Prayer Sighs, Prayer Tears

March 24, 2015

“I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years.” (Isaiah 38:5)

In the mid 1950s, I made a discovery about prayer. When two or three of us were concerned about Joe, who was not doing well spiritually, I observed God working in Joe’s life in dynamic ways.  I concluded that we are praying even when we do not close our eyes, fold our hands and bow our heads.  I discovered that prayer is the sincere desire of our soul no matter how we express it.

Martin Luther told us that the sigh of a believer is a prayer.  He meant that when we come to the end of our hoarded resources and throw ourselves across a bed and sigh, or cry – that is a prayer.

God sent the Prophet Isaiah to tell a sick King Hezekiah that he was going to die.  Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and cried.  When God saw the tears of King Hezekiah, God sent Isaiah back to him with the message, “I have heard your prayer.  I have seen your tears.” And God added 15 years to his life.

When we express the sincere desire of our soul, which is often too deep for words, in tears or a sigh of despair – that is a prayer God hears and answers.  God has as much interaction with people in the waiting rooms of operating theaters in our hospitals as He has in the sanctuaries of our churches.

Realizing your tears and sighs of despair are one of God’s prescriptions for authentic prayer, will you offer them to God as the prayers of your heart?

Dick Woodward, 18 January 2011

Letting the Light shine

March 20, 2015

“…  I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”   (John 9:39)

Jesus claimed that He is the light of the world.  He also commissioned His followers with the exhortation that we are the light of the world.  From the verses above we learn that the light of which our Lord speaks is a very strange quality of light.  It makes it possible for those who are blind to see and it reveals the blindness of those who think they see.

When I was a child I lived near coal mines.  One day a terrible explosion rocked a coal mine where 20 miners were trapped and isolated for three days in a small pocket of that mine.  When they were rescued there was great jubilation and celebration among the rescued miners and those who had broken through to them.  The celebration grew quiet when one of the rescued miners asked the question: “Why didn’t you guys bring any lights?” The rescuers had actually brought many lights.  The miner who asked the question had been blinded by the flash when the explosion happened.  He had been blind for three days, but in the pitch black darkness of the mine he didn’t know he was blind until the light came.

The light that Jesus is – and the light He tells us that we are – has that purpose and function.  It reveals the spiritual blindness of those who think they see and it gives sight to those who know they are spiritually blind.  Jesus told us we are that light.  Are you willing to let the light of Jesus shine through you?

Dick Woodward, 21 May 2010

Pray, Pray, Pray!!!

March 17, 2015

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6

It is easy to say, “Don’t worry,” but what are we going to do about our problems if we don’t worry about them?  Paul does not leave us in a vacuum here… he goes on to prescribe:“Pray about everything!”

God’s Word exhorts us to pray when we are in crisis situations. Psalm 46:1 states: “God is our refuge and strength.  A very present help in trouble.” If you check alternate readings, the first verse reads that God is “abundantly available for help in tight places.”  As a result of our prayers, God can deliver us from tight places.

Paul was delivered from many, many tight places. For example, he asked the Philippians to pray that he might be delivered from prison.  They prayed, and he was delivered from his imprisonment at that time.  We should therefore always pray in a crisis.  Someone said, “When it is hardest to pray, pray the hardest!”

Paul knew from personal experience, however, that God does not always take our problems away.  He had a physical “thorn in the flesh” condition that he asked God three times to take away.  Paul saw many people healed as he ministered the power of the Holy Spirit to them.  Yet, when he asked God to solve his health problem, three times God said, “No. No. No.” God essentially said, “Tell you what I’m going to do, Paul. I’m going to give you the grace to cope with your problem.”  (IICorinthians 12.)

When God gave Paul the grace to cope with his problem, he discovered that the power of Christ was upon him in a mighty way… So Paul not only accepted the will of God regarding his thorn, he gloried in the whole experience of learning that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us. Paul explains that his weakness became a showcase in which the strength of God was exhibited.

Paul learned from personal experience that, while worry is not productive, prayer is always very productive.  Prayer may deliver us from our problems, or it may give us the grace to cope with them.  But, in any case, pray.  Always pray about everything.

Tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer.”  (J.B. Phillips.)  Always pray about everything!

Dick Woodward, A Prescription for Peace

Two-Dimensional Dragonfly Faith

March 13, 2015

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God … eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

A dragonfly is a marvel of aerodynamics with two sets of wings that enable it to hover like a helicopter.  A dragonfly actually spends the first to fourth years of its existence at the bottom of a body of water.  This underwater creature is equipped with two respiratory systems: one that enables it to inhale water through its long narrow body and derive oxygen from the water, as many underwater creatures do; and the second system that one day will equip a dragonfly to breathe air when it enters into its second dimension of life.

When the underwater, first existence of the dragonfly has been fulfilled, it rises to the surface of the water, climbs up on the land, dries its wings in the sun, spreads those two magnificent sets of wings and gloriously begins the second dimension of its existence.

The dragonfly is designed by God to live out its existence in two dimensions. We have that in common with the dragonfly.  According to Paul, we, also, are designed by God to exist in two dimensions. God issues us an earthly body to live out our life here on earth, and God is going to issue us a heavenly body that will equip us to live forever in the second, eternal dimension of our providentially planned existence in heaven.

This is why Paul writes these profoundly devotional verses in chapter 4 of Second Corinthians telling us that we should welcome, accept and embrace anything that grows our eternal inward self, preparing us for heaven.

Dick Woodward, 11 October 2011

God’s Strength Outweighs My Weakness

March 10, 2015

“And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2Corinthians 12:9-10)

I shall never forget an afternoon in the late 1970s when I discovered that I was not able to lift the set of weights I regularly lifted. I then tried to mow my lawn and realized I was too weak to cut the grass.  Finally, I tried to replace the license plates on my car and learned to my horror that I was too weak to do even that.

Although it was two years before I could accept the awful reality that I would never feel full strength again, my weakness made it possible to resonate with Paul in a deeper way when he described the way his weakness drove him to access the strength and power of the living risen Christ.

I’ve had times of such great weakness, especially while ministering, when I’ve thought: There is absolutely nothing coming from me; everything is coming from God! In spite of his great weakness, as God used Paul to make the Church a worldwide force, he put into words what I have felt many times:  “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God!”  (2Corinthians 3:5. italics added)

These were merely familiar Scripture verses until I had no strength of my own.  There is a dimension of the power and strength of the risen Christ I did not discover until I was powerless.  The vehicle that brings the grace of God to me which outweighs my challenges is the strength of the risen, living Christ. Paul’s experience of weakness, recorded for us in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directed me to that miracle.

When we have no strength of our own, we simply must learn that is possible to tap into the strength of the living Christ.  I now thank God for my experience of weakness that forced me to discover the strength of the risen living Christ that outweighs my weakness – and helped me discover the happiness that doesn’t make good sense.

Dick Woodward,  Happiness That Doesn’t Make Good Sense

Grace & Perseverance …

March 6, 2015

“…rejoice in your sufferings knowing…” (Romans 5:3 NIV)

Rejoice in your sufferings, knowing what? In the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul begins by writing that God has given us access, by faith, into grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ in this world and live a life that glorifies God.

Imagine how it must make God feel when He has given us access to all the grace we need to live for Christ in this world and we never access that grace. According to Paul, because God loves us He permits suffering to enter our lives that we cannot bear without drawing on the grace we have access to by faith.

Paul writes that as we receive the grace to endure our suffering God produces mature Christ-like character in our lives such as perseverance. When you ask the question, “How does an orange get to be an orange?” The answer is “By hanging in there.”  That is the essence of the meaning of this character trait called perseverance.

When some followers of Christ find themselves suffering, their immediate response is: “Lord, deliver me from this, immediately!” He can, and sometimes He does, deliver us. But He often does not. When He does not it may be because it is His will to grow spiritual character in the life of His follower. When that is what God is doing Paul is telling us we should rejoice in our sufferings, access grace by faith, and then grow spiritually.

Dick Woodward, 19 March 2009

Jonah: God’s mercy vs. prejudice

March 3, 2015

“But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry… ‘Oh Lord.. I knew You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.’  …And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?”  (Jonah 4:1-4)

As you reflect upon Jonah’s story and apply the central truth in the Book of Jonah, ask yourself if you are prejudiced.  To be ‘prejudiced’ means to ‘pre-judge.’  Prejudice comes in many sizes, shapes and forms. I was introduced to prejudice as a boy growing up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I heard Italian Americans called ‘daggos’ and Polish Americans called ‘hunkies.’

When I attended a southern college in the late 1940’s, I was shocked to see ‘white’ and ‘colored’ water fountains and to see African Americans sitting in the back of buses.  I was even more bewildered when I discovered that “colored people” were not welcome in “white” churches…

As a new believer I was disillusioned because I heard professing believers use discriminatory labels.  From what I learned while preparing for the ministry, I expected the followers of Christ and our spiritual communities to be free from prejudice.  As a believer now for more than 60 years and a pastor for more than five decades, I am still alarmed by the deceitful ways of the evil one when I discover prejudice in my own heart and in the lives of other believers…

I have learned, from personal experience, that prejudice feeds on ignorance.  I grew up during the Second World War when intense propaganda presented Japanese as sub-human creatures.  In my junior year of college in L.A., my roommate was a devout Japanese disciple of Jesus Christ.  He was the most Christ-like and disciplined disciple of Jesus I had met at that point in my life.  The experience of knowing him completely erased the cumulative impact of all the war propaganda from my mind.  Until I met my roommate, I had never met a Japanese person before.  My prejudice was fed by my ignorance.

Most prejudice is fed by ignorance.

… Examine your own heart before God and ask yourself if you have prejudice in your heart that is blocking the love God wants to channel through you to lost and hurting people in this world.

Dick Woodward,  Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet



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