The 23rd Psalm: some variations

© photo by Louise Adey Huish
Published by Louise Adey Huish on Thu, 7 May 2020 10:05
Louise's blog

If you've been saying Psalm 23 on a daily basis during this period of lockdown, you may find that it starts to lose its impact as a consequence of over-familiarity. Sometimes it can help to read a different version -- even if you don't like it as much as the original! There are as many different translations as there are translations of the Bible, of course; but here are two versions, or re-creations, of the 23rd Psalm, sourced online. They adapt the psalm to two very different work contexts: the first a contemporary office setting and the second an older world of journeys by sea. I’ve also included an imaginative reworking of Psalm 23 by Jim Cotter, who has produced new versions of the entire body of the psalms for use in private worship, and written a short prayer to accompany each psalm.

The Lord is my Pace Setter, I shall not rush, 

He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals, 

He provides me with images of stillness, 

Which restore my serenity. 

He leads me in ways of efficiency, 

through calmness of mind; and his guidance is peace. 

Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, 

I will not fret, for his presence is here. 

His timelessness, his all-importance will keep me in balance. 

He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity, 

by anointing my head with his oils of tranquillity, 

My cup of joyous energy overflows. 

Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruit of my hours, 

For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord, 

and dwell in his house for ever.

Toki Miyashina


The Lord is my Pilot,

I shall not drift,

He lights my way across dark waters,

He steers me in the dark channels,

He keeps my log.

He guides me by the star of Bethlehem

For His Name’s sake,

And yes though I sail ‘mid the tempests of life,

I shall dread no danger, for Thou art with me.

You prepare a harbour before me in the homeland of eternity.

You anoint the waves with oil, and my ship glides calmly into still waters.

Surely sunlight and starlight shall follow me on the voyage I take

And I will rest in the port of my God forever.

Freely adapted by Capt. John H. Roberts (1874). Seen in The Sailor’s Church, Rye Harbour, Sussex


And here is a version of Psalm 23 written by Jim Cotter.  Cotter, who died in 2014, wrote books which seek to reshape the prayer of the Christian inheritance and make connections between faith and everyday life - including the sanctity of same-sex love. He ministered within parishes in England and Wales, and also exercised a ministry of hospitality, reflection and welcome. (Notes by Canterbury Press)


The Shepherd and the Host

Dear God, you sustain me and feed me:

like a shepherd you guide me.

You lead me to an oasis of green,

to lie down by restful waters.


Quenching my thirst, you restore my life:

renewed and refreshed, I follow you,

a journey on the narrowest of paths.

You keep me true to your name.


Even when cliffs loom out of the mist,

my step is steady because of my trust.

Even when I go through the deepest valley,

with the shadow of darkness and death,

I will fear no evil or harm.

For you are with me to give me strength,

your crook, your staff, at my side.


Even in the midst of my troubles,

with the murmurs of those who disturb me,

I know I can feast in your presence.


You spread a banquet before me,

you anoint my head with oil,

you stoop to wash my feet,

you fill my cup to the brim.


Your loving kindness and mercy

will meet me every day of my life.

By your Spirit you dwell within me,

and in the whole world around me,

and I shall abide in your house,

content in your presence for ever.

Wise and loving Shepherd, you guide your people in the ways of your truth, leading us through the waters of baptism and nourishing us with the food of eternal life: keep us in your mercy, and so guide us through the perils of evil and death, that we may know your joy at the heart of all things, both now and forever. Amen. 

(Published in Jim Cotter, Psalms for a Pilgrim People, Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg PA. Originally published in 3 volumes, 1989-1993.)


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