The psalm from today’s liturgy is perhaps the best known of all of the 150 psalms. It is a text known by name, number and popular melody: The Lord’s My Shepherd, Psalm 23, often sung to the melody Crimond.
Chances are the moment you hear the words of the psalm a melody comes to mind and you’ll find yourself singing this 2500-year-old prayer.
Set to one of its many popular melodies, this twenty-third psalm is a regular classic at funerals, partly because people of all faiths and of none can easily join in, but also because grieving people know their need to be gently carried through the “valley of darkness and death” to ‘God’s dwelling place forevermore’.
But more often the words of this prayer give me direction and hope in the midst of daily demands. When I pray with this psalm I can see that it is not about death at all, but about life both now and eternally.
That’s the kind of good news that I need every day.
- You’ll probably be surprised by how well you know the words of this psalm because you have sung it so often. Take a moment now to recall even a part of the melody and see what words come to mind. I have copied the popular hymn lyrics below to jog your memory, or you might prefer the psalter Grail translation at this link.
- Two or three words or a phrase from the psalm come to mind for a reason…perhaps Jesus might be inviting you to stay with a phrase as a mantra for the day.
- If you want to listen in a spare moment or on the way to work here are a few musical settings of the psalm: Crimond, Brother James’ Air, Anglican Chant & The King of Love.
The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for his own name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me; and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
My table thou hast furnishèd
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house forever more
My dwelling place shall be.