A Prayer for Stories and Situations that Overwhelm Us

Jul 26, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope…”  2 Cor. 1:8-10

     Dear heavenly Father, this portion of Scripture is like a mercy-magnet to my soul—one to which I often turn when there are more messes left at the end of my day than strength; when stories of heartache seem to outnumber stories of redemption; when I have little left in my grace-tank, yet there’s many more miles before I reach home.

     Thank you, thank you, thank you for the haven of hope we find in the riches of your Word. If Paul occasionally felt overwhelmed by the frayed ends, unresolved conflicts, and “too-much-ness” of life, then I’ll not let myself fall into guilt or self-contempt, and I’ll cancel my plans for a big pity-party for one.

     Father, I realize that days and stretches of feeling overwhelmed are actually good for me, though they feel pretty lousy. I honestly want to learn more and more about trusting in you—the God who raises the dead. Though my default mode is self-sufficiency and the illusion of control, I want my grace-mode to be to trust you with situations I cannot fix, wounds I cannot heal, and hearts I cannot change.

     Unlike Paul, I’m not really facing deadly perils on the outside, just the smelly peril of not wanting to wait on you for longer than fifteen minutes, or rely on you with total abandonment. Deliver me from me. You have raised Jesus from the dead, and you remain the God of resurrection. With palms up, I surrender in gratitude and repent with humility. Please replace my self-reliance with Christ-reliance. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ worship-worthy and trust-worthy name.

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A Prayer for Bringing My Fears to Jesus

Jul 25, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     He placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”  Rev. 1:17-18

     Dear Lord Jesus, it’s quite timely and so encouraging to know the most repeated command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” The angels spoke these words to startled shepherds at your birth, and you repeated the command to a devastated Mary after your resurrection. Now you speak these liberating words to my heart: “Do not be afraid!”

     Because you’re the First and the Last, I don’t have to be afraid of anything in between. You are very God, and I am very not. You never say “Oops” about anything in world history, or in my life. You never “attempt” anything—as though you could fail. You never pace heaven, scratch your head in confusion, or resort to plan B. You are perfectly and perpetually executing your sovereign will—from naming the stars, to numbering my hairs and days. Hallelujah, many times over.

     Because you are the Living One—who was dead and is now alive forever, I don’t have to be afraid of Judgment Day, or this day. You are constantly singing the most liberating of lyrics over us: “I am your righteousness and peace, Good Shepherd and impassioned Bridegroom. There’s no condemnation hanging over you, now and forevermore. A banner of love flies over you, and I greatly delight in you.”

     Lord Jesus, because you hold the keys of death and Hades, and to everything else, I don’t have to be afraid to die or live, lay down or get up. You robbed the grave of its victory, removed the sting of death, and defeated the powers of darkness. I don’t have to be afraid of people or aging, failing or forgetting, international terror or heart messes.

     I know you’ll never leave or forsake us and I know I’m in the palm of your hand. Free me more fully from my fears that I might live more fully to your glory. So very Amen I pray, in your loving and powerful name.

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A Prayer for a Fresh Dose of Gospel Sanity

Jul 24, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” . . . Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. Dan. 4:34-37

     Dear Lord Jesus, I so relate to Nebuchadnezzar’s story. Yet again, I find myself needing a fresh vision of your unassailable sovereignty and your inexhaustible goodness. There are two places of insanity, or “crazy,” I tend to fall into. Sometimes, like King Nebuchadnezzar, I arrogantly think I’m in control, and I get preoccupied with my little fiefdom of “self”. Other times I act like the consummate orphan—as though I don’t have a Father in heaven and a secure place in his family. Both of these extremes contradict the gospel I trust and the kingdom I love.

     But Lord Jesus, you’re the only King that’s really in control, and only your kingdom will endure from generation to generation. You’re a hands on, fully engaged Savior, not a spiritual cheerleader or life-coach, pulling for us from afar. You’re the King of glory, beauty, compassion, mercy, and grace—all marshaled towards us. You’re the King who died for us, was raised for us, is praying for us, and is returning for us. You’re the King who totally loves, and thoroughly protects us.

     Right now, you’re working all things together after the counsel of your will; and you’re working in all things, for our good and your glory. Right now, you don’t just have the heart of every king in your hand; you have our hearts as well. Right now, you do as you please with all the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth, and with us. Right now, everything you do is right and just, even when it’s not easy. Right now, it’s awesome and comforting to be yours—objects of your affection and subjects in your kingdom. So very Amen I pray, right now, in your loving and trustworthy name.

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A Prayer for Knowing God’s Presence in the Storms of Life

Jul 23, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isa. 43:1-3

     Heavenly Father, your Word is a balm for the broken, ballast for the bewildered, and bread for the hungry. This isn’t theory, or only good theology; it’s experientially true. You’ve promised to “show up” and be enough, and you are. In the storms of life, you are nearer than the storms themselves.

     As Isaiah reminds us, you’ve created us and you’ve redeemed us. You summoned us by name, calling us to life in the gospel; and have given us the sweetest name imaginable—”Mine.” No more condemnation; no more orphan-like spirituality; no more making a name for ourselves. We are yours and your banner over us is love. Hallelujah, many times over.

     Father, you don’t promise we won’t experience floods and torrents, fires and flames. But you do promise you will be with us, and that we won’t suffer ultimate harm. To know you are near and to know you are good is all we really need. We will go anywhere and do anything, as long as we’re convinced that you’re with us and for us.

     We know ourselves to be “precious and honored in your sight,” because of what you’ve done for us in Jesus. We praise you for the one and only truly indescribable gift—given for us and to us (2 Cor. 9:15). And since you didn’t spare your own Son, we can trust you graciously to give us everything else we need (Rom. 8:32), in current and future storms. We don’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone, for you are with us and you are for us. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus triumphant and trustworthy name.

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A Prayer for Those Struggling with a Disconnected Heart

Jul 22, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”  Jonah 4:1-3

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m praying today for friends who, like Jonah, “theologically,” know you to be a “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love,” but who, emotionally, feel very disconnected from this good news right now. I know what that feels like, for I’ve been there as well.

     For some, their marriage is their “Nineveh”—a place of threat and pain, emptiness and hopelessness—one that makes the expensive cost of a ticket to Tarshish seem worth it. For others it’s the combination of loses and reversals, dashed hopes and unfilled dreams. For others, “Nineveh” is the “too-much” thought of having to stay in the same body, story and city—all which conspire to echo the haunting question, “Where is your God?”

     Lord, their resources are low and their resolve is nearly “shot”, so my cry for my friends is simple, have mercy on these I love. You’ve promised never to leave us or forsake us, even when we buy our tickets to Tarshish. You’ve promised sufficient grace for our very insufficient selves. When life feels like way too much, you’ve promised a way of escape—a way of wisdom, with an address other than Tarshish. It’s your own heart and embrace. May your mercy be an irresistible magnet; draw them in.

      Every time I’ve bought a one-way ticket away from your presence, it hasn’t worked out for me, at all. So be at work, Father, through waves, vines, gourds, worms, hot winds and big fish—whatever it takes, to convince all of us, us yet again, that the gospel is true, your name is Redeemer, and you’re more than enough. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ tender and welcoming name.

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A Prayer of Longing for Jesus’ Return

Jul 21, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. Luke 12:35-37

     Dear Lord Jesus, through the years I’ve suffered through some horrible teaching about your 2nd coming, most of which generated fear, not faith; Biblical text-twisting and political sensationalism. That’s hardly what you had in mