A Prayer for God’s Peace

January 31, 2020

As a pastor I have known believers so ill and distraught they couldn’t concentrate enough to grasp Paul’s conditions for peace in booklet form, so I put them in a prayer. If you are seeking God’s peace, I invite you to pray this prayer with me.

Heavenly Father, You tell us in Your Word that You can keep us in a state of perfect personal peace if we meet Your conditions for that state of peace. Because I seek this peace in my life, give me the wisdom to worry about nothing and the faith to pray about everything. May I receive from You the mental discipline to think about good things and the integrity to do the right things.

May I always have an incurable optimism that believes in goodness, and give me such an insight into what You have been doing and what You are now doing in my life and in my world that I will give thanks always and in all things. May I never try to push You or run before You, but always wait on You, experiencing and expressing the gentleness and patience that are the evidence of Your Holy Spirit living in me.

As I sort out my priorities, may I always value Your approval of who and what I am and what I do, and not walk before others to be seen by them or to please them. Never let me forget how near You are to me as I draw near to You, worshiping and enjoying You each day and forever.

And finally, Heavenly Father, realizing that it is not who I am, but who You are that is important; acknowledging that it is not what I can do, but what You can do that really matters; agreeing that it should never be what I want, but always what You want; and remembering that in the final analysis it will not be what I did, but what You did that will have lasting eternal results, give me that absolute trust in You and total dependence on You that will truly rest my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.

Enable me to meet these conditions for personal peace in the name of Jesus Christ, for my peace and for Your glory. Amen.

Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”


(Always!) Pray About Everything

January 28, 2020

“…tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer…” (Philippians 4:6)

It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry,” but what are we going to do about our problems if we don’t worry about them? The Apostle Paul doesn’t leave us in a vacuum when he prescribed: “Pray about everything!”

The Word of God exhorts us to pray when we are in crisis situations. Psalm 46:1 has an alternate reading in the New Standard version, “God is our refuge and strength, abundantly available for help in tight places.” God delivered Paul from many tight places. We should therefore always pray in a crisis: “When it’s hardest to pray, pray the hardest!”

However, from personal experience Paul knew that God doesn’t always take our problems away. He had a physical condition that he described as a thorn in the flesh.” Three times he asked God to take it away. Paul saw many people miraculously healed as he ministered the healing power of the Holy Spirit to them. Yet, when he asked God to solve his own health problem, three times God said, “No. No. No.”

But God also responded, “My grace is sufficient for you and that is all you need. My strength looks good on weak people.” (2 Corinthians 12) His weakness drove Paul to discover the strength of God. When he did, he not only accepted his condition but eventually thanked God in it so the power of God might be showcased in him.

As Paul accepted the will of God regarding his thorn, he learned that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us. Paul exhorts us from his personal experience that prayer may deliver us from our problems, or prayer may give us the grace to cope with them. But, in any case, pray.

Always pray about everything!

 Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”


God’s Peace: Trusting and Thinking

January 24, 2020

“…think on these things…”  (Philippians 4:8)

Paul and Jesus agree that we should think our way to peace (in addition to fervent prayer.) Jesus challenged us: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Jesus was talking about how we think and look at things – our mindset and outlook.

Paul gives us the same counsel in this condition for peace: we can decide how we are going to think, and how we are not going to think. He challenges us to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good news. How much time do we spend thinking about things that are untrue, dishonorable, unjust, impure, ugly, and bad news?

Isaiah wrote, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) Paul and Isaiah agree that if trust is always, peace is perfect and perpetual. If trust is up and down, peace is up and down. If there is no trust, there is no peace, because we must keep our minds continuously fixed on God, trusting.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he was in prison chained between two soldiers 24/7. Guards changed every 4 hours, which means he never had a moment of privacy. He had to practice this condition for peace continually: “Fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and praiseworthy,” then, “the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”

In the context of our own experiences of terrifying stress, like combat, being violated by a crime, a terrible accident, surgery, prison, the news that we have a malignancy, or the final stages of an illness, this prescription can give us peace.

“Think on these things…”

Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”


God’s Peace: Thanksgiving & Grateful Worship

January 21, 2020

“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Observe that the Apostle Paul prescribed “earnest and thankful prayer.” Do you know what thankful prayer is? My definition of thankful prayer is grateful worship.

I have found an effective peace therapy in a litany of thanksgiving that has evolved in my devotional life over the last thirty years of praying through Paul’s peace prescription while accepting the hard reality of my limitations.

