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Keeping Hope Alive During the National Day of Prayer

Jessica Johnson on

For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. -- 2 Samuel 22:29-31

May 2 was the National Day of Prayer, and these verses from 2 Samuel were used for its theme "Lift Up the Word -- Light Up the World." With all the chaos, tension and tragedy that we are witnessing in our country and throughout the world, divine light is definitely needed. A familiar New Testament scripture regarding light is John 8:12, where Jesus refers to Himself as "the light of the world," one of His seven "I am" declarations in this gospel. The Hebrew translation of "lamp" in 2 Samuel 22:29 is a "glistening light" that overtakes darkness, with darkness also interpreted as wickedness, misery or obscurity.

I think obscurity or gloom perfectly describes the feeling many people have right now when looking at current news events. One of the major ongoing stories is how the spring semester ended in turmoil for many American colleges and universities with students protesting the Israel-Hamas war. The Associated Press recently reported that more than 2,000 people have been arrested on college campuses since the middle of April.

I told my English composition students that they were seeing how their generation is making their voices heard in a similar manner that some of their baby boomer grandparents may have opposed the Vietnam War during the 1960s. However, as pundits have pointed out, one major difference between these war protests is that U.S. Gen Zers "do not have boots on the ground in Gaza," and they do not have to worry about being drafted to fight, which was a primary point of contention for their grandfathers during the Vietnam conflict. Other serious global wars include the continued battle between Ukraine and Russia and the fighting in Sudan, a civil war within the northeastern African nation that does not get much American media coverage.

With international and homefront crises intensifying, many do not trust the leadership of our elected officials. A current Reuters poll shows that President Joe Biden has a disapproval rating of 56%, and a Statista survey used the sub-heading "Ye of little faith" to explain how almost 60% of Americans have "no confidence the parties can govern in a bipartisan way."

At a time when trust in governance is extremely low along with overall morale, the National Day of Prayer scripture emphasis on God being a "buckler" for those who rely on Him was reassuring. As I reflected on the verses chosen in 2 Samuel, I focused on the spiritual symbolism of the lamp as divine light and knowledge, and how Christ expanded on its meaning for effective ministry. During biblical times, pure, beaten olive oil was used to supply light in lamps, which were often pottery dishes. The oil symbolized the presence of God's Holy Spirit. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins told in Matthew 25, five were wise who had sufficient oil for their lamps and were ready when the bridegroom came. The lamps of the five foolish virgins burned out because they did not bring extra oil with them. While this parable is often taught by ministers as a story of vigilance regarding Christ's return, another major lesson that I gleaned from it is that I need the oil of God's Spirit in my life so that I can be a "glistening light" who can impact the world, or on a smaller scale, my local community.

 

Churches across the country were praying for the lives of people suffering in their communities on May 2, as well as our president and leaders in Congress. As I prayed, I knew that I personally did not have the answers for Gaza, the Ukraine and Sudan wars, or other tense global and domestic confrontations, but I could ask God to impart wisdom to those in positions to make decisions affecting these critical situations.

I hope that those who set aside time to pray with their pastors and congregations were encouraged to continue diligently seeking God as "there is trouble on every hand," an adage I heard my church elders say growing up. Yet, if our lamps are burning brightly, we have the power to overcome the darkness trying to obstruct our way.

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Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at smojc.jj@gmail.com. Follow her on X: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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