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A Prayer of Gratitude for the Comfort God Sends Us

Sep 21, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus. 2 Cor. 7:5-6

     Dear heavenly Father, the incidental pictures in the Scriptures are often as profound as the intentional promises. This story of a restless, fearful, afflicted Paul, experiencing your comfort through the care of a good friend, is very encouraging.

     Thank you, Father, for reminding me even that your most faithful servants (like Paul)—those who know you the best, whose grasp of the gospel is a gazillion times better than mine—even these men and women experience restlessness, fear, and weariness.

     At times I still labor under the myth of unlimited resources, semi-omni-competence and “should-ness”. If I just prayed enough, believed enough, or was filled with the Spirit enough, I would never get discouraged or downcast. If I “really” loved Jesus, I shouldn’t be less than a conqueror. What a spiritual lie, baseless burden, and gnostic distortion of the gospel.

     Thank you for comforting us when we’re downcast. You don’t deride us, chide us, or hide from us—you comfort us. You are “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). And thank you for the comforters you send us. Though you’re quite capable of sending ravens and rainbows as gifts of comfort, more often than not, you send a Titus to a Paul, or a Phoebe to a Paul (Rom. 16:1). You love to tell your story through your people.

     Father, on this Lord’s Day morning, help me to be honest about my weakness, expectant of your comfort, and thankful for your provision. And make me sensitive to the needs of others around me. In my weakness, I may be of more good to them than when I feel “on top of my game.” Who needs a word of comfort, encouragement, and hope from another weary traveler? Show me, Father, and send me. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ near and compassionate name.

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A Prayer for Praying for God’s Servants

Sep 20, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Col. 4:2-4

     Dear Lord Jesus, this Scripture convicts me about how sporadic my prayer life has been on behalf of servants of the gospel; and I have no excuse, since I’m one of those servants. My great consolation is in knowing that no one is more watchful and devoted to prayer than you.

     You’re always praying for us; indeed, you never stop. Because you pray, we can pray with boldness, joy, and confidence. I’m so grateful for your steadfast, vigilant intercession, Jesus, especially in light of my own context and circumstances. Sometimes our weakness and needs become the best motivation and fuel for praying for others.

     Lord Jesus, for missionaries and church planters laboring to bring the gospel to unreached and resistant areas, grant them encouragement and fruit. You’ve bought a bride from every nation, so we pray with anticipation, not with doubt. Give your servants patience and provision, joy and hope. May the gospel be clear not only through them, but also to them. Keep their hearts alive to your great affection and mercies. Shower their marriages and friendships with the gift of your real presence and gospel nourishment.

     Lord Jesus, for your servants seeking to bring the liberating power of the gospel to places of systemic brokenness and evil, grant them protection and success. I’m thinking about the women and men who labor in arenas like human trafficking, AIDS, hunger and poverty, and other places of cruel injustice. When your servants feel most weary in doing good, give them fresh manna of gospel encouragement. Grant them favor with local authorities. Grant them good working relationships with other agencies and missions organizations. Let them know for certain that a harvest of righteousness and peace is coming.

     We praise you, Jesus, that our labors in you are never in vain; for we don’t minister for you, but with you. You’re the one who is making all things new. Your kingdom of justice and mercy will prevail. The government of the world is already on your shoulders, and there will be no end to the increase of your redeeming reign and your healing peace. So very Amen we pray, in your healing and liberating name.

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A Prayer for “Recovering Pharisees”

Sep 19, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Cor. 9:23-27

     Dear Lord Jesus, this is one of those passages I used to avoid as a “recovering Pharisee.” Once I came to rest in your righteousness alone for my salvation, it was Scriptures like this one that confused me—at times activating that part of me that still thinks I can make you love me more by my doing. So I praise you for the ongoing teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. I praise you for showing me more about living in line with the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:14). I praise you for all the freedoms you have won for us, including the freedom to obey you from our hearts.

