First published in June, 2010,
Last updated February, 2016

Note: this article kept growing
until it finally split into two parts.

Go to part one.

Several ways to sing the Psalms

Part two: Some psalter reviews

There are well over a hundred English translations of the Bible out there now, plus several prayerbooks which contain the Psalms. There are several great stand-alone psalters to choose from, such as the Coverdale psalter, Orthodox translations of the Greek Septuagint, Catholic psalters and the Hebrew Tehillim.There are also a few metrical psalter versions in print. The photo at the right shows part of my collection of psalters which contain only the Psalms.

In this second part of the article I'd like to shift gears and introduce you to some of the psalters that are out there, in addition to the ones already mentioned in the first half of this article.

Some are pointed for singing or chanting, and some are straight unadorned text which require a little improvisation on your part if you want to sing them.

If you love the Psalms, you will probably end up with several beloved psalters. I never planned on collecting psalters, but I ended up with quite a pile of them all the same.

There is one caveat, however, if you find your book shelf is starting to bulge with psalters: if you are singing through the psalms regularly, especially if you go through the entire collection every month or every week, the words will stay with you and come to mind later when you need them. You can memorize Psalms without even trying. But if you keep jumping from one version to another, you could lose that benefit. It's fun to collect a bunch of versions for reading and comparison, but if memorizing the Psalms is important to you, then stick to one version for daily chanting, such as the translation your church uses.

Regular Bibles and many stand-alone psalters don't have the benefit of pointing (those markings that divide the text to fit the chant) but after you've been at this for a while, you will discover you really don't need any pointing at all, at least if you are chanting simple Plainsong (Anglican Chants are a little more complicated). Most Psalms are clearly divided into two or three parts. A quick glance at the end of each part is usually all you will need. And you will be surprised at how much of the Psalm remains with you from the times you chanted it in the past.

Pocket New Testaments with Psalms

Since I rely on a crowded public transportation system and also do a lot of walking between stations, I think tiny pocket psalters are a great idea. Too bad they are so rare! After much searching I've found only a few and you can read about them below.

Fortunately there is no shortage of pocket New Testaments which include the Psalms, and they can be found everywhere. Of course, you have to find one with readable text since the extra contents requires a smaller type size, and the text in some of these can be a bit tiny for older eyes. When I was a teenager I always carried a very small King James New Testament with the Psalms. That little book lived in the back pocket of my jeans and nearly fell apart after several years. In later years I carried a pocket NASB New Testament with Psalms until it vanished during my travels.

ESV pocket New TestamentNow I have a very nice Pocket English Standard Version (ESV) New Testament with Psalms. It is in the photo on the right. Mine has a nice leather cover and guilded edges, but there is also a synthetic cover available which some people prefer. The text is not too small for my eyes.

The New Testament portion is in double column format, but the publisher apparently had a special reverence for the Psalms, and laid them out in a single column format with each verse on its own line just like real poetry; very classy and easy to read and chant! I'm shouldn't be surprised since J.I. Packer was one of the main forces behind this translation, and he happens to be an Anglican. As you have probably gathered from the article above, the Psalms hold a special place in the hearts of most Anglicans, who hold them in the highest regard.

You may notice some letters penciled in the margin with a blue pencil. Those are my own divisions of the Psalms into small portions of fairly uniform length, which are distributed over several time slots during the day for a 30 day period. This page has 18NP, so it schedules Psalm 91 for Night Prayer on the 18th day of the month. Actually, I recite Psalm 91 from memory every night because of all the earthquakes we've been having, and predictions of a devastating quake to hit Tokyo in the next few years. We are walking through the valley of the shadow of death and need to cling to God now more than ever.

The ESV is a revision of the RSV (Revised Standard Version) which was was very popular when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, and is now widely used by Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, making it a truly ecumenical Bible version.

If you prefer the RSV, another recently published pocket paperback New Testament with Psalms is the Orthodox Youth Edition which is in the photo on the left. I have written review of this one in a different article.

