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A Prayer for Rejoicing in Jesus, Our Joyful King

Sep 02, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Heb. 1:8-9) “I am coming to you now (Father), but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (John 17:13)

     Dear Lord Jesus, there’s really nothing that affects my life more than how I think about you. The more I see you everywhere in the Scriptures, the more I understand why you alone are worthy of our adoration, affection, and allegiance. I expect to say the same thing ten thousand years from now.

     I marvel at the joy with which you rule the world, love righteousness and hate wickedness—indeed, it deepens my peace and fuels my hope. You delight in crushing evil and you rejoice in making all things new—there is no other King like you. Indeed, your kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:7). The Father has placed the government of the entire cosmos on your shoulders, and your reign of grace and peace is expanding all the time. Hallelujah, many times over.

     But I also marvel at your request for the Father to grant us the fullness of your joy—the same joy you’ve eternally enjoyed within the Godhead (John 17:13). Thank you for caring about our joy. As our joy is refreshed and increased, may it be the fire we need for doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. May your gladness encourage us when we grow weary in the battle, are tempted to lose heart, and withdraw into unbelief.

     Lord Jesus, Satan was crushed under your feet on the cross, and he will soon be crushed underour feet at your return (Rom. 16:20). Therefore, our labors in you are never in vain. Your throne will last forever, your kingdom will never end, and your joy will never abate. So very Amen we pray, in your triumphant and loving name.

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A Prayer for Repenting of Resentment

Sep 01, 2014 | Scotty Smith

Resentment kills a fool. Job 5:2

     Dear Lord Jesus, it’s been so hot and humid lately, and I’ve been registering that complaint entirely too many times—so much my complaining morphed into resenting. It came to a head when I canceled a bike ride, and started cursing the humidity, heat, lack of a breeze, sweat glands, even the sun. That inaugurated a pointless thirty-minute pout about which you convicted me, and let me know the weather’s not the only thing I’ve been resenting lately.

     I resent having to explain and repeat myself. Why can’t everybody instantly intuit what I’m thinking? I resent grocery carts in the middle of an isle I’m in. I resent gossips, so much that I gossip to others about their gossip. I resent last minute suggestions. Why do my plans and “groove” have to be disrupted?

     I resent resentful people. Why can’t they stop their whining and be more content with what they have? I resent roads that are always being repaired; drivers that delay moving four seconds after the red light turns green; birds that do their business on my windshield. I resent good grass dying and crabgrass thriving. I especially resent disproportionate suffering for people I love. Why can’t you spread “hard stuff” around a little?

     Jesus, my resentment will either kill me as a fool or drive me to you for life. I choose the second option. Forgive me for fertilizing a spirit of entitlement. Forgive me for not pulling up the roots of bitterness quicker. Forgive me for demanding life in the “not yet” before the “already” is over. Forgive me for preaching the gospel with gusto to others, but with a yawn to myself. Forgive me for telling others of the sufficiency of your grace while looking for some other balm for myself.

     I make no excuses or promises. Today, right now, I simply collapse upon you afresh as my wisdom, my righteousness, my holiness, and my redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). I praise you that I’m not feeling condemnation, for there is none. I praise you that I am feeling conviction, for there’s reason for plenty. So very Amen I pray, in your patient and transforming name.

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A Prayer for Trusting God to Do the Impossible

Aug 31, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But he [Jesus] said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

     Dear Lord Jesus, you offered these words of hope to disciples trying to picture a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle. You speak the same words to me in light of many situations for which I need to accept my limitations and lay hold of your sufficiency.

     I begin this day remembering that your commitment is to make all things new, not make all new things. There is an enormous difference between the two. Indeed, Jesus, you’ve placed us in a story of restoration, not replacement. You are actively at work in the broken places and among broken people, including me. Through your resurrection, we’ve been given great assurance and hope for a redeemed universe. This is incredibly good news—the best news ever; but it’s not going to happen on our timetable or according to our script.

     This means we getting used to the fact that many things are, and will remain, impossible for us. My best intentions, efforts, and resources are simply not enough. I see this especially in relationships, and with people I care about a lot. This requires a humility and faith the gospel alone can provide. Grant me both, Lord Jesus—bunches of both.

     I cannot change me, so why do I assume the omnipotence to fix others? As much as I long to see friends freed from addictions, marriages brought back from the brink of death; along with stubborn people made gentle and kind, and negative people filled with faith and hope, Jesus, you alone have the power of resurrection.

     Maybe the greater challenge will be for you to make me a patient and caring, persistent and present friend. Please show me the first nose hair of this camel poking through a needle’s eye. Hasten the Day of perfect and perpetual newness in my heart, and in your world. So very Amen I pray, in your merciful and majestic name.

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A Prayer for Times You Feel Like a 3rd Luke 15 Son

Aug 30, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m not beginning my day in a far away country, derelict and destitute. Though I’m capable of anything, I’m not sitting here filled with shame for squandering an inheritance, and neither am I out in a field feeding somebody else’s pigs. I’m in a comfortable chair, sipping a fresh cup of coffee, surrounded by more than my share of creature comforts; and yet I’m just as much in need of fellowship with you as any of your broken children; so here I come.

