time Psalm 119 was written, the Torah was understood to contain all of the precepts of the law. The Torah also was viewed as a source of God’s blessing. In the present day, many people have difficulty accepting any type of authority or law as a source of blessing—even the God-given Ten Commandments. Sadly, a number of Catholics are unable even to name the precepts of the Church. If you fall into this camp, you can find these precepts listed in paragraphs 2042-2043 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (The remaining verses of Psalm 119 form the basis for a week’s worth of midday prayers. The Psalms for Day Prayer, Vigils, and Compline will be covered in Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church—Volume II, which will be released at a later date.)
2042 The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.
The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year”) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.
The third precept (“You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season”) guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.
2043 The fourth precept (“You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church”) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.
The fifth precept (“You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”) means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.
The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.
write your own Psalm
An underlying theme in the Book of the Psalms is the idea of singing a new song to God. It’s this idea that suggested the title for our Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study. If you’d like to offer God a new type of prayer, you might want to consider trying your hand at writing a Psalm of your own. You can find some suggestions of ways to do that on the back page of Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. Keep in mind that your prayer only will be new if you tell God something that he doesn’t usually hear from you.
visual meditation as a form of prayer
If you like to draw, you might like to make some illustrations of your own to accompany your prayers for each lesson in Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. For additional inspiration, check out the visual meditation journal that Tami Palladino created to accompany another of our Catholic Bible studies: The Letter to the Hebrews: An Explanation of the Mechanism of Our Salvation.
the Abbot Primate shares his thoughts on the Psalms
You can pick up a lot of interesting information by reading the introduction in The Revised Grail Psalms, the new English translation included with each copy of Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. Gregory Polan, O.S.B., abbot primate of the worldwide Benedictine Confederation, graciously agreed as well to write the foreword to Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. Our Turning to God’s Word study uses The Revised Grail Psalms translation as our biblical text. If you wish to compare this translation with the Book of the Psalms found in other English translations of the Bible, you may encounter instances in which the Psalms and some of their verses are numbered slightly differently. The Revised Grail Psalms has been approved for liturgical use in English-speaking countries and eventually will replace the translations we hear in the Mass and pray in Liturgy of the Hours books. A link to a digital version of The Revised Grail Psalms is included on the online pages that accompany every lesson in Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church.
The Psalms: Songs of Faith and Praise contains commentary and prayers written by Gregory Polan, O.S.B., abbot primate of the worldwide Benediction Confederation, as well as the complete translation of The Revised Grail Psalms. An excellent companion to Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church, the Abbot Primate’s book is an indispensable aid for anyone who wishes to learn more about drawing nearer to God by praying these ancient prayers.
we recommend other books as well
Ex libris—Psalms features books related to the Psalms that we’ve read and like and are willing to recommend. You can read a brief review of the book and a short excerpt—and if you want to judge the book by its cover, you can see a thumbnail of that. Check out our other ex libris collections as well. They’re located under “Bible study resources.” A link to the Psalms books will be included with the standard links on the supplementary online pages that accompany this Bible study. In addition, people in the St. Augustin Bible study who recently heard me talk about the theological virtues might be interested in reading Faith Hope Love by Joseph Pieper. Pieper’s academic discipline is philosophy rather than theology, and he does an exceptional job focusing on language to narrow the definition of these three concepts and bring them into sharper focus for Catholics.
would you like to hear the Psalms chanted?
There are many recordings of chanted Psalms, but we haven’t yet located any using The Revised Grail Psalm translation that’s the basis of this Bible study. Here’s one website that features many (but not all) of the Psalms chanted in English.
a related Bible study—do you know when & why shifts occur in religious law?
