The Common Lisp library Postmodern defines a macro called PREPARE that creates prepared statements for a PostgreSQL connection. It takes a SQL query with placeholders ($1, $2, etc.) as input and returns a function which takes one argument for every placeholder and executes the query.

The first time I used it, I did something like this:

(defun run-query (id)
  (funcall (prepare "SELECT * FROM foo WHERE id = $1") id))

Soon after, I realized that running this function every time would generate a new prepared statement instead of re-using the old one. Let’s look at the macro expansion:

(macroexpand-1 '(prepare "SELECT * FROM foo WHERE id = $1"))
      (QUERY "SELECT * FROM foo WHERE id = $1"))

ENSURE-PREPARED checks if a statement with the given statement-id exists for the current connection. If yes, it will be re-used, else a new one is created with the given query.

The problem is that the macro generates a new statement id every time it is run. This was a bit surprising, but the fix was simple: capture the function returned by PREPARE once, and use that instead.

(defparameter *prepared* (prepare "SELECT * FROM foo WHERE id = $1"))

(defun run-query (id)
  (funcall *prepared* id))

You can also use Postmodern’s DEFPREPARED instead, which similarly defines a new function at the top-level.

This works well, but now are using top-level forms instead of the nicely encapsulated single form we used earlier.

To fix this, we can use LOAD-TIME-VALUE.

(defun run-query (id)
  (funcall (load-time-value (prepare "SELECT * FROM foo WHERE id = $1")) id))

LOAD-TIME-VALUE is a special operator that

  1. Evaluates the form in the null lexical environment
  2. Delays evaluation of the form until load time
  3. If compiled, it ensures that the form is evaluated only once

By wrapping PREPARE inside LOAD-TIME-VALUE, we get back our encapsulation while ensuring that a new prepared statement is generated only once (per connection), until the next time RUN-QUERY is recompiled.


To avoid the need to wrap PREPARE every time, we can create a converience macro and use that instead:

(defmacro prepared-query (query &optional (format :rows))
  `(load-time-value (prepare ,query ,format)))

(defun run-query (id)
  (funcall (prepared-query "SELECT * FROM foo WHERE id = $1") id))


This only works for compiled code. As mentioned earlier, the form wrapped inside LOAD-TIME-VALUE is evaluated once only if you compile it. If uncompiled, it is evaluated every time so this solution will not work there.

Another thing to remember about LOAD-TIME-VALUE is that the form is evaluated in the null lexical environment. So the form cannot use any lexically scoped variables like in the example below:

(defun run-query (table id)
  (funcall (load-time-value
            (prepare (format nil "SELECT * FROM ~A WHERE id = $1" table)))

Evaluating this will signal that the variable TABLE is unbound.