There are situations where it really helps to have quick access to the Scriptures. Not long ago I was taking a walk at lunch time, and for some reason started feeling depressed. Perhaps it was because of the old and dying neighborhood I had passed through. Anyway, I pulled out my tiny pocket New Testament and started to quietly chant some Psalms which I had scheduled for the day, and suddenly my spirit was lifted up and I was filled with incredible joy. I can't explain the amazing change except to say it must have been the Holy Spirit working through these powerful words. The content of the particular Psalm I had chosen was not particularly unique or uplifting, but I later recalled another passage in the letter of James that said "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." I'm so glad I had this treasure in my pocket!

I can sometimes be seen walking around the neighborhood with a little book open, singing by myself, oblivious to my surroundings. My students are very amused when they see this. But someday I might get hit by a car if I'm not careful.

Just a note about Psalm reading schedules: I've spent a lot of time and energy compiling all kinds of Psalm reading schedules that will take you through the Psalms in 30 days or four weeks, and several can be found linked from this article. They are really helpful, but they're not for everyone. There's a lot to be said for simply plowing through the Psalms at your own pace with a bookmark to keep your place. If you don't feel the need to finish the Psalms in one month, why restrict yourself that way?

Don't forget good old portable Bibles

I carry about a dozen e-book Bibles on my Kindle, but it is still my habit to always carry a compact Bible everywhere in my bag. One thing I can't easily do with an e-book Bible is whip and flip, in other words, whip it out quickly and flip directly to the passage I'm looking for. I often visit an old church near my work at lunch break to pray the Psalms in the quiet sanctuary. I'm sure that anyone who happens to drop in would be more comfortable seeing a Bible in my hands rather than some electronic device.

The practice of carrying a Bible in my bag started back when I was a student at Malone College in Ohio. I had a big heavy New American Standard Reference Bible that was wonderful but not exactly portable (but that didn't stop me from carrying it around all the same). At that time I fell in love with a particular pocket version of the NASB I had seen in the hands of a visiting missionary speaker. One of my friends also had the exact same Bible. It was small, made of leather, and had a snap flap. The idea of carrying something that small and portable in my bag had me very excited (this was many years before Japanese subways would force me to to keep everything small and portable).

That Bible cost around forty dollars, which was a lot of money back then, especially for a poor college student. So my dilemma was that even if I had been given the money to buy such a Bible, I couldn't justify the purchase because there were other things I needed to buy even more; back in those days I was so poor that after I wrote a letter I had to pray for money to just buy postage stamps! So one day I entered a prayer in my prayer journal (dated February 16, 1983) asking God to send someone who would buy me that particular Bible as a gift. I didn't really think this would happen, but I prayed for a lot of very specific things in those days, just to have all bases covered. Of course I didn't tell anyone about my outrageous prayer request.

Two days later some friends surprised me by handing me that very Bible, brand new, and still in its box! A mutual acquaintance whom I had not seen for a long time had bought one for herself and also decided to buy one for me as well, and asked my friends to give it to me!

So that day I promised God I would try to carry Bible with me wherever I was. I took it with me when I visited Japan a few months later on a summer mission trip, and it was a good companion. That little Bible has travelled in my bag with me everywhere since then, and has flown over the Pacific Ocean many times. I still have it with me here in Japan, and still use it. You can't find that particular compact Bible in the stores these days, but it has a worthy successor.

If you invest in a compact Bible, I highly recommend looking for one with either a zipper cover or snap flap so you won't worry about the pages getting mangled or ripped by other items in your bag. No matter how careful you are, things have a way of ending up inside the pages. A small pouch would also serve to protect your Bible if it doesn't have a flap or zipper.

Today most Protestant Bibles have sixty-six books. Until the 1820s, the Authorized King James Version and all other English Bibles had at least seventy-three books because they included the books which are referred to as the "Deuterocanonical" books by Catholics and the "Apocrypha" by Protestants. Today some very nice compact Bibles which include these books are available including one that has a zipper cover.

It's nice to have the entire Bible handy when you are praying the Psalms because you can go to other passages that pop into your head. Of course, if you are not careful, you may end up chasing a trail through the Bible rather than praying the Psalms as you had intended. For those who are easily distracted, the value of a dedicated psalter is that it only has the Psalms so you can't go off on detours; a psalter is a sharp tool for a specific job. And they are also a lot of fun!