     Because the gospel is true, I bring you my busy, easily distracted, somewhat-blasé heart. I feel like a 3rd Luke 15 son right now. I’m not on a hedonistic holiday and I’m not indulging the ugliness of my self-righteousness. I’m just somewhere in between. I still hear and love the music of the gospel, but I just don’t feel like dancing right now. I’m not cold, hot, or lukewarm; I’m just here.

     So, Father, as I come to you today, I take great comfort in knowing that I’ll always find you filled with compassion for me, even when my feelings are not fully engaged with you. As I saunter toward you, you’re always running toward me in Jesus. When I’m not as inclined to lift my arms in praise to you, your embrace is the most predictable element in my day.

     You don’t just put your hand on my shoulder; you throw your arms around me in the gospel. And though my affection for you wavers, you shower me with multiple kisses all day long, for you love your children with an everlasting, unwavering love.

     Because the gospel is true, I’ll seek to live to your glory today—neither by sight nor by my feelings, but by the faith you’ve given me to trust and love you. It’s not my peace with you, but your peace with me that is the anchor for my soul. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

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A Prayer for Trusting God with Our Children

Aug 29, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Ps. 127:1-3

     Heavenly Father, it’s a joy to address you today as the architect and builder of your own house—including the household of faith, and our children’s place in your family and story.

     As I look back over the years at the ways my parenting was marked by pragmatics and moralism, fear and control, I’m saddened; but I am also gladdened, for you’ve always been faithful to your covenant love, even when I was overbearing and under-believing. The move from parenting by grit to parenting by grace was a slow but fruitful journey—a journey that continues.

     You’ve rescued me from parental “laboring in vain”—assuming a burden you never intended parents to bear. Father, only you can reveal the glory and grace of Jesus to our children. Only you can give anyone a new heart. You’ve called us to parent as an act of worship—to parent “as unto you,” not as a way of validating ourselves, getting our kids to like us, proving our worthiness of your love.

     I was arrogant to assume my best parenting days accomplished what you alone have graciously done in the lives of my children. I was equally arrogant to believe my worst parenting days forever limited what you will be able to accomplish in the future. I now understand the undue pressure our children feel when we parent more out of our guilt and pride, than by your love and grace.

     Since our children and grandchildren are your inheritance, Father, teach us how to care for them as humble stewards, not as anxious owners. More than anything else help us parent and grandparent in ways that best reveal the unsearchable riches of Christ. Give us quick repentances and observable kindnesses. Convict us quickly and deeply, when our parenting contradicts the truth and ways of the gospel (Gal. 2:14). So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ grace-full and faithful name.

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A Prayer for Rejoicing in the Only Love Better Than Life

Aug 28, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.  Ps. 63:3-5

     Dear Lord Jesus, King David’s song of unbridled adoration is a rebuke to my measured heart. I spend a lot of my time and energy trying to make a “better” life for myself, and yet David speaks of your love as being better than life itself! What a holy paradox. Oh, to know your love in such a sensate, soul-satisfying way.

     Jesus, what would it be like to be so alive to the width, length, height, and depth of your love that I lose control? David danced with shameless freedom before the Ark of the Covenant. I long to be just as free because of the riches of the gospel.

     I have no trouble singing to you or lifting my hands in the assembly of your people. But I want your immeasurable love to spill over into all of my relationships. I want to finish this journey with my spouse as sweethearts. As I get older, I don’t want to suffer from the “hardening of the categories”; rather I want to grow more spontaneous, flexible and willing to take risks with family, friends and whomever you bring into my day. I want to be less controlling and cautious in relationships, and more relaxed and engaged.

     Jesus, I want your love to be so compelling to me that I don’t think of “witnessing” to people, just loving and serving them. I want to greet people with your welcoming heart; grant them your mercy when life is hard; and extend your grace when relationships get sticky.

     I want your love to be so satisfying that I find it hard to make excuses for my brokenness, and much easier to live transparently and authentically before others. I want your love to bring forth hot tears of compassion and loud guffaws of joy. You’ve set me free for eternity. Jesus, please set me free for today. So very Amen I pray, in your loving name.

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A Prayer for Repenting of Our Unbelief

Aug 27, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     “He (Peter) went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.  Acts 12:12-16

     Dear heavenly Father, thank you for chronicling this rather comical prayer meeting. Though is exposes our unbelief, in a far greater way, it highlights your faithful commitment to do exceedingly beyond all we can ask or imagine. I relate to this scene. I often dutifully pray, but faithlessly doubt. Forgive my unbelief; override my unbelief.

     Father, I’d love to hear “Peter knocking at the door,” with regards to these matters weighing on my heart. I pray for persecuted churches and believers, and their leaders. Evil hates beauty, and Satan hates you and your church. Strengthen, encourage, and grant miracles of provision and deliverance. Cause the gospel to spread like wildfire in the face of evil. Grant those in harm’s way, an extraordinary measure of your presence and peace.