     The gospel sets us free from working for wages; we now run for a crown. Indeed, the gospel is the end of all earning, but not effort. Ultimately, every crown will be laid at your feet, Jesus, for you have earned our salvation for us. Our obedience merits nothing, but it does show that we love you (John 14:15).

     The gospel sets us free from running aimlessly and beating the air. We now live in a story of redemption and restoration. All of history is bound up with your commitment to redeem your people from the nations and to make all things new. We praise you for rescuing us from a little narrative of self-fulfillment for a life of kingdom advancement.

     The gospel sets us free from beating ourselves up because of shame or pride. We now train ourselves for godliness. We are to bring our appetites and bodies in submission to the gospel (1Tim. 4:7-8). Forgive us when we are more disciplined out of vanity than out of a commitment to grow as your disciples.

     Lord Jesus, you are the one who has “won the prize” for us. Only the gospel qualifies us to “share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). Hallelujah, many times over! Show us how to do all things for the sake of the gospel, by the grace, for the glory of the gospel. So very Amen we pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Blasting Our Hearts with God’s Favor

Sep 18, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19

     Dear Lord Jesus, I know, love, and have taught this passage a lot; but today I feel my need for these liberating truths in a fresh way. I’m zeroing in on the declaration, that to know you, in to have God’s favor as our permanent address.

     You’ve taught me in the past about the importance of stewarding my emotions—that is, about not reacting to “irregular” people, ill-timed disappointments, and broken circumstances with irritation, fear, and control. Jesus, all of that just flew out the window, and I’m coming to you acknowledging my weakness to lay hold of your grace-full-ness. I refuse to settle down into a pity party or a blame fest.

     I’m a needy man in need of the good news today, Jesus. I need you to remind me of my freedom and release me for your purposes. I need you to open my eyes to see the gospel today as though I was seeing it for the very first time. I need release from the oppression of my introspection and the accusation of Satan.

     Lord Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor to my heart today—in this moment. I can explain this great truth to others, but right now I need to know it for myself. My theology is still in tact, but my doxology is sucking wind a little. The favor of people and favorable circumstances, are never enough, and will never be enough.

     Only your love is better than life; only your love will never let go of us; only your love can fill the emptiness, heal the brokenness, and break the imprisoned-ness of our souls. So very Amen I pray, in your most loving and powerful name.

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A Prayer for Treasuring Jesus, More and More

Sep 17, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him [Jesus] will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious1 Pet. 2:6-7

     Dear Lord Jesus, if anything or anyone deserves the appellation “precious,” it is you—God’s chosen cornerstone and precious capstone of our redemption. For the combined worth of all currencies and treasures, gemstones and precious metals doesn’t compare with the unsearchable riches found in you.

     To trust in you, Lord Jesus, is to be free from the burden of our guilt and doubts about what you think about us. You became sin for us that in you we might become righteousness of God. Because of you, Judgment Day holds no terror for us, for your cross was our Judgment Day. Because this is true, we’re no longer afraid to die, or to live. You don’t love us more when we “get it right”, and you won’t love us less when we fail. Your banner over us is love; and the song emanating from heaven towards us is “there is now, and forevermore, no condemnation for you.”

     To trust in you, Lord Jesus—to boast in the gift of your righteousness, to rest in the constancy of your love, to wake up each day to your endless mercies, to hear you sing to us in the gospel—is to feel the stranglehold of shame lose its grip over our hearts. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

   We no longer fear the gaze of God because of the grace of God we have in you. We’ve been permanently welcomed onto the dance floor of our Father’s favor and delight. We do believe this; help us believe it more.

     We treasure you only because you first treasured us, Lord Jesus. May you become increasingly precious to us; and may the gospel continue to change the price tags on everything in our world. May yesterday’s values be considered today’s loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing you. So very Amen we pray, in your triumphant and tender name.