A pocket Orthodox Psalter

HTM psalterHere's a classy little green pocket psalter produced by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (the one in the lower right corner of the photo above, and featured in the photo below). Orthodox Christians usually refer to it as the HTM Psalter. Now you can get one through Amazon, but I got my copy from Orthodox Incense because they ship to Japan at reasonable rates.

This psalter is pocket size, with a beautiful design printed in black and red on nice opaque paper. The text is a new translation (done in the 1970s) of the Septuagint, , and therefore considered a valuable translation of the Hebrew.

Since the source for the Septuagint was Hebrew manuscripts in the second century BC which have crumbled many centuries ago, it is also a snapshot of what the text of those Hebrew manuscripts looked like, as well as how the words were interpreted by Jews at the time.

One important example is found not in the Psalms but in Isaiah 7:14 where we read the prophecy that a "young woman" or "virgin" will give birth to a son. The Hebrew almah can mean either "young woman" or "virgin." So how did Jews in the 2nd century BC interpret it before Jesus Christ was born? The Septuagint indicates they read it as "virgin" because the translators chose the Greek word parthenos which means "virgin."

Bible translators dare not ignore the Septuagint, especially since Jesus, the Apostles, and the Church Fathers read it, accepted it as scripture, and quoted from it. This was the common version of scripture when the apostle Paul wrote that all scripture is inspired by God (literally "God-breathed").

The earliest Septuagint manuscripts we have now are from the 4th century AD.

The Hebrew text of the Bible we have today is from the Masoretic text which gives us a snapshot of what 7th century AD Hebrew manuscripts looked like (around 900 years after the ones used for the Septuagint). The earliest Hebrew Masoretic text manuscripts we have now are from the 9th century AD.

Even though it's a modern translation, this Psalter uses the older form of English. Modern English has lost the distinction between second person singular and plural pronouns unless y'all live in the south or yinz hail from Pittsburgh (they really say yinz; I've heard it!) so the old pronouns (thee, thou, and ye, etc) make the text more precise. One drawback to old translations is that many other English words have become obsolete or have changed their meaning. A modern translation that uses the classic pronouns? That's wonderful as I'm concerned. The text is more of a dynamic equivalence translation which tries to convey the feeling of the original rather than the exact equivalent of each word.

In this psalter (and all Orthodox Christian psalters) the Psalms are divided into 20 sections called Kathismata. Two Kathismata are to be read in the mornings, and one is to be read most evenings so you can finish all the Psalms in a week. Each Kathisma is divided into three sections called stases, which means there are actually 60 divisions in all. If you want to read through this psalter in one month (30 days) just read one stasis each morning and each evening.

A full size Orthodox Psalter

A Psalter for Prayer combines so many of the things that I've wanted to see in a Psalter.

It's a full size hardbound book which is sewn stitched like all traditional books, and has two gold ribbons and is printed in black and red. You can see how big it is next to the Saint Dunstan Psalter and the Holy Transfiguration Monastery Psalter.

psalter for prayer

It uses the Psalms from Coverdale Bible which was the first entire Bible published in English. It is a dignified, timeless translation, and the perfect choice for public reading and chanting. The Coverdale Psalter has been loved by many generations of Christians since it first appeared in 1535, and it continues to be widely popular today.

As a matter of fact, in the 21st century, this version of the Psalms is officially used not only by Anglicans and Episcopalians in the Book of Common Prayer, but also by Catholics in the Personal Ordinariates. It is also loved by English-speaking Orthodox Christians, for whom this particular Psalter was published. How many English Bible translations can you think of which are used and loved by Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians?

The text of the Coverdale Psalms in this Psalter was edited to conform to the Septuagint, and so all the advantages I mentioned above also apply here. It has the twenty Kathismata, all the canticles, and extra prayers including those from the Slavonic Psalter which cannot be found in other English Psalters. The translator is David Mitchell James.

The numbering of the Psalms is based on the Septuagint. Here's Psalm 94 (Psalm 95 in some Psalters). This Psalm starts out "Come, let us rejoice" which apparently reflects the Septuagint reading rather than "Come, let us sing" as it appears in the Book of Common Prayer.

psalter for prayer ps 94

Here is what Psalm 63 looks like (Psalm 64 in some Psalters) so you can compare the text with the Holy Transfiguration Monastery pocket psalter above:

psalm 63

This Psalter even uses Hebrew characters where they identify Psalms which have sections corresponding to the Hebrew alphabet. The Latin titles have also been retained.

psalter for prayer ps 118

This book is fairly big, and would fit perfectly on the lecturn in a church. For those who need something more portable, there's also a Kindle version and an epub version so you can read it on your smart phone or tablet.

