Praying in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death.  When riding in a military vehicle in a combat zone or walking from my automobile with its flat tire to a pay phone in one of America’s neighborhoods where one is most likely to be murdered, I have reflected on that phrase from Psalm 23 about fearing no evil when in the valley of shadow of death.  On those occasions, and recently when hospitalized, I had the sense that my life might end quickly. The prayer of the psalmist became mine, and I gained the confidence to endure.

The psalm begins by affirming God as provider and protector; it ends by rejoicing in the reality and safety of his care.  The heart of the psalm is a call for fire, a prayer for protection:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:4-5).

A shepherd uses his staff to guide the sheep; he uses it also to protect his flock. God is the shepherd who protects. He also is the host who provides. He honors his guest, who never needs a refill.  When I come close to death, the prayer of Psalm 23 restores my soul. It beats back fear that threatens to consume, shock that promises to paralyze.  In the darkest moments, Psalm 23 reminds me that God provides even when I question whether he will.

About Michael Summers

Michael Waymon Summers has preached in twenty-seven of the United States as well as seven other countries. Michael earned a Master of Theology degree. He also has done graduate work in international studies. Michael likes to run, loves to sing, and reads voraciously.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.