pronouns, paraphrases…and Psalm 23

Today a line of thought led me to a memory.  I remembered a time many years ago
 when a kind lady prayed for me at a conference.  As part of this, she read ‘over me’ Psalm 23 – but she switched the pronouns.  Instead of praying ‘The LORD is my shepherd’, she prayed ‘the LORD is your shepherd’ and continued to read with different pronouns throughout the Psalm (since the Psalm itself does a bit of pronoun switching when talking about /to God, this requires a bit of practice!)

I found it an effective way of making a very personal connection from a very familiar Psalm, and it accompanied a moment of genuine healing. By using scripture in these creative ways, it becomes a great tool for prayer and intercession.  Of course, you could also, if you were comfortable with it, switch pronouns again, as I have done in the following.  I’ve used ‘Yahweh’ rather than substitute ‘the LORD’ as I love using His name.  Read it through slowly and ‘listen’ to the words.

I, Yahweh, am your shepherd – you shall have no need for anything.
I bring you to rest in green and fertile fields,
I lead you beside peaceful waters;
I restore your soul.
For the sake of my name, I lead you in paths of righteousness.

Even though you may walk through the deepest, darkest valley,
fear no evil.  I am with you.  
My rod and staff are here to comfort you.
I prepare a feast for you in the presence of all those who are against you.
I anoint your head with oil; your cup is filled to overflowing.
Goodness and mercy will follow you every moment of your life,
and you will live in my house forever.

You may notice the occasional bit of paraphrasing.  Paraphrases should never be taken as a translation, but they can give a different ‘take’ and add a freshness to familiar words.  Personally I love digging down to the meaning as close as possible to the original text; I like to know what I’m reading is what it really says.  But with familiar passages, paraphrases can re-invigorate the old words.  Of course, a paraphrase tends to carry the voice, dialect and culture of the one doing the paraphrasing.

Once, again a few years back, I led a youth group for a short time and during one session I asked them to write the Lord’s Prayer in their own words.  The results were creative, and enabled us all to think about what the words meant.  Sometimes, doing your own paraphrase of a well known passage helps you think about its meaning in a deeper way.

If you’re not comfortable with this, try reading it differently.  Put the emphases on different words.


The Lord is my shepherd.

The Lord is my shepherd.

The Lord is my shepherd.

This is a very simple exercises which may bring elements to the foreground which had previously been unnoticed, or lost their impact.

The over-familiar can suddenly have great intensity – if we try some different ways of reading it.

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