A Prayer for Our Valleys

October 27, 2017

“Yea, 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 runs over.”  (Psalm 23:4-5)

In your dark valleys, learn to pray in this manner:

“As I enter this valley, Lord, I will not be paralyzed by fear, because I believe You are with me. Your ability to protect me and lead me through this valley is a comfort to me. I know that in the darkest and scariest part of this valley, in the middle of life threatening danger, You will spread a table of provision for me.

I am trusting You completely to anoint me with the oil of Your personalized, attentive care. I believe you will give me mercy for my failures and the grace I need to help in my time of need. You will also pursue me with Your goodness, unconditional love and acceptance, when I wander away from Your loving care.”

Finally, thank your Good Shepherd-God that you can trust Him to lead you through this life to unbroken fellowship with Him forever in Heaven: to the green pastures that never turn brown, the still waters that never become disturbed, and the cup that never empties.

Offer this prayer to “the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead that great Shepherd of sheep, Who through the blood of the everlasting covenant, can make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


GOD’S MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY!

August 25, 2017

“Surely Your goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)

Mercy is the unconditional love of God. This beautiful word is found three hundred and sixty-six times in the Bible. Perhaps God wants us to know we need unconditional love, every day of the year (even Leap Year!) Many people think we don’t hear about the mercy of God in the Bible until we get to the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. However, two hundred and eighty references to God’s mercy are found in the Old Testament.

My favorite Old Testament mercy reference is found in the last verse of the Twenty-third Psalm. David ends his greatest Psalm with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him all the days of his life. The Hebrew word he uses here for “follow” is a word that can also be translated “pursue.”  David brings the most profound and eloquent description of the relationship between God and man to a conclusion by making the declaration that the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life. By application, this is true for any of us who confess our sins.

There are so many ways to fail. When we understand the meaning of the mercy of God, however, we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail God’s mercy. As I place my failures on a scale, I like to place all those times mercy is used in the Bible on the scale opposite my failures. I invite you to do the same thing, no matter how horrible you think your sins are.

Dick Woodward, 28 August 2012


The Lord is My Shepherd (But?)

August 1, 2017

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” (Psalm 23)

These are some of the most familiar words in the Bible beloved by devout people everywhere. According to this Shepherd Psalm of David, the key to the real blessings of this life and the next is a relationship with God. The green pastures, still waters, table of provision, God’s blessing of anointing oil and cup that runs over all the time are all conditioned on our relationship with God. That relationship is established in the second verse when David writes, “He makes me to lie down.”

However, the spirit in which we recall these words is often something like this: “The Lord is my Shepherd — but I have a health problem.” Or, “the Lord is my Shepherd — but I have marriage problems!” Or, “The Lord is my Shepherd — but I cannot control my children.”

When we say, “The Lord is my Shepherd — but” we are putting our “but” in the wrong place. We need to get our “but” in the right place and recall the precious promise of these words this way: “I have a health problem, BUT the Lord is my Shepherd! I have marriage problems, BUT the Lord is my Shepherd! I cannot control my children, BUT the Lord is my Shepherd!”

One way the Lord makes us lie down is to use health problems, marriage problems, problems with our children, finances, careers, and any other kind of problems we can imagine to teach us about the relationship with God which is key to all the blessings profiled in Psalm 23.

Will you let the Great Shepherd use whatever challenges you are facing to establish the deeper relationship with God David described so beautifully three thousand years ago?

Dick Woodward, 14 August 2008

Editor’s Note: This was Dick Woodward’s first blog back in August of 2008, which means this Four Spiritual Secrets blog has been sharing devotional truths in the blogosphere for 9 years. Although we miss him, the blog posting elf hopes (& prays) his words continue to yield Kingdom fruit – as long as we have our ‘buts’ in the right place!! 🙂


Psalm 23: Unquenchable Faith, Love Everlasting

April 4, 2017

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (Psalm 23:6)

What is the basis of the unquenchable faith of David? What gives him the assurance that all the blessings he has described (in Psalm 23) will be experienced all the days of his life and forever?

The word Selah, found frequently in the Psalms of David, can be interpreted: “Pause and calmly think about that.” If we pause and calmly think about it, we realize that all through Psalm 23, David presents his Shepherd as the great Initiator of their relationship.

