24 Popular Psalms for a Funeral or Memorial Service

Updated

A well-chosen Psalm for reading at a funeral or memorial service can offer insight into your loved one’s relationship with their faith. These psalms, much like poetry, can be sung, chanted, and repeated by the audience.

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Many people read bible verses for strength, a gift often found within the book of psalms. While there are many to choose from, funeral psalms are more specific. We’ve gathered a few of them for you below.

Common Psalms for a Funeral

You can use any of the psalms below for funeral readings in Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or Anglican faiths

1. Psalm 16 – The Presence of the Lord

Psalm 16 begins with devotion to the Lord. The psalmist then explains how he takes refuge in God; understands that God won’t abandon him; and knows that his commitment and faith in God will protect him.

For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, 
nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.

2. Psalm 23 – The Lord is My Shepherd

Psalm 23 is used widely in funeral service and religious traditions, including the Shabbat. It portrays God as the shepherd who is at once a protector as well as a caregiver. The final verses indicate God’s foresight for those who believe in and abide by him.

3. Psalm 32- The Joy of Forgiveness

“The Joy of Forgiveness” is a penitential psalm, which is the psalmist’s way of offering regret for things they’ve done and the joy they feel in being absolved from their sins.

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, 
whose sins are covered. 
Blessed is the man 
whose iniquity the LORD does not count against him, 
in whose spirit there is no deceit.

4. Psalm 39 – I Will Watch My Ways

The liturgical use of Psalm 39 reaches Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, and Anglican funeral services. It is also one of many that have inspired songs. Because the poet tries to observe his words, he hopes that his devotion results in God’s healing and enlightenment.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? 
My hope is in You.
Deliver me from all my transgressions; 
do not make me the reproach of fools.

5. Psalm 90 – I Will Sing His Love Forever

Psalm 90 is well-known for funerals, but other traditions, such as the Shabbat, will also use it.

The poet-author of Psalm 90 recognizes that he is weak, fearful, and will sin, but God's will is strong, and He will forgive. Man is frail with a limited time on Earth, but God is eternal and will outlast time itself. 

6. Psalm 93 – The Lord Reigns!

Here, the psalmist suggests a reaction to an event where the Lord revealed His supremacy. Further, a scholarly interpretation of Psalm 93 indicates that the Lord doesn’t just factually reign, but that He does so as an act—that it is ongoing. 

Your testimonies are fully confirmed; 
holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, 
for all the days to come.

7. Psalm 122 – Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

The Benson Commentary explains that, as Christians, the three great festivals offered rational, spiritual, and informative opportunities to praise and approach God through worship in Jerusalem.

It works for funeral services because it also indicates the end of a journey or pilgrimage, similar to a life well-lived.

8. Psalm 148 – Praise the Lord from the Heavens

Psalm 148 begins by exaltation with a “Hallelujah.” Then, praising the heavens, which are the object of devotion, follow. It then mentions everything God created, including humans, and praises God for each of them.

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Catholic Psalms for a Funeral

The collection of Psalms below is suitable for funerals in the Catholic tradition.

9. Psalm 25 – To You I Lift Up My Soul

“To You I Lift Up My Soul” is a prescription for living according to God’s will. The psalmist intends to be malleable to His ways, paths, truths, and teachings, all of which ultimately lead to salvation. Here is a short excerpt from verses 8 and 9:

Good and upright is the Lord; 
therefore He shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble in what is right 
and teaches them His way.

10. Psalm 27 – The Lord is My Salvation

Psalm 27 works for those who need comfort in God’s power and salvation. If He is the source of moral and intellectual light, then humankind can seek Him in times of great sorrow or suffering. 

The light also acts as the guide to overcome these pains as long as one serves and favors the Lord.

11. Psalm 42 and 43 – Blessed Is He Who Cares for the Poor and Send Out Your Light

Hebrew manuscripts commonly combine Psalms 42 and 43 into just one Psalm. In Catholic tradition, Psalm 42 is often used in responsorial forms during Easter or Masses of the Dead. Whereas in Judaism, one would recite it to find favor in God’s eyes.