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A Prayer for Greater Freedom from Performance-ism

Sep 16, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19

     Dear heavenly Father, I begin today with a desire to live much less of a driven life, and much more of a called life. In essence, I want to live with less fear and more freedom, less frenzy and more faith, with fewer obsessions and with much more adoration of you, the God of all peace.

     As I get older, I just don’t have as much energy (or man-pleasing need) to juggle as many balls or spin as many plates as I used to. This is simultaneously a humbling thing and a good thing. For if greater grace comes to the humble, then accepting my limitations is essential for my liberation. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

     It’s not difficult to see that my drivenness and busyness are rooted in fear—the fear of not being enough and having enough; the fear of losing face and losing control; the fear of missing the mark and missing out; the fear of being replaced and not being remembered—all targets for the liberating power of grace.

     Come, Lord Jesus, come. Your perfect love alone can free me from my default mode of performance-ism and perfectionism. Drive out my fears by a greater experience of the power of the gospel. You lived a life of perfect obedience for us as the second Adam—fulfilling everything God requires of me. You died a death of perfect love for us as the Lamb of God—exhausting God’s judgment against my sin. Your resurrection on the 3rd day is the guarantee that one Day I will be as lovely as you and as loving as you. Hallelujah, many times over.

     Indeed, one Day I will be made perfect in love, all because of you, Lord Jesus; for perfection can only be found in you. I love you because you first loved me and continue to love me. May your perfect love continue to drive all pernicious fear and performance-ism from my life. So very Amen I pray, in your glorious and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Seeing More of Jesus in the Bible

Sep 15, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     ”Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Luke 24:44-47

     Lord Jesus, I’ve always considered myself to be pretty “open-minded”, yet as I meditate on this remarkable scene in Luke’s Gospel, I realize I’m not nearly as opened-minded as you intend. For myself and for my friends, I ask, help us to see you everywhere in the Bible, Jesus. Enable us read the law of Moses, the Prophets, and the psalms with you clearly in view.

     For years I thought of the law as rules and principles by which I could earn more of God’s favor and blessings, or at least micromanage my life for greater success. Now I understand that one of the main purposes of the law was given to drive us to you, Lord Jesus. It was never given as a basis of my acceptance with God. You’ve fulfilled the law for us by your perfect obedience, and you’ve exhausted its judgment by your death on the cross. I wish I’d understood this earlier in my walk with you.

     I used to read the Prophets with a fear of judgment and great intrigue about the future of Israel. Now I realize that all of God’s promises point to you, Lord Jesus. You are the “Yes” and “Amen” to every promise God has made. The gospel of your kingdom claims the entire cosmos, not just the Middle East—not just Jerusalem but the New Jerusalem as well.

     I’ve always loved the Psalms, but until recent years, I read them more with an appreciation for David than with adoration for you, Jesus. But you are the King installed by your Father—the one who inherits the nations and the ends of the earth (Psalm 2). Indeed, Jesus, continue to open our minds to understand how the entire Bible is a revelation of the gospel—the story of God’s commitment to redeem his every-nation family; and restore his beloved and broken world by you. Show us more of you and our place in this magnificent story. So very Amen we pray, in your matchless and merciful name.

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A Prayer for Remembering God Will Finish the Work He Began

Sep 14, 2014 | Scotty Smith

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. 1:6

     Dear heavenly Father, today is a great day for remembering, “salvation is of the Lord.” You’re the one who began the “good work” of redemption in our lives; the one who’s carrying it on—even when you’re not working according to our timetable and agenda; and the one who will complete our salvation, the Day Jesus returns to finish making all things new.

     This is incredibly peace-giving, heart-freeing, joy-fueling news. I can’t be my own savior, and neither can I be anyone else’s savior. The pressure is off. What a great relief, but also what a critical truth to remember. This good news, this best of all news, leads me to offer these earnest prayers . . .

     Father, give me the same confidence for my family and friends you gave Paul for the Philippians. Sometimes irritation, worry, and fear loom larger in my life than patience, trust, and hope. When this happens, I don’t love well, and my body language begins to speak broken grace.

