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Parade Candy Prayers

Psalm 18 begins, “I love you, O LORD, my strength.”

What a way to begin a song or prayer!

We learn from the introduction that this psalm was written by David when he was “delivered from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (ESV translation).

David said “the cords of death encompassed me” (Psalm 18:5) and no joke! In 1 Samuel 19, King Saul keeps going back and forth between welcoming David into his house and trying to kill him! In verses 9-10, it says Saul literally “tried to pin [David] to the wall with a spear.” I imagine that’s not quite the response David was looking for when he played his lyre; he probably would have preferred rotten tomatoes.

In response to the multitudinous attacks on David’s life that continued for years after he fled Saul’s house, the most beautiful thing happened. David said, “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears,” (Psalm 18:6, emphasis added.)

Sometimes it’s hard to believe our prayers actually go anywhere other than the ceiling. At a Wednesday night youth group service in high school, I sat in a circle with seven or eight other girls. It was dark because the walls were purple and the floors were charcoal carpet. We huddled in a corner of the hallway between the food stand and a support pillar. I looked up at the black-tile ceiling and made a tossing motion. “Sometimes, it feels like throwing candy at a parade. I’m throwing prayers up to Heaven and hoping one sticks. It doesn’t always feel like they’re going anywhere, so I just keep throwing.”

“Parade candy prayers! I’ll have to remember that!” our no-makeup-wearing, always-soft-smiling leader said.

There have been days when I walked into our windowless little sanctuary at church, listened to the first worship song of the service, and thought, “I just don’t believe this today.” It sure didn’t feel like God was listening, that He had good plans, or that my prayers were doing anything other than getting caught in that space between the Earth-bound ceiling and the golden floor of Heaven.

It finally hit me between the third and fourth worship songs one Sunday. I wasn’t going to feel God’s promises into existence. I had days when my brain didn’t feel much of anything, so I certainly wasn’t going to create truth and hope through emotion.

I had to fight to believe.

David was a pretty good fighter. I mean, he killed a giant with a slingshot and a stone when he was so young his dad didn’t even bring him in from the shepherd fields to join the family anointing (1 Samuel 16-17). I think David sometimes had to fight to believe, too. He knew that even if his prayers seemed to hit the ceiling of Earth and get trampled underfoot on the floor of Heaven, he could say, “For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness,” (Psalm 18:28).

I hope this encourages you today if you feel like your prayers are going nowhere. Keep praying, friends! God has the power to “lighten our darkness,” and He “shows steadfast love to his anointed,” (Psalm 18:28 & 50). It may not feel like it, but we can fight to believe God’s faithfulness is true.

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Speak Truth

I’ve been reading through the Psalms lately. They are a treasure trove of emotion, and usually when I read a Psalm I can quickly find a passage that helps me pray that feeling I didn’t know how to express to God otherwise. I love how often God lets David question Him! I just have to remind myself that even when David laments, he ends the psalm with a verse of thanks and acknowledgement of God’s power. I’m pretty good at the lamenting part; it’s the trust at the end that always gets me.

Today, I was looking for something to inspire my writing for the week. Verse two instantly jumped out at me: “He who… speaks truth in his heart.” Isn’t that what writing is all about? We write to speak truth about the world we see around us. We write to spark a little hope in the darkness. Uncertainty rolls in from all sides like a black haze, so we reach for that small candle in front of us and hope that God will blow away a little smoke so the path becomes clear.

So, how do we find this truth to clear the path? According to Psalm 15, the one “who speaks truth” is close to God; he “sojourn[s] in [God’s] tent” and “dwell[s] on [God’s] holy hill.” The source of the speaker’s truth is God and a direct relationship with Him. As Christians following God after Jesus’ death and resurrection, we believe that we can find God in the Bible and in His Holy Spirit dwelling among us.

Dwelling among us. This, to me, is community. I would not have made it through the black haze of uncertainty without my friends and family putting candles of truth in front of me to light the way. Community is a gift, and if we each seek God’s truth for our own hearts, we can speak truth over others’ hearts. We become God’s hands and feet in spreading hope (1 Corinthians 12:27.)

One of these dear friends explained it to me this way: am I speaking words of life, or am I speaking words of death? Am I routinely expecting the worst, or do I prayerfully hope for God’s restoration and healing? To make this concept even harder, she reminded me that this concept is internal. Am I speaking words of life over my life, or am I speaking death into it?

I have learned a lot about self talk in the past 6 months, but this friend put it the most succinctly for my brain. If I want to “speak truth” in my writing and in my community, it has to start “in my heart.” There’s my kick in the rear to keep my Bible open and prayers flowing for the week!