Bible Study: The Psalms: Gateway to Prayer

(weekly) Bible Study

Join your fellow parishioners on Thursdays, 9:30am or 6:45pm in the Notre Dame classroom. Bring your Bible and a smile. A commentary text is available for purchase. Look over the series titles; plan to come!


Why do the psalms have such universal appeal? Is it because all of salvation history is revealed one way or another by the psalmist? Perhaps it is the innate love of God breathed into our souls from the very moment of conception. Maybe it is the recognition that for three millennia, men and women have lifted their hands and hearts up in praise, honor, petition and contrition to the God who created and knows every hair on our heads. Jeanne Kun’s book, The Psalms: Gateway to Prayer, will offer scriptural text and insightful commentary, questions for reflection, discussion and personal application, and the special feature, “In the Spotlight,” will provide background study from the saints, personal testimony and historical research to further enhance the Psalter’s beauty.

To begin, what are the psalms? The Church has always viewed these 150 religious songs by a wide variety of authors as the masterwork of the Old Testament.  “ Seper tehillim,” meaning “book of praises” in Hebrew, psalterion, the Greek title for these “songs of praise” in the Codex Alexandrinus, and “psalter” via Latin to Old English, comprise the basic etymological history of the word psalm. In the liturgical life of the Church [remember the Responsorial Psalm at Mass] and in the Divine Office recited daily by priests and religious communities all over the world, the psalms play a spiritually essential role.

The psalms reveal a magnificence of poetical skill, especially in alliteration and assonance. Regardless of the diversity of culture, those who worship the one true God sing songs of thanksgiving, praise and lamentations. In the beginning, these praises filled the sacred halls and courts of the Jerusalem Temple. They were and still are the liturgy of Israel, before and after the Exile. The book of Psalms sum up what the Old Testament reveals about the existence of God, his paternal attributes, the virtues gained in imitation of the Almighty’s  mercy and love and the reality of death and judgment.

The gamut of human emotion expressed from passion, joy and contentment to anger, sadness and despair overwhelms the soul. These stirring feelings connect to the bountiful wonder of God’s power and authority.

The psalms illuminate the Messianic hope, the prophecy of Christ, the Priest-King who will sit at the right hand of the Father.  The Messianic kingdom is prophesied in Psalms 2, 18, 45, 61, 72, 89 and 132. The horror of his betrayal by one of his own and later his brutal death reverberate in Psalms 22, 41 and 69. Not to be overlooked, Jesus regularly quotes the psalms. This is especially true while hanging on the cross. Consider Ps 22:1, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani,” translated from Aramaic, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Later, as Christ’s human life is released to death, Psalm 31:5 quotes, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” In Christian and Jewish traditions, the beauty and radiating love of the psalms is the centerpiece of prayer. Join this study to make the words of the ancient psalmist grow deep in your heart and lead you to profound prayer.