The Coverdale Psalter

Speaking of the Coverdale Psalter, some articles on the web have pointed out that it is not the most accurate version of the Psalms we have today. But the differences between the Coverdale Psalms and more recently published Psalms are insignificant as far as I can tell. And several editions of the Coverdale Psalter have been edited for more accuracy.

1928 American Coverdale PsalterOne of the best edited versions of the Coverdale Psalter is the one found in the the 1928 American edition of the Book of Common Prayer.

According to the Commentary on the American Prayer Book the editors went over the entire psalter and carefully compared it with the Hebrew text, resulting in over one hundred changes.

In light of this, I think I can trust the accuracy of the 1928 American Coverdale Psalter. It is also available by itself in handy paperback form but you may miss it in a web search because the title doesn't mention Coverdale; it is called The 1928 Prayer Book Psalter (see the photo to the right).

My copy is 5 inches wide by 7 3/4 inches tall, and less than a half an inch thick (127mm X 198mm X 11 mm), so it's too big to fit in a pocket, but it will fit nicely in a bag, and is very light.

Also, I mentioned Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter in part one of this article, and that one uses the 1928 American Coverdale Psalter as well. But in those places in the 1928 American Psalter where the Psalms were edited to conform to the Hebrew text rather than the Greek and the Latin, the Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter restored the original Coverdale wording.

Why would anyone even consider doing such a thing? As I mentioned above, the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate are translations of a Hebrew text which is several centuries older than the Masoretic Hebrew text we have today. In places where the Greek and Latin agree with each other but disagree with the Hebrew, you can bet that the Greek and Latin is the older and more reliable reading.

Another excellent version of the Coverdale Psalms is A Psalter for Prayer which I described just above. That one was more thoroughly edited to conform to the Septuagint.

The Hebrew Tehillim

Another great pocket psalter is the Tehillim published by the Kehot Publication Society. This is slightly under 3 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches, and is 3/4 inches thick. This one has English and Hebrew on facing pages which makes the book a little thick since it contains two complete psalters. The English is translated from a Hebrew standpoint (which one could argue is the original one), and that makes it fascinating and instructive. Look at the very first two lines of the first Psalm:

Fortunate is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the path of sinners, nor sat in the counsel of scoffers. Rather, his desire is in the Torah of the Lord, and in His Torah he meditates day and night.

I bet you didn't know this was a reference to the Torah, which is the first five books of Moses, from Genesis to Deuteronomy (although the word can also be used in a more general sense). Also, a lot of the names in the Tehillim are slightly different from what you may be accustomed to, being in their original Hebrew form.

pocket tehillim

I am very impressed with the apparent accuracy of this translation. No, I can't read the Hebrew side, but the English wording is extremely close to other translations which are noted for their word-for-word faithfulness to the original texts (formal equivalence rather dynamic equivalence translations) such as the New American Standard Bible. It stands to reason that this would have to be an accurate translation since the original Hebrew is on the facing pages, and many readers can check it for themselves as they go along.

Of course, if you can't read Hebrew, then half of this book just takes up extra space.

The pocket edition is paperback, so the pages will not lie flat (that's why I used the clip in the photo), but that might not be an issue if you always hold the psalter in your hand rather than rest it on a desk. The cover is really cool and exotic. And in case you were wondering, the Word TEHILLIM is not really embossed. It's a neat illusion, but the cover is flat. This psalter is divided into seven sections for reading the entire thing in a week. It's also divided into 30 sections for reading it through in a month. I ordered mine several years ago from Jewish Russian Books, but now it's available at Amazon with a brown cover, but apparently everything else is the same as the one I got.

The Liturgy of the Hours

If you like the idea of praying the same Psalms and other prayers with people all around the globe every day, then you might like the Liturgy of the Hours (a.k.a. the Divine Office). It is mainly used by Catholics, but many Protestants also use it in their personal devotions. Psalms, prayers, Bible passages and hymns are sung or said seven times a day at approximately three hour intervals. It's a nice system that distributes the Psalms into smaller portions throughout the day. These seven times of prayer are called offices.

