January 20, 2019

Listening for the Words - Denise M. Ford

Often in my prayer time a specific phrase will come to mind. I have learned to allow it to become repetitive in my thoughts. To question what message it may bring to me.

As I think about my writing goals for 2019 the words that appear and reappear to me are “Encourage and Soar.”

Usually I prefer these prayer phrases to line up rhythmically or alliteratively but this time, no matter how I tweak it, the words stand firm, “Encourage and Soar.”

The first step I take to understand any prayer phrase I receive is to pray for understanding.  Then I literally let my Bible fall open, trusting that I will find insight in scripture.

In this case, my bible opens to Matthew 12:18-21, where Jesus quotes Isaiah’s prophecy of the character of the coming Messiah, specifically noting that he will be someone who rules with gentleness, not might.  I page to the reference in Isaiah 42:1-4.  I highlight the line in the NLT version which reads, “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.
The image of a flickering candle brings me back to my phrase “Encourage and Soar”.  It reminds me that, as a writer, I want to offer words that will be graced with gentleness and encouragement.  If I seek to be gentle, it will follow that I will use my words to encourage others. To keep hope alive like a candle flame protected from unexpected pockets of air.

When I realize where I am in the book of Isaiah, I page back to chapter 40, thinking I will read those familiar lines in verse 31 to reinforce the second word in my prayer phrase.  But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength; they will soar high on wings like eagles”.

Instead, this time my eyes are drawn to verse 28, where Isaiah says “Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.”

At last!  My prayer phrase finally makes sense to me.  To use one’s words to create uplifting hope for someone, you have to begin from a depth.  From what depth? From any depth. What depth is too deep? “No one can measure the depths of His understanding.”

And no one can measure the worth of an encouraging word. To truly offer hope, to truly cup your hand symbolically around that person whose flame is merely flickering.  To find words that will begin a surge in one’s spirit to hold on and to be buoyed by the Lord’s strength. 

A day or two later, my husband and I were driving down a road near our neighborhood.  As we admired the cloud formations moving across the sky, we realized they had morphed into the silhouette of an eagle with outstretched wings. I had to smile.  Sometimes, phrases are simple and succinct in meaning; sometimes they lead us to page through the words of the great prophets; and sometimes we merely have to look up and receive them. 

Encourage and Soar. I am humbled to put this new phrase into effect as my guideline for my 2019 writing.  It occurs to me that it becomes our responsibility as writers, as those who seek to interpret the world through words, to be more like the prophets of old. Let us take the time to listen, to accept words from the Lord, and to faithfully encourage the people of our time.


  1. What a wonderful metaphor for your writing this year. I wish you all the best as you encourage - and soar!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience and your phrase, "Encourage and soar,"and explaining how your original phrase was backed up in other ways.

  3. What a beautiful theme you have been given ... what beautiful images you have to picture this, there are many flickering candles in need of encouragment. I too smile when clouds form into meaningful shapes. Thank-you for this post. Blessings as you Encourage and Soar this year!


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