It is the Shepherd Who gets David’s attention, then makes him lie down and say, “baa,” confessing that he is a sheep and the Lord is his Shepherd. It is his Shepherd Who makes David lie down where the green pastures are and then leads him beside still waters. It is David’s Shepherd Who uses His staff when David strays from Him, and drives him into the paths of righteousness that restore his soul. It is God, the Good Shepherd Who initiates these interventions in David’s life.

As David walks through the valley of the shadow of death, his confidence is not in his own extraordinary ability as a warrior to see himself through that valley. His confidence is clearly in his Shepherd. As David walks through this dark and scary valley, he is looking to God for protection and provision. He knows his Shepherd will personally anoint him with oil and keep that cup running over within him.

The source of David’s confident faith is clearly seen in the way the New Jerusalem Bible translates this verse: “Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.” It is also expressed in these words from the hymn, “I Sought the Lord,” written by George McDonald.

            “I find, I walk, I love, but Oh the whole of love

            Is but my answer, Lord to Thee.

            For You were long beforehand with my soul.

            Always, you have loved me.”

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


Psalm 23: To it, or Through it?

November 1, 2016

“Yea, 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.”  (Psalm 23:4)

The great Shepherd psalm of David is the most familiar chapter in the Bible.  It is loved by Jews, Catholics and all shades and grades of Protestants.  Psalm 23 is the greatest description ever written of what the relationship between God and humankind can be.

After declaring that his God makes him lie down in green pastures and leads him beside still waters, David also declares there to be times when he finds himself in a valley that is so dark it is like the shadow of death.  However, he is comforted by the staff of his Shepherd.  He is referencing the confidence he has in the ability of his Shepherd to lead him through that valley, not just to that valley.

He is also comforted by the rod of his Shepherd.  A shepherd uses a rod as a defensive weapon to keep predators away from the sheep.  David is saying here that he has great confidence in the ability of his Shepherd to protect him from anything he might encounter in that valley.

The bottom line: David knows his Shepherd God can not only lead him to a valley, but through that valley.

Are you in a valley right now?  If you are, realize your Shepherd God wants to lead you through your valley.  Trust God’s perfect ability to lead and protect you all the way through your valley.

Faith nearly always involves choices.  The choice is yours. So, which is it going to be?

Is it going to be “To it, or through it?”

Dick Woodward, 16 March 2013


Praying in the Valleys

July 22, 2016

“Yea, 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 runs over.”   (Psalm 23:4-5)

In your dark valleys, learn to pray in this manner:  “As I enter this valley, Lord, I will not be paralyzed by fear, because I believe You are with me.  Your ability to protect me and lead me through this valley is a comfort to me.  I know that in the darkest and scariest part of this valley, in the middle of all the life threatening danger, You will spread a table of provision for me.

I am trusting You completely to anoint me with the oil of Your individualized, personalized and attentive care.  I believe you will give me mercy for my failures and the grace I need to help me in my time of need.  You will also pursue me like a ‘Hound of Heaven’ with Your goodness, unconditional love and acceptance, when I wander away from Your loving care.”

Finally, thank your Good Shepherd-God that you can trust God to lead you through this life to unbroken fellowship forever in Heaven; to the green pastures that never turn brown, the still waters that never become disturbed, and the cup that never empties.

Offer this prayer to “the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead that great Shepherd of sheep, Who through the blood of the everlasting covenant, can make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


A Prescription: Blessing God’s Name

September 29, 2015

“Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100: 4, 5)

In the ancient Hebrew culture names had great significance.  When parents named their child, the name they chose often expressed their desire for the life of their child.  Sometimes the name was given to a child because certain events occurred surrounding the birth of the child.  The significance of names is especially important when we consider the names of God in the Bible – they tell us much about God.

In Psalm 100 we are instructed to praise the name of God.  We are to praise God because He is good.  Rick Warren told us life is like railroad tracks.  The left rail represents this reality: there is always something negative in our life because God is more interested in our character than He is in our comfort.  The right rail represents this reality: there is always something good in our life because God is good and He loves us.

In this very short psalm we are instructed to bless the name of God by focusing His goodness, His everlasting mercy, and His enduring truth.  Mercy is His unconditional love and forgiveness.  That word is found 366 times in the Bible because God knew we would need it every day and He even included leap year.

If we read the Bible looking for truth we will discover truth that endures to all generations.  In the last verse of his shepherd psalm David informed us that the mercy of God pursued him like a hound of heaven.  Will you fill and take this prescription for blessing the name of God?

Dick Woodward, 14 March 2012