     Father, teach me how to wrestle in confident prayer for others, like Epaphras, wrestled in prayer for the believers in Colossae (Col. 4:12). My tendency is to wrangle emotionally rather than rest believingly. This leaves me worn out, and it frustrates others. Father, I don’t want anyone to feel pressure from me to change.

     Keep me tender enough to engage in broken stories but tough enough not to give in to various “pulls”. Help me not to get entangled in things that have nothing to do with me, but give me the tenacity to stay present. Teach me how to wait on you without falling into self-protective passivity, or self-validating activity.

     Only the gospel is sufficient for the demands of loving well, so I abandon myself to you and your resources. Help me see others as you see them, Father, and help me to love them as Jesus loves me. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ compassionate and faithful name.

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A Prayer for Releasing the Fragrance of Grace

Sep 13, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere2 Cor. 2:14

     Dear Lord Jesus, my heart is filled with gratitude today for your kindness and might, your grace and your persistence. You completely save those who come to you in faith; and the very faith we need for coming to you, you freely give us in the gospel. You are the victorious King—the Monarch of mercy, the Suzerain of salvation. You’ve come to overthrow the reign of sin—in our lives and in your creation, and (thankfully) nothing will deter you.

     Lord Jesus, I gladly take my place in the triumphant procession Paul describes in this passage. I humbly assume the posture of both the conquered and conqueror. I praise you for rescuing me from the dominion of darkness—a kingdom in which I was both a willing citizen and a desperate slave. Only the gospel was powerful enough to set me free. Thank you for triumphing over me, and in me.

     I’m also grateful to be among those released for a life of announcing your triumph of mercy and grace. What more could I want, for the rest of my life, than to be someone through whom the fragrance of the gospel is released—the aroma of forgiveness and freedom, the incense of reconciliation and restoration?

     I want to be increasingly preoccupied with you—the victorious Christ, not “the victorious Christian life”. You’re my loving Master, not my private masseuse. Forgive me when my prayers reflect a greater commitment to my comfort than to your kingdom; and for “claiming” things you never promised. Give me much greater joy in living for your glory than my gain.

     Wherever you take me in the triumphant procession of the gospel is the best place to be. However you want to spread the fragrance of knowing you is the best way to live. If it’s through our brokenness that the perfume of your presence is best released, then I’ll boast in my weaknesses all the more. So very Amen I pray, in your beautiful and loving name.

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A Prayer for Those Days When You’re Feeling Restless

Sep 12, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refugePs. 62:5-8

     Dear heavenly Father, nothing compares with being certain of your love for me. The peace I have knowing I no longer have to perform or pretend with you about anything is priceless, incomparable, and needful. Today, in particular, I’m thankful for the freedom to pour out my heart to you. Because the gospel is true, I don’t have to measure or monitor my words with you. You don’t judge my prayers. You purify them as they meet you at the throne of grace. Hallelujah, many times over.

     Here’s what’s going on inside of me today. I feel a restlessness that I cannot attribute to any one thing. There’s a floating disquiet, a nibbling anxiousness, a low rumble of dread that’s just hanging there. So today I echo back to you King David’s longing for soul rest, and I make his prayer mine. “Soul, find your rest in God alone! Don’t medicate with anything else. Don’t minimize or super-size your restlessness. Just go to Jesus. Go to Jesus right now!”

     Indeed, Jesus, I don’t want to waste energy on the “paralysis of analysis.” I don’t want to spend time navel gazing today. I don’t want to treat my soul like an onion to be peeled, layer-by-layer. Whatever is repent-able or repairable, I’m sure you’ll show me. I just want you, Lord Jesus. Bring your centering presence, your stabilizing mercy, and your calming peace to my soul. Kiss my heart with the gospel, and it will be enough.

     You are my rock, my salvation, my fortress, my honor, my refuge, and much more. So very Amen I pray, with hope and anticipation.

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