  • The Office of Readings (no fixed time slot in the current system) formerly known as Matins
  • Morning Prayer (some time around sunrise) A.K.A. Lauds
  • Daytime Prayer (at mid-morning, noon and mid-afternoon) A.K.A. Terce, Sext and None
  • Evening Prayer (some time around sunset) A.K.A. Vespers
  • Night Prayer (before retiring for the night) A.K.A. Compline

Lay people are encouraged to do at least Morning and Evening Prayer (the two main offices) if they can, but if you do all of the offices daily you will go through the psalter in four weeks (Daytime Prayer need only be done once a day to acomplish this, and Night Prayer cycles through the same limited set of Psalms every week).

In the older arrangement, there is another morning time slot called Prime, bringing up the total hours to eight. People could pray every three hours around the clock but they had to be awake at midnight, be out of bed at three in the morning, try to get a little more sleep and be ready to pray again at six! Very dedicated religious orders (monks, etc) did this every day and night, and went through all the Psalms in one week cycles. The current arrangement of hours was created with the laity in mind.

The book (or set of books) which contains the Liturgy of the Hours is called a breviary.

There was a time when Latin was the common language of the western world, and the Breviary was prayed in Latin only. But now the Breviary has been translated into many languages, so all the Christians in the world can use it (the original "master copy" is still Latin and is called Liturgia Horarum).

While the Hebrew, Anglican and Orthodox Psalters have the Psalms arranged in the order they appear in the Bible, the Psalms in the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours are re-arranged to fit to their particular day and time slot and also to allow each time slot to have basically the same number of verses. They did this so that the laity with day jobs and home responsibilities would be able fit the Liturgy of the Hours into their busy daily schedules. There is a great disparity in the number of verses per Psalm as they are originally published. For example Psalm 117 has only two verses while Psalm 119 has 176 verses. Those who try to read one Psalm per day are in for a real shock! And many of the really large Psalms are lumped together back to back as are many of the smaller Psalms. So some re-arranging was necessary in a daily Psalm schedule to even it out and avoid big surprises.

If you like the idea of using this arrangement of the Psalms in your private devotions, I've made a handy chart of which Psalms are use in each time slot. Here is the same chart in a vertical format which you can print and tuck in your Bible, breviary or psalter. I've also made a Japanese version.

If you want to include all the scripture readings that appear regularly along with the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours, I have made a more complete chart.

A liturgical calendar is necessary to let you know where you should be in the 4 week cycle, and an online version can be found at the Rosary Shop web site or you can find all the Psalms and readings for the current day on the web at Univeralis, iBreviary or Divine Office.

Three of the more harsh Psalms have been omitted from the current psalter: Psalms 58, 83 and 109 (57, 82 and 108 in some psalter numbering systems). Just make a note of these so you can read them to complete the set if you like.

liturgy of the hours

There are over a billion Catholics in the world so you would be in good company if you used this. Of course not every member prays the Liturgy of the Hours, but clergy and those in religious orders (monks, nuns, etc.) all around the globe are required to pray it every day and many of the laity pray all or parts of it as they are able. The Liturgy of the Hours allows the Church to "pray without ceasing" as this world spins around. No matter what time you are praying the Psalms, there are people somewhere in the world praying the same Psalms with you, though not necessarily in English.

Here it is with the paper jacket, which looks very different from the book inside.

Since my location on the globe is in Japan, I also have the Japanese version. It's a one volume set called Kyoukai no Inori (Prayer of the Church) and matches the English version except the text is vertical and reads right to left. It also has pointing for simple chanting in Morning and Evening Prayer. They still faithfully chant the Psalms in the Catholic Church here, and the form of chant is simplified, similar to one I described above where most of the words of each phrase are on a single note and they last few words on a different note. At least this is how the Psalms are chanted in Japanese.

The Liturgy of the Hours comes in a Four volume Set, or a one volume set called Christian Prayer. Both have the entire four week psalter plus scripture readings, hymns, canticles and prayers for a very complete private devotion. The book in the photo above (with blue edged pages) is volume one of the four volume set which is shown at the right.