Many Psalms focus on religious law. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews relies on his understanding of Jewish religious law to make his apologetic argument that Christianity is superior in every way to traditional Hebrew worship practices. The Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study The Letter to the Hebrews: An Explanation of the Mechanism of Our Salvation has been granted an imprimatur and offers more information about how it is that the death of Jesus Christ is able to open the door to the possibility of salvation for all men and women. This 23-lesson study can be purchased from our website shop.
this Bible study has been granted an imprimatur
Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church was granted an imprimatur by the Most Reverend Richard E. Pates, bishop of Des Moines, on July 1, 2015. The Censor Librorum for the Diocese of Des Moines, the Very Reverend Aquinas Nichols, granted the nihil obstat. The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat or imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed in the book or pamphlet.
close with a Psalms-based prayer for Sunday 1st Vespers (Week I)
Many of our Catholic study groups like to conclude their discussions with a prayer based on the scriptural focus of their lesson. If you’re uncomfortable composing your own Bible-based prayers, you can follow our four easy steps. If you prefer, you can pray any of the Psalms in this lesson, or you can use the following short prayer.
O God, you are the refuge of all who call on you.
Respond in mercy to those who seek your protection.
Grant that we may place as much value
on the words that we say about others and to them
as we do on the words that we use in our prayers.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ,
the Word you sent to give your faithful people life. Amen.
Q & A—we’re here to help if you have questions or comments
It’s fine to take your time thinking and praying about passages of Scripture that you don’t understand. If this is leaving you feeling frustrated, however, consider talking over your questions with one of our Turning to God’s Word authors. Matthew, Tami, and I are happy to engage in email discussions with participants in our studies.
Q: Some people who are used to doing Bible studies from other publishers have asked: “Why don’t Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible studies provide any printed answer keys?”
A: The Turning to God’s Word method of Bible study is dependent on participants directly engaging with the biblical text and looking to that text for answers to their questions. All of the factual questions in the lessons can be answered from the Scriptures. Sidebars in the lessons contain supplemental material written to help explain some of the themes suggested by the biblical text. Most of our studies also feature videos with each lesson.
Outside commentaries can shed light on individual biblical texts, but many commentaries examine Scripture passages out of context. Many also take an academic rather than spiritual approach to the Bible. If you’re confused about anything in our studies or in any related outside commentaries, we encourage you to browse our website for more information, or to contact us using the “ask us your question” button on every online lesson page.
The goal of all Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible studies is to foster personal reflection leading to a more intimate relationship with Jesus. Consequently, each lesson contains reflection questions, and these necessarily don’t have any “right” or “wrong” answers. If you’d like to share your thoughts about any of our lessons, we’d be happy to discuss ideas. Contact us using the “ask us your question” button found on all of our online lesson pages.
a video that could change the way you approach the Bible
Even if you’re a veteran of Catholic Bible studies, we recommend that you watch Matthew Phelps’ explanation of the practical benefits of approaching The Bible as the Living Word of God. This 40:44-minute video is distilled from a talk that Matthew gave at the 2015 Turning to God’s Word retreat at Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri. Matthew looks at how viewing Scripture as a living document can help us to develop a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. In addition, he examines the principles of lectio divina, the traditional Catholic approach to reading and praying with Scripture. Lectio divina is the foundation of all Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible studies. Our website offers more information.
memorize a favorite Psalm
Tami has created a short video about the benefits of memorizing Bible verses. Choosing a passage that you find particularly meaningful will make the task easier and personally worthwhile. There are inspiring verses in every book of the Bible, but selections from the Book of the Psalms lend themselves especially well to memorization. Some people in our Turning to God’s Word Bible studies like to memorize a verse from their lesson every week. For more ideas, you might want to check out Tami’s video, Why Memorize Scripture? It’s less than five minutes long.
start a Turning to God’s Word Bible study
Thank you for your interest in Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. A wealth of information about beginning a Turning to God’s Word individual or group Bible study can be found on this website at start a Bible study. Tami, Matthew, and I are available to answer your questions about Turning to God’s Word and to offer support. You may use this email to contact us directly. —Jennifer