The Psalms are routinely listed as one of the most beloved parts of the Bible. They so often are able to catch a particular feeling or state in life we may find ourselves in, particularly in relation to God or others. The Psalms have played an integral role in the life of Israel and the Church from the very beginning. I am sure many of you regularly pray the Psalms, either through the Breviary, shorter breviaries like the Give Us This Day or Magnificat, or perhaps by simply opening up your bible. Of all the books of the bible, the Psalms certainly would be an ideal candidate for an audio edition. There are, of course, many audio bibles out there, but this new edition from Paraclete Press focuses only on the Psalms. It is called Hear My Prayer: The Complete Audio Book of Psalms at it utilizes the NRSV translation of the Psalms.
Below is a brief description from their website:
Listen to the voices of poets, theologians, novelists, scholars, priests, pastors, and spiritual writers as they pointedly and poignantly read each of the 150 psalms in the Psalter. With James Martin, sj, Thomas Lynch, Scot McKnight, Sr. Joan Chittister, Jon M. Sweeney, Chris Smith, Sybil MacBeth, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Scott Cairns, Cathleen Falsani, Albert Haase, ofm, Paul Mariani, Paula Huston, Greg Wolfe, Vassilios Papavassiliou, Carl McColman, Danielle Shroyer, Jack Levison, Priscilla Pope-Levison, William Woolfitt, AND many others.
The Psalms were written by human beings, and here, they are read by human beings—a wide range of ordinary and extraordinary Christians representing every expression of Christianity. One psalm follows another, 1 through 150, creating a powerful listening experience that you will return to again and again.
Listen on the subway, on a walk, on your lunch break, or while you are cooking dinner. Take a break from the busy noise of your day and let these words of prayer seep into your soul.
You will notice that the pictures I took were done in my car. Well, I was excited to receive this copy in order to primarily utilize it while travelling. What a great way to go to work each day listening to the Psalms, as opposed to getting angry at the slow driver ahead of you. "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God (Psalm 42)." Ahhh....that is better. Yeah, I have already put this into my car's CD rotation and plan to use it often.
Hear My Prayer currently is available in a 4 CD set format. The packaging is simple and slim, yet, get this, it includes liner notes! Any one remember them? Now, I grew up in the late 80's and 90's when reading liner notes in your favorite band's CD was still the thing to do. Digital music has sort of ruined that experience, along with a number of other things which I will not get into now. Fortunately, Hear My Prayer does include liner notes which explain a bit of the reason for this publication as well as a listing of who is reading each psalm. As with any audio performance some of the readings are better than others, which is to be expected. Overall, the audio, itself, is quite good and the fact that there are different people reading the Psalms makes the entire experience very beautiful to listen to. I found myself eagerly anticipating hearing what different voice would be coming up next. Upon receive Hear My Prayer, my wife and I listened to the first CD, which encompassed most of the first book of the Psalter. My wife remarked that she would have liked to have heard some background music while the Psalms were being read. I definitely think some people would prefer that, while others, like myself, may not. (A similar debate occurs between people who like a straight reading of the text or a dramatic one for their audio bibles.)
The only drawback to this set, which might seem a tad ironic after my excursus on liner notes above, is that it isn't available digitally yet. I would love to have this downloaded on my IPhone at some point. I am sure this is something that they are working on, since a digital edition would make it available and attractive to more people. Overall, however, I highly recommend this to anyone who reads the Psalms regularly. I have a particular fondness for it because it is done in the NRSV translation, which I think is one of the most beautiful renderings of the Psalms in English.
Thank you to fine people at Paraclete Press who provided me a review copy.