The main difference between the four and one volume set is the Office of Readings which includes writings from various sources such as the Church Fathers. These are included in the four volume set.

These books require a bit of page flipping to find the parts you need at any given prayer time, and it can be confusing at first. There are several helpful tutorials on the web including a PDF called Discovering Prayer which can be downloaded for free the Rosary Shop.

There is also a handy guide published every year which tells you exactly which pages to use for any given date. It's called the Saint Joseph Guide for the Liturgy of the Hours. There is a guide for the single Volume Christian Prayer and a guide for the four volume set. So make sure you get the right guide for your books, and make sure you get the one for the current year!

If you want to chant these Psalms there is a beautiful one volume set called the Mundelein Psalter which has all the pointing and notation.

There is also an African edition of the Liturgy of the Hours now (English language). I acquired a copy and included photos in a separate article.

And for Anglicans who want to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in a small book similar to their beloved Book of Common Prayer, there is also a portable edition called A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer which I have also reviewed in a separate article.

A little technical information for those who are interested in the Japanese breviary: There is no four-volume set in Japanese, so the one-volume is THE breviary in Japan, and is therefore more comprehensive than the American or African one-volume breviary. It includes Daytime Prayer in its entirety between Morning and Evening Prayer plus the Psalms for the Office of Readings which appear before Morning Prayer and a list of Scripture readings from the one-year lectionary. The handy guide which comes out every year lists the readings from the more comprehensive two-year lectionary. The Patristic readings are published separately in eight volumes.

If you want to read and pray the Liturgy of the Hours (with no page flipping) for free on your computer or download an e-pub or Kindle version or app, there are a few great web sites out there such as Univeralis, iBreviary and Divine Office.

I have written more about the Liturgy of the Hours in an article called The Prayer of the Church.

A fun blog dedicated to the Liturgy of the Hours is called Coffee and Canticles.

A Catholic Pocket Psalter

Here is one that is even smaller than the two pocket psalters I mentioned above. It's called The Perfect Prayer Book: My Daily Psalm Book arranged by Father Frey. It's a paperback, and as you can see by the clip in the photo, it does not lay flat. I wish I had known about this little book a few decades ago when it was available in morocco leather!

My Daily Psalm Book

It's 3.5 X 5.25 inches and half an inch thick (88mm X 133mm x 14 mm) and really fits in the back pocket. This first came out in 1947 and is sort of a classic now.

It is full of line illustrations done in a classic style which I love. I don't think I'll ever tire of looking at these wonderful pictures.

The translation is based on the Latin Vulgate, which was translated by Jerome in the 4th century AD from Hebrew and Greek manuscripts available at the time which have long since crumbled and vanished. So its value is similar to the Septuagint: it preserves for us a snapshot of those early manuscripts.

Jerome apparently used Greek manuscripts of the New Testament from the 2nd century AD, only a generation or so removed from the original documents or autographs, so this makes his Latin translation of the New Testament particularly valuable. But this article is about the Psalms, so I will try to contain my excitement about the Latin Vulgate New Testament.

The earliest manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate we have now are from the 6th century AD.

I have found that this psalter is very close to my other favorite translations which are famous for their accuracy. I'm personally very stubborn about sticking with accurate translations based on the original language texts (formal equivalence rather dynamic equivalence ), and I have come to the conclusion that I can trust this one just fine. The text has thees and thous (which I have already mentioned is a good thing for accuracy) and is easy to follow since it was actually translated in the 20th century. It also has simple pointing in the form of asterisks which break each line into two parts. I have used it for chanting Psalms and I love it.

The Psalms are arranged according to the older system of the Liturgy of the Hours called the Roman Breviary which goes through all the Psalms in one week and has eight offices a day (the current four week breviary with five offices a day came into use in the late 1960s after the Second Vatican Council). But there is also an index so you can find any Psalm quickly.

But even with the index, there is one major drawback: the numbering of the Psalms is based on the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate. Most modern Psalters are numbered based on the Hebrew Masoteric text. This means that Psalm 23 becomes Psalm 22, and Psalm 51 becomes Psalm 50. So I could not find most of the Psalms in this book based on their numbers! This was such a serious problem that I could not use the Psalter at all with my daily devotions when I first got this book. So I came up with a solution.

