Reading the Psalter

The Psalter chases the blues away.

The Psalter applies to everything.

The Psalter always applies to you.

Weak faith



Prophet and King David, form the Orthodox Psalter, trans by David James.
david-prophet-and-king-from-russian-orthodox-psalter.jpgToday, I have been a little down. There are a lot of pressures right now, in our personal finances and worries abut the church finances. I worked 47 hours last week; No pastor should work that much. It is hard to know which end is up and which is down sometimes. The building is not going as fast as I want it too, and we still need some more cash to ensure success.


Strike that, the last half of the last statement was a secular statement; Christian’s must recognize when they are thinking and speaking in a secular way, and stop it!


We “still” need what the Lord will give us – His mercy. All that matters is that we gain peace, because where perfect peace is, the Holy Spirit must be abiding perfectly.


All this stuff is temporal, and worries are because of weak faith.


Where do you go when your faith is weak? By the way, do not determine if you have “weak faith” by whether you have doubts or not. Our faith is shown by our priorities, and our thoughts, and by what we do (often despite how we feel and what we are thinking).


I go to the Psalter. It is the perfect prater book, and everyone should have one. I believe everyone should carry one with them, to be used at odd moments, during the day. I have a “Pocket Psalter” that literally fits in my pocket. I have read it when waiting for a tire to be fixed, or in a doctor’s office, or when the little boy I take care of is sleeping. You can read it any time. Read it aloud, or “chant” it silently (which is what I do 99% of the time – I am assuming heaven will be quiet, since the noise here is driving me crazy (er)).


Sometimes, when I read the Psalter, troubles just seem to disappear. In a way, maybe that is a bit ironic, since so many of David’s troubles are very plain to see in his psalms. But he made it through, and it was not easy. I have the latter part down pat – things are not easy, but I am going to make it through too, with God helping me.


We are small and everything is big. Our sins are big, the problems of those we love are big, and our forgetfulness and laziness is like a vast abyss, but with God’s help, we will make it through.


This is what reading the Psalter does for me. Sometimes a psalm of praise makes me “stop” for a moment and realize how beautiful life is, because God is, and I feel energized. Other times, a psalm of lament makes me feel not so very alone (this is a common affliction of the priest – feeling alone even in a crowded room). Other psalms are so pristinely theologically beautiful that I feel unworthy and privileged to have even a glimpse into the beauty that is in the holiness of God.


When you read the Psalter, and you must read it – make sure to personalize it. It is always about you. The Holy Spirit is always speaking, with wine or oil [1], or some combination. Listen, and be renewed.


Its gonna be okay. I believe, and I try real hard. I don’t always get it right, and I can see my imperfection in the variability of my moods, since with the holy, the following always applies:


“But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.  (2)   In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery:  (3)   And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.” (Wisdom 3:1-3 DRB[2] )



Now, you can’t fool me. I’m a human, so I know how other humans tick. We all have our moments, just like King David. His inspired words will help us. Our problems and feelings will not go away without much labor, but we will gain something precious and critical for success – a proper perspective. There is only one thing that is important. If you read the Psalter carefully, you will see that this “one thing needful” [3] is mentioned in every Psalm.


Pray the Psalter. It is the churches’ hymnbook. It is great to say morning and evening prayers regularly, but before the “Jordanville prayer book [4]”, there was the Psalter. If you carry it with you, you are never far from prayer, never far from consolation.




Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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[1] The Good Samaritan (our Lord Jesus Christ), poured wine and oil into the wounds of the man left  half dead at the side of the road. Among other things, this signifies the two kinds of teachings that we need – encouragement and rebuke.

[2] This selection is read in many Vespers services when we are commemorating a highly feasted Saint. The translation is the Douay Rheims Version.  Although it applies to martyrs especially, it is certain that the holy are always in peace, no matter what their external circumstances.

[3] “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:  (42)  But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 KJV)



[4] A ubiquitous and excellent prayer book among English speakers, so called because it is published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY. The Old version is online here.  You can buy it in many places, including Holy Cross Hermitage, in Wayne West Virginia. You can get a pocket Psalter there too.

5 Responses to “Reading the Psalter”

  1. daniel says:

    Bless Father, I share your sentimants wholeheartedly. I wanted so much to get the Orthodox Psalter, the Lord heard my spirit and gave me one via my Priest as a gift. I feel the need to read the Psalter more frequently these days. as you say, it brings great comfort to ones soul in times of trouble and articulates praises when one is happy. One feels closer to God as the Psalter resonates with the movements of one’s soul (don’t know if I said that rightly). The beauty is I just read from the new Russian Psalter today and was about to eat from it again when I spotted your post. Makes me think it is divine inspiration and so I thought I’d strengthen your resolve on the matter. I also have a little pocket Psalter which is a revision of the Coverdale version, done by the Anglican Church which I tote around for a read here and there. It’s brilliant. Words are inadequate. I think you will join me in chanting this one with happiness, “I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.”(Psa 119:162)

  2. Dear Daniel: I think you put it extremely well – my parish knows that I love the word “resonate”!

    A friend. David James, has doen a revision of the Coverdale psalms. I have asked him to make a pocket edition.

    You have an excelllent website. I will try to read it as often as I get a chance.

    May God bless you.

  3. Thank you, Father!

    Psalter is a powerful tool to conquer temptations, to feel when it is forgotten, that we are people. That we seek God, salvation, that our treasures are in Heaven…

    Many years ago my spiritual father also told me that I should read Psalter also for consolation.

    When time passed, I realized the power of Psalter. It is also very fruitful to pray for people (who are with us, and those who reposed).

    The more we read Psalter, the more it becomes personal. The stronger effect it produces on the soul. The more new colorings I open while reading it.

    “One feels closer to God as the Psalter resonates with the movements of one’s soul” – very precisely put by Daniel! This is really so.


  4. daniel says:

    Thank you, Father, for your generous comment on my blog. May the Lord increase you in every virtue, truly.

    It is this same revision of the Coverdale psalms by your friend David James that I have received recently as a gift from my Spiritual Father. It is an invaluable prayer resource and should make a welcome pocket edition.


  5. Vasiliki says:

    I love your posts … may your secular problems be resolved in God’s time 🙂

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