The psalms have long been recognized as a treasure found in the heart of our scriptures. With this project, one hears these psalms as a slowly unfolding gift, shaped by the color and inflection of the human voice. Even with the familiar psalms, one finds oneself hearing them anew, noticing things that the inner voice of one's own silent reading or the spoken prayers of church or synagogue might not bring to mind in the same way. If good St. Augustine once famously heard a child's voice, which he took to be God's, telling him to "take and read," one might say of this unique project: "Take and listen!" Prof. Dr. Mark Burrows, University of Applied Sciences
The tone is literary and modest in these Psalm recitations. There is no urge to inspire, no devotional excess. The prayer is authentic and straightforward. Br. Paul Quenon
Listen. Sssssshhhh. Really, just listen.
Listen to the Psalms. Listen to all one hundred fifty of these ancient prayers one psalm after another, one voice after another, without music or interlude, without commentary or homily. Just ssssshhh, listen and let the Psalms settle over your spirit with Hear My Prayer: The Audio Book of Psalms (Paraclete Press 2015).
It matters that we give voice to Scripture. And it matters that we listen to Scripture, not only with the ears of our hearts but also with the ears of our bodies, so that flesh and spirit hear together. Listening to the many different voices of Hear My Prayer, I realize this again. When lifted from the page to the ear, the Psalms come alive with emotion and we are reminded that prayer is the embodied expression of our lives to the Holy One. In the voices of Hear My Prayer, the Psalms echo with the joy and the gentleness, the sorrow and the trust of this thing called faith.
Listening to Hear My Prayer, individual psalms suddenly catch my ear and I wonder, "Have I never heard or read this psalm?!" Through the voice of Paula Huston, for example, Psalm 102 is surprisingly ethereal as I imagine Gods celestial perspective on the nations of the earth and on the fleeting nature of my days. Meanwhile Psalm 10, read by Jack Levison, sighs anew to my spirit. And Paul Quenons articulation of certain psalms reminds me of the rhythm of our prayers, of the ways that our hearts murmurs weave and dance and sway to the ear of God.
Then there is this line from Psalm 45, read by Margaret Manning Shull: "My tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe" oh! how have I missed the delight of this verse until now?
Hear My Prayer: The Audio Book of Psalms is an unexpected gift to my spirit. I who unapologetically surround myself constantly with sound music at work, music in the car, television at home, conversations with colleagues and family and friends, plus the constant "noise" of social media I find surprisingly restful stillness in listening to this collection of voices, to this collection of ancient prayers, to the spaces of silence around each word, to the calming tempo and timbre of the psalms given voice.
In full disclosure as I commend this newly-released audio book to you, I had the pleasure of recording three of the psalms for Hear My Prayer. And, in full disclosure, Im really just one of the "ordinary Christians" of the audio books description: "The Psalms were written by human beings, and here, they are read by human beings a wide range of ordinary and extraordinary Christians." The list of more extraordinary readers includes such notables as James Martin SJ and Joan Chittister, Scot McKnight and Cathleen Falsani.
I pray that you will be blessed by Hear My Prayer as I have been. Rachel G. Hackenberg
Down through the centuries, monastics have been encouraged to work with the psalms in a devotional or transformational context -- chanting, studying, and meditating upon them. These poetic songs have also been very popular with other clergy and lay people.
Paraclete Press has put together an impressive group of Christians to recite Psalms 1- 150 using the NRSV translation. Among the readers are James Martin, Sr. Joan Chittister, Cathleen Falsani, Paula Huston, Carl McColman, and many others.
Listening closely to the five hours of readings, we were able to hear in the Hebrew Psalter three major perspectives: the wisdom psalms with a hope in the divine order of things; the lament psalms as human beings struggle in a sea of troubles; and the hymns of praise where God is revered for creativity and grace.
As you make your own pilgrimage with these four CDs, you might want to supplement this journey with the spiritual insights of other explorations of these sacred texts:
Cynthia Bourgeault's Chanting the Psalms
Nan C. Merrill's Psalms for Praying
Nahum M. Sarna's On the Book of Psalms: Exploring the Prayers of Ancient Israel
Another perspective is offered by poet Daniel Berrigan in his Uncommon Prayer: A Book of Psalms:
"Long before I went to jail, my family and friends had accepted the idea that the scripture, more specifically the psalms, were our landmark, a source of sanity in an insane time. The psalms spoke up for soul, for survival; they pled for all, they bonded us when the world would break us like dry bones. They made sense, where the 'facts' scientific, political, religious made only nonsense. For me, the psalms gave coloration and texture to life itself; gave weight to silence, the space between words that, like the white Cezanne painting, intensify form and color, their other side, a sweet cheat, almost a third dimension." Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice
On the four audio CDs comprising Hear My Prayer, listeners hear every one of the Bible's 150 psalms read in sequence. A wide variety of individuals lend their voices. Some are authors whose names may be familiar: James Martin, Paula Huston, Jon M. Sweeney, Joan Chittister, Albert Hasse and Scott Cairns. Other readers of one or more psalms will be unknown to most listeners; assorted clergy, academics, and a few employees at Paraclete Press. No music or other extras distract; each reader simply announces the psalm, then reads it.
An insert with Hear My Prayer suggests that listeners first experience the entire set straight through. Listening to the psalms in succession affords a sense of their timeless power and poetry. The cumulative effect of the succession of various readersmale and female, in differing accents and tonessuggests a chorus of voices and heightens awareness of the universality of these verses.
The presentation in Hear My Prayer of these ancient songs of praise, lament, supplication, and celebration will be a useful tool for private meditation. It will perhaps be especially valuable for people with vision impairments or other difficulties with reading the printed word.Monica Tenney, Congretional Libraries Today