I made a reference chart. It's on the left half of the above photo. It lists each Psalm according to the Hebrew (Masoretic) numbering system along with the page number (you may also want to write the Hebrew system numbers on the pages with each Psalm so you can verify you made it to the right place). The right half is a small chart to show you which Psalms are read during the Liturgy of the Hours. Click on the link for a PDF you can print out if you would like to use these charts. Print it out at actual size and it should fit perfectly in your copy of My Daily Psalm Book. Then just glue it inside the front cover. If gluing pages into your book seems like a heavy commitment which is a bit too permanent, you can always use removable restickable glue sticks. Since I discovered these, I've glued lots of prayers and scripture portions to the end pages of my psalters.

As I mentioned above, these Psalms are arranged according to the traditional one week Roman Breviary which many traditional Catholics still prefer. All Catholic clergy in the Latin Rite are required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, but they are allowed to choose between the current arrangement or the traditional Roman Breviary.

If you want to stay with the traditional order of the Psalms in this book and simply move a ribbon marker ahead every time you use it but don't have the time to pray all 150 Psalms in one week, here's a chart which divides this Psalter into four weeks with Morning Prayer, Day Prayer, and Evening Prayer every day. Just mark the divisions in the margin of your book; the chart uses the same numbering system as the book.

Of course, if you have the time, you can just use this little prayer book as it was intended and pray all 150 Psalms every week.

This pocket size psalter will let you have devotions throughout the day, and these charts let you pray the same Psalms that are being prayed all around the world each day. Carry this powerful little treasure in your pocket like a concealed weapon and go out fully prepared, ready to hunt bear.

Another Catholic Psalter

This one is called The Psalms, New Catholic Version, a St. Joseph Edition.

I had bought it in hopes of finding another pocket psalter, but it turned out to be over 4 X 6 inches and nearly an inch thick, and I don't have any pockets that big. It's a conservative, fairly literal translation in contemporary English, and very readable (and singable).

The unique feature of this book, however, is its extensive footnotes. For example, the first verse of Psalm 1 appears by itself at the top of the page, and the rest of the page is filled cross references and commentary. Very helpful for really digging into the background and meaning and alternate readings of each Psalm.

So this book becomes a valuable commentary on the Psalms, and can help you to clear up so many mysteries, and help you to pray the Psalms with more understanding and appreciation. There are many parts which make no sense (for example, tossing a sandal in Edom in Psalm 60:8 and 108:9 and being sad because we soujorn in Meshech and dwell among the tents of Kedar in 120:5) because we don't know the historical or cultural context of the particular Psalm, so instead of praying those parts, we kind of gloss over and become distracted, and hurry up to get on to the next Psalm. If we understood those parts and their spiritual significance, we could apply them in prayer and turn it into a valuable and rewarding experience. I keep this book at hand when I'm chanting the Psalms and refer to it often.

There is also a great introduction to the Psalms in the beginning of the book, plus charts in the back with references for all the responsorial Psalm readings in every Sunday mass of the two year cycle, plus the Psalms for the 4 week Morning and Evening Prayer cycle in the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office).

A modern pointed psalter

If you like the idea of using a pointed psalter with the Psalms in modern English, there is a new psalter called the Revised Grail Psalms which just came out in 2010. It is a revision of the 1963 Grail Psalms which are used in the Liturgy of the Hours mentioned above, and stays closer to the original Hebrew text with consideration given to the Greek Septuagint and Latin text (remember these old Greek and Latin translations were used by the early Church, and were based on ancient Hebrew manuscripts which no longer exist, and must be taken seriously.)

revised grail psalms

This is the official liturgical psalter of the Catholic Church for all English language liturgy all over the world including the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, so one of the translation goals was to make it suitable for singing. That apparently means keeping the stanzas fairly consistent in length, and keeping the musical meter in mind when choosing suitable English words.

This psalter comes in a text version and a singing version which has pointing in the form of accent marks over the text. The singing version is shown in the photo above.

These Psalms were composed in what they call "sprung rhythm" which according to the introduction, "imitates natural speech patterns, designating a certain number of major accents per line, while having an unfixed number of unstressed syllables, with no more than four syllables between each foot."

