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Liturgical Press

Psalms and Practice

Worship, Virtue, and Authority

Stephen Breck Reid, Editor

Psalms and Practice
Psalms and Practice

ISBN: 9780814650806, 5080

Details: 312 pgs, 6 x 9 x 3/4
Publication Date: 04/01/2001

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The essays in Psalms and Practice explore how the notion of practice helps contemporary readers understand psalms in a new way. Practice, according to the authors, happens as faith seeks understanding through spiritual disciplines. These practices continue the work of the Holy Spirit — faith seeking understanding, understanding seeking embodiment through practice, and practice nurturing faith.

Practice and the psalms are never far from the formation of the soul which takes place in a number of ways. The essays in Psalms and Practice look at three aspects of formation: prayer, how the psalms shape our faith through the process of liturgy, and how the psalms shape the preached word.

Formation then occurs in contemplation, liturgy, and preaching, but it occurs in other action as well. Psalms and Practice also explores those elements of practice and the psalms by looking at the practice of translation as a way of practicing the psalms and examining other ways to relate the psalms to our modern lives.

Psalms and Practice is the result of conversations of scholars, who are also committed church people, at work in the field of Psalms research. These scholars came together for three days to share their papers and a time of prayer in both Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions. The participants noted that the combination of conversation on the psalms and the practice of reading and praying the psalms in worship enriched the conversation of reading the psalms in the discussion of the papers.

Chapters in Part I: Psalms and Practice are "Psalms, Bhajan, and Kirtan. Songs of the Soul in Comparative Perspective," “The Psalms as a Place to Begin for Old Testament Theology,” and “Power and Practice: Performative Speech and Piety in Psalm 132.” Chapters in Part II: Psalms and Practice: Contemplation and Worship are “Praying with Psalms: A School of Prayer,” “The Sacramental Function of the Psalms in Contemporary Scholarship and Liturgical Practice,” “Burning Our Lamps with Borrowed Oil: The Liturgical Use of the Psalms and the Life of Faith,” “My Tongue Will Sing Aloud to Your Deliverance: Praise and Sacrifice in the Psalms,” “Thus Says to the Lord: ‘Thou Shalt Preach on the Psalms!'” “The Psalms in Worship and Preaching: A Report,” and “How Long, O Lord! Will Your People Suffer in Silence Forever.” Chapters in Part III: Psalms and Practice: Virtue and Authority are “The Virtues of the Righteous in Psalm 37: An Exercise in Translation,” “The Cursing Psalms as a Source for Blessing,” “All God and Also Us: Double Agency and Reconciliation in Psalms 22 and 51,” “Songs for the City: Interpreting Biblical Psalms in the Urban Context,” and “Taking Inspiration: Authorship, Revelation, and the Book of Psalms.”

Contributors are Dorothy Bass; Terry Muck; W. H. Bellinger, Jr.; Stephen Breck Reid; John C. Endres, S.J.; Harry P. Nasuti; Rolf Jacobson; Kathryn L. Roberts; J. Clinton McCann, Jr.; James C. Howell; Beth LaNeel Tanner; Michael Jinkins; Larry Silva; Cynthia L. Rigby; Gerald H. Wilson; and Mark S. Smith.

Stephen Breck Reid is a professor of Old Testament studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas. He is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the Society for the Study of Black Religion. He has authored four other books and numerous articles.


This book brings together an impressive array of younger scholars who ask fresh questions of the Psalter and move in new directions of interpretation. The common focus is on practice, the real, live utilizations of Psalms in the practice of worshiping communities. This collection represents the live edge of current research and evidences a healthy reengagement of faith and criticism. No doubt the new accent on Psalms so vigorously represented here attests to the way in which a destabilized culture is being pushed back to basics. This book shows why the Psalter is close to basic for serious worship and ethics, indeed for serious human living.
Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary