Praying Psalm 41/42

This morning my wife and I prayed Psalm 41/42 as part of our morning office. We use A Psalter for Prayer, which I’m told is based on the old Coverdale translation, though tweaked in light of the Septuagint. After morning prayer Christine said to me:

“Al, are you particularly fond of Psalm 41?”

I had to check back to see which one she was referring to.

“‘Like as the hart panteth …’—yes,” I replied, “it’s one of my favorites.”

“I thought so.”

“Why do you say that?”

She pointed to the sentence in verses 6 and 12: “Why art thou so full of sadness, O my soul?”

“Each time we came to that sentence, you recited, ‘Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my soul?'”


Yes, she nodded.

Well, there was only one place, I figured, where I could have picked up “heaviness”—the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. So I searched out my old copy and, yep, there it is. The funny thing is, for most of my life as an Episcopalian, I used the 1979 BCP with its modern translation of the Psalter. So I then checked my copy of the 1979 book and discovered that it renders the Hebrew word as “heaviness” also. But I still was not satisfied. It’s not as if I was very regular in saying the Daily Offices during my days as an Episcopal priest. And then another thought occurred. Still holding the ’79 book I turned to the Rite 1 Burial Office. Bingo! The psalms in the Rite 1 office are all from the Coverdale psalter, and Psalm 42 is one of them. I buried countless men and women using the Rite 1 service. Perhaps that influenced me, too.

Anyway, I’m still sort’ve amazed. When I saw the word sadness this morning, my brain saw heaviness, and that is what my lips chanted.

 Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks *
so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God *
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
My tears have been my meat day and night *
while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God?
Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself *
for I went with the multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God;
In the voice of praise and thanksgiving *
among such as keep holy-day.
Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my soul *
and why art thou so disquieted within me?
Put thy trust in God *
for I will yet give him thanks for the help of his countenance.
My God, my soul is vexed within me *
therefore will I remember thee concerning the land of Jordan, and the little hill of Hermon.
One deep calleth another, because of the noise of the water-pipes *
all thy waves and storms are gone over me.
The Lord hath granted his loving-kindness in the day-time *
and in the night-season did I sing of him, and made my prayer unto the God of my life.
I will say unto the God of my strength, Why hast thou forgotten me *
why go I thus heavily, while the enemy oppresseth me?
My bones are smitten asunder as with a sword *
while mine enemies that trouble me cast me in the teeth;
Namely, while they say daily unto me *
Where is now thy God?
Why art thou so vexed, O my soul *
and why art thou so disquieted within me?
O put thy trust in God *
for I will yet thank him, which is the help of my countenance, and my God.


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1 Response to Praying Psalm 41/42

  1. I still sometimes resort to the 1928 BCP Magnificat when reciting Liturgy of the Hours. My kids think I’m crazy. It’s too complicated to explain it to them.


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