This is wonderful news for anyone who is interested in singing the Psalms, which I presume includes readers of this article. You can get these from Amazon or GIA Publications. You can also read the text of these Psalms at the GIA Publications web site. This one will not fit in your pocket; its dimensions are 4.25 inches wide, 7 inches tall and .75 inches thick.

A slightly smaller deluxe edition with blue cover and ribbon is also available but without accent marks in the text. It's a step up and looks a bit nicer than the paperback version and the pages have round corners which is a nice touch, but the binding is still glued rather than sewn, so the pages do not lie flat, although there is more flexibility than a paperback and I am able to fold the covers back and hold it with one hand when out on a prayer walk.

Even in the edition that does not have accents for singing, the layout of the text has generous spacing between stanzas and makes this very singable (and readable).

I have a more detailed review with photos here on my web site.

A Japanese Psalter

The Revised Grail Psalms mentioned above is the official psalter of English speaking Catholics. Here is the official psalter of Japanese Catholics. All 150 Psalms are here with footnotes, and the holy name of God (often represented in English as Yahweh) is indicated by the kanji for kami (God) in bold face type or spelled out when the context requires it. It does not have pointing for chants, though.


The gold kanji read "SHIHEN" (shee-hen with the accent on the first syllable) which is what the Psalms are called in Japanese.

If you find yourself coasting absent-mindedly through the Psalms, try a more challenging translation that forces you to slow down (whether it's old English or an entirely different language). I usually get more out of the Psalms when I pray them in Japanese instead of English. If I don't have time to look up an unfamiliar word, I can consult an English version to get the meaning and keep moving.


Links to some of the books mentioned above, plus related books

Chanting the Psalms A Practical Guide with Instructional CD

Metrical Psalters

Scottish Metrical Psalter

A New Metrical Psalter

The Book of Psalms for Singing

Psalms Reader For Teaching Twenty-First Century Children to Read Fluently and Worship Their Creator


Plainsong Psalter

Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter

Anglican Chant

Anglican Chant Psalter

Anglican/Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

The 1928 American Book of Common Prayer

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer Black French Morocco Leather

Coverdale Psalters

A Psalter for Prayer

The 1928 Prayer Book Psalter

Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter

Orthodox Psalters

A Psalter for Prayer

The Psalter-According to the Seventy

Orthodox Psalter - Pocket Edition

Catholic Psalters

Liturgy of the Hours (4-Volume Set)

Christian Prayer : The Liturgy of the Hours (1-Volume Set)

Shorter Christian Prayer Four-Week Psalter of the Liturgy of the Hours: Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer

Morning and Evening Prayer

A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer The Psalter of the Liturgy of the Hours

The Mundelein Psalter

The Divine Office Volume 1

The Divine Office Volume 2

The Divine Office Volume 3

The Perfect Prayer Book: My Daily Psalm Book

The Psalms, New Catholic Version, A St. Joseph Edition

The Divine Hours, Pocket Edition

The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter

Other Psalters

The Paraclete Psalter: A Four-Week Cycle for Daily Prayer (Ecumenical Psalter with NIV Psalms)

Hebrew Psalters


Book of Psalms Pocket Edition

The Artscroll Tehillim

Book of Psalms With an Interlinear Translation Schottenstein Edition, Artscroll (Hebrew Edition)

Tehillim: Transliterated Linear - Seif Edition

Pocket New Testament with Psalms

Pocket New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs: English Standard Version Black Leather

New American Standard New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs

NIV Pocket Thin New Testament, Psalms & Proverbs

Deluxe Pocket New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs: King James Version

Vest Pocket New Testament With Psalms

New Testament and Psalms-RSV-Catholic

Pocket Bibles containing both New and Old testaments

NASB Compact Reference Bible, Black w/Snap Flap

NASB Compact Bible with Snap Flap

NASB Pocket Bible with Zipper

NKJV Bible with Snap Flap

NKJV Pocket Bible, Designer Series

Ignatius Catholic Bible-RSV-Compact Zipper


Japanese Liturgy of the Hours: Kyoukai no Inori from Amazon Japan

Books about the Psalms

Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible

Psalm 91: God's Umbrella of Protection

Psalm 91: God's Shield of Protection

CD's and MP3

The Psalms of David CD

Psalms of David Complete 12-CD set

Psalms of David Complete MP3

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