When we are thankful, we automatically move our minds from the negative to the positive issues in our lives. When suffering from a condition or illness that is causing us to lose our faculties one by one, we have two choices: we can continuously think about what we have lost, or are losing, or we can think about what we still have and be thankful.

As I experienced the loss of my physical ability, I found that I get more mileage out of this condition for peace than any of Paul’s other conditions. I have so many blessings for which to be thankful. I discover regularly that when I begin to focus on my blessings, the peace of God is in place.

As I think of all the problems I have because nothing works from my neck down, mentally I put those challenges on one side of a scale, while on the other side I place my blessings. I always find that the good stuff far outweighs my bad stuff – and the peace of God returns.

I highly recommend this thanksgiving therapy, which is a vital part of Paul’s prescription for peace.

Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”


Patience: Faith-Waiting & Love-Waiting

January 17, 2020

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances may be.” (Philippians 4:11)

Paul includes patience as part of his prescription for peace. Throughout the history of the church, patience has been considered a great virtue by spiritual heavyweights like Augustine, Thomas à Kempis and Francis of Assisi. Why is patience such an important virtue? For starters, patience is one of the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit profiled in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Throughout the Bible we are continuously exhorted to “wait on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) In our relationship with God we might call patience faith-waiting. Nothing will test and grow our faith like waiting on the Lord. When we are praying for something and receiving no answer, God may be teaching us that there are times when faith waits.

In our relationships with people, patience can be called love-waiting. I had no idea how selfish I am until I got married. I had no idea how impatient I am until I became a father waiting for teenage children to grow up. I find the Lord wants to grow two dimensions of patience in us: vertical patience, by teaching us to have a faith that waits on God, and horizontal patience, by teaching us that in relationships, love waits. Love is the primary virtue through which the Holy Spirit wants to express the life of God through us.

While impatience is a peace thief, vertical and horizontal patience are supernatural fruit of the Holy Spirit that give us the grace to accept the things we cannot control. Patience is the virtue God plants and grows in our lives while teaching us to wait on God and trust God to do what only God can do about the things we cannot control.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


Spiritual Gentleness and Meekness

January 14, 2020

“…have a reputation for gentleness…” (Philippians 4:5)

When the Apostle Paul writes of gentleness, he does not mean milquetoast weakness. The Greek word for gentleness used here actually means meekness. Meekness is not weakness. Biblical meekness is closer in meaning to tameness. When a powerful stallion finally takes the bit and yields to the control of bridle and rider, it is not weak. That powerful animal can be described as “strength under control.” That is what biblical meekness means.

Gentleness is also listed as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Another way of describing this concept is acceptance and unconditional surrender. The well-known serenity prayer then becomes an expression of this condition for God’s peace:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In Romans 8:28, Paul is not suggesting that everything that happens to those who love God is good. There may be nothing good at all about many things that happen to us. His claim simply is that God can fit everything into a pattern of good, if we love God and are called according to God’s purposes.

Paul teaches us by example that we must accept the will of God until we are so meek we experience gentleness. He says, “I am ready for anything through the strength of the One Who lives within me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Paul learned that it is safe to surrender unconditionally to our loving God. Therefore, gentleness and meekness prescribe acceptance to the will of God, one circumstance at a time.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


#FAITH: A Bull’s Eye Focus

January 10, 2020

“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me…” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Picture your priorities as a target with a bull’s eye surrounded by a dozen circles. As you think and pray about your priorities, what is the bull’s eye of your priority target? Once you have determined that, how would you label the dozen circles that surround your bull’s eye?

Great men of God like the Apostle Paul could reduce their priorities down to one thing. Paul’s one thing was to forget what is behind and strain forward to win the prize at the end of the race.

That prize was what God was calling him to do.

Can we reduce the forty eleven things that are spreading us thin down to one thing? If we do so, what would that one thing be? Sometimes there is great wisdom in forgetting the things that are behind. Then there are times when there is even greater wisdom in determining our one thing type of goal for the future.

How do we do that?

One way is to consider what we might call “eternal values.”  None of the things we are going to leave behind when God calls us home are worth living for while we are here. Jesus told us: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

Will knowing God be an eternally focused bull’s eye for our priority target this year? Think of how that priority will dramatically affect the dozen circles that surround it when our lives become expressions of the love of God and the risen living Christ.

Dick Woodward, 13 January 2012