     Father, I pray for the courageous men and women who are laboring in the dark world of human trafficking. Bring justice to bear; deliver women and children from the evil of slavery, in every form. Protect the rescuers and provide good aftercare for those rescued. We long for the Day of no more evil, sin and death—in any form.

     Father, I pray for a fresh outpouring of your Holy Spirit on our church families. Grant us a renewed vision of Jesus and his kingdom. Intensify our love for your glory; inundate us with a fresh supply of your mercy and grace; compel us to love others as Jesus loves us; constantly override our unbelief. “Supersize” our compassion for “outsiders” and our cities. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ exalted and compassionate name.

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A Prayer for Coming to Jesus All the Time

Aug 26, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 1 Pet. 2:4-6

     Heavenly Father, I used to think that “coming to Jesus” was a phrase whose meaning is exhausted when we first trust your Son to be our Savior. For sure, that is the most glorious and essential “come to Jesus meeting” we’ll ever have. But this Scripture make it clear that the whole Christian life is about coming to Jesus. We need Jesus today as much as the first day you gave us faith to trust in him—the “living stone.”

     Indeed, Lord Jesus, you are the life-giving living Stone for your beloved people; the precious cornerstone of the living temple called the body of Christ; the rock of refuge that’s higher than us (Ps. 61:2-3); the rock from which God gave water in the wilderness in Moses’ day (1 Cor. 10:1-4). You are the honey-giving rock of whom Asaph spoke (Ps. 81:16), and Daniel’s stone, cut from a mountain by the hands of God, which will become an everlasting kingdom of redemption and restoration (Dan. 2:36-45).

     Jesus, we exalt you and delight in you. The more precious you become to us, the more we watch our shame melt away. The more we see you for who you really are, the more we see all other precious currencies as fool’s gold. The more we come to you, the more we realize that it’s you who is always coming to us first.

     We come to you right now—we come bringing our emptiness to the fountain of your fullness. We bring our brokenness to the storehouse of your kindness. We bring our weaknesses in full assurance of your endless mercies. We come to you right now for the gospel manna we will need to meet today’s demands. So very Amen we pray, in your treasured and shame-freeing name.

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A Prayer for Becoming More Teachable and Less Defensive

Aug 25, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. (Prov. 15:31-32) Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. (Prov. 12:1) My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Prov. 3:11-12)

     Dear Lord Jesus, scanning through the book of Proverbs recently, I noticed how many verses about staying teachable, receiving correction, and loving discipline I’ve underlined over the course of the years. I wish the sheer number of highlighted verses indicated how humble and non-defensive of a man I am. But that’s simply not the case. I can still bristle, blame shift, and make excuses with the best of ‘em.

     So here’s my prayer: I need the power of the gospel to grant me greater and quicker freedom when people need to share stuff with me. I want to own, grieve, and repent of my defensiveness, Lord Jesus. Help me welcome feedback from my spouse about my attitude, choices, and excesses. Help me to hear your voice in things my children want to share with me about the past and the present.

     May my friendships be an environment in which we love each other enough to do ongoing heart work. Grant us fun, but grant us growth. Don’t let me ignore concerns and corrections, from mentors, “underlings,” neighbors, even “angels” you send to me.

     I want the Bible to read me (and not just me read it), exposing my sin and brokenness, and revealing more and more and more of the riches of the gospel. There’s no way I’ll make “my home among the wise” without having my heart at home in your mercy, grace, and peace.

     Lord Jesus, it’s because you made yourself of no reputation, becoming sin for me on the cross, that I don’t have to live for my own reputation. Because I’m no longer guilty or condemned for my sin, I can live in the freedom of convict-ability, teach-ability, and humility. So very Amen I pray, in your gracious and tenacious name.

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A Prayer for Rejoicing in (not Resenting) Normal Trials

Aug 24, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Pet. 1:3-7

     Dear heavenly Father, what a great perspective-giving Scripture… I’m embarrassed to even speak of my “trials,” because I didn’t go to sleep hungry or thirsty last night; I didn’t hear gunfire echoing through my neighborhood; there’s no Ebola plague pillaging my community, I don’t live with the fear of my children being sold into slavery; and my government isn’t threatening the exercise of my faith. These are realities with which many of our brothers and sisters in Christ live on a daily basis.

     For me, the “trials” I have are more like swimming in a pool of tiny piranha, which nibble away at my joy, energy, and peace. Please give me grace perfectly suited for the demands and the daily-ness of normal life—in a body with aging joints and a leaking memory; among fellow sinner-saints who, like me, love inconsistently; with unresolved relationship-stressing stories from the past and “inconvenient” whine-producing stories in the present; in the face of minor injustices and a lack of common mercies; when cars, plumbing, air conditioners, and other stuff just break; when people don’t say “thank you,” kids drive like maniacs, and pets pee on the carpet.

     Lord, in all these things, I want your hand and heart to be at work in my heart. I want to be a gospel-man—a man of faith in the daily messiness and to-be-expected-disappointments of life. By your grace, turn my whines into worship. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name.

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