Sometimes when using a psalm in a prayer service, I turn to an old friend: The Good News Bible. Although my husband and I had very different upbringings, we both read our Good News Bibles as children, and in some deep part of us, those funny line drawings and those straightforward messages took root.
The Good News Translation (GNT) never claimed to be the most accurate or the most beautiful English language translation of the Word of God. It isn’t for academic use or for our formal liturgies. But for giving us a fresh look at familiar passages, or for introducing us to Scripture, it certainly has its place!
This is why I sometimes turn to the Good News Translation for re-introducing the Psalms, or for moving people out of “I know this one” and into a new experience of an old prayer. Take Psalm 139 for example, a beloved psalm about the nearness of God. The psalmist is saying: “Even if I wanted to get away from you, God, I couldn’t!” The words of this psalm in a translation such as the NRSV are just beautiful: “If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” But so are the words of the GNT, stated a bit less poetically perhaps, but with satisfying simplicity: “If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me” (Ps. 139:9-10). Both translations have something special to say, and I like them both.
Another example from the same psalm: Which do you think best expresses the intimacy we had with God before we can remember? “Your eyes beheld my unformed substance” (NRSV) or “You saw me before I was born” (GNT; Ps. 139:16)? I cast a hearty vote for the GNT on this one! You saw me before I was born?! I love it!
Click here for a side-by-side comparison of Psalm 139 in the NRSV and the GNT. I hope you will enjoy praying them both.
Note: If you don’t have a copy of the Good News Bible, you can always look up psalms or verses at biblegateway.com (though you would be missing out on the illustrations!). You should always check a translation such as the RSV/NRSV or the NABRE for accuracy, but don’t hesitate to pray with the simple words of the GNT.