12. Psalm 63 – Thirsting for God

Psalm 63 is an emotional journey, one that travels from praise or thirst to satisfaction through devotion. Verses 1, 5, and 8 take the reader on this journey, one that ends the Psalm with a revelation that those who are unfaithful or false will not do well.

13. Psalm 103 – Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Interpretations of all Psalms vary to one degree or another, but the basic theme of Psalm 103 is recognizing one’s relationship with God and how God interacts with people. 

Specific commentaries devise the word “soul” as an indication of one’s often forgetful humanness. That’s why, they say, that the end of the Psalm holds a reminder to offer praise to God.

14. Psalm 116 – The Lord has Heard My Voice

A commentary from Barnes’ Notes on the Bible offers that the psalmist can feel love, joy, tenderness, peace, and kindness because the Lord listens to him. 

Matthew Henry’s Concise commentary takes this one step further to say that when one is burdened and heavy, they can turn to God for relief. 

15. Psalm 130 – Out of the Depths

Psalm 130 is commonly used during Lent but also works for a funeral. Its themes and tones include lament, hope, and enduring life’s difficulties and uncertainties. 

I wait for the Lord; my soul does wait, 
and in His word I put my hope.

16. Psalm 143 – I Stretch Out My Hands to You 

While not commonly a funeral Psalm, Psalm 143 works in a funeral environment because of the following verses that mention loss but seek God's guidance to recover.

I remember the days of old; 
I meditate on all Your works; 
I consider the work of Your hands.
I stretch out my hands to You; 
my soul thirsts for You like a parched land.

Responsorial Psalm for a Funeral

Selecting a responsorial psalm or antiphon is different from choosing a psalm or psalms for reading. Instead, the audience will interact with the speaker by chanting the verse in unison after offering an acclimation.

17. Psalm 16, verse 2

You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing.”

This proclamation's resounding idea offers that God is above the essential part of the psalmist's life. God is the king, and the psalmist is the subject.

18. Psalm 23, verse 4

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” 

The word shadow has appeared several times in the Bible to portray a “pathless desert,” droughts, death, affliction, and even grief, making it a suitable verse for a funeral service.

19. Psalm 25, verse 1

“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.”

Believers in God are ready to wait for Him, His instructions, and devote their lives to him. Therefore, this antiphon is indicative of that positive and praiseworthy devotion.

20. Psalm 27, verse 1

“The Lord is my light and my salvation.”

Light in this context indicates illumination through darkness, death, affliction, and, again, grief. Here, God is the one who will deliver that illumination for the psalmist—and for those who are chanting this responsorial Psalm.

21. Psalm 103, verse 6

“The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.”

Here, the verse explains that God is merciful to the oppressed. The psalmist writes that He comforts them, does right by them, and mercifully judges or commands justice for those who are loving and devoted to Him.

22. Psalm 116, verse 9

“I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.”

Those who are believers feel that they’re safe and secure. Not only that, they believe that as they walk on the Earth, they’ll do so with faith and devotion for God—in His service.

23. Psalm 122, verse 1

“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

The antiphon remarks on the joy people feel when they travel to worship God. Initially, this was in Jerusalem, but that same sentiment applies to anyone anywhere globally, especially those struggling through grief and loss.

24. Psalm 130, verse 2

“O Lord, hear my voice.”

This verse works for funeral services because the audience wants God to listen to their suffering and understand their grief.

Another translation of this verse is, “Lord, hear our prayer.” 

Psalms for Healing

When looking into how to plan a memorial service, you’ll want to choose psalms for healing and comfort as well as those that comment on your loved one’s relationship with God. This will offer an opportunity for the mourners to gather in unity and support.


Sources:
  1. “Bible Readings for a Funeral.” Catholic Sensibility, Catholic Sensibility, https://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/funeral-lectionary-psalm-122/
  2. “Funeral Responsorial Psalms.” Saint Francis de Sales Parish, SDFS Parish, www.sfdsparish.com/funerals/responsorial-psalms/ 
  3. “Psalms of Comfort.” Shiva, Shiva, https://www.shiva.com/learning-center/resources/psalms/
  4. “Masses for the Dead – Responsorial Psalms.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/bereavement-and-funerals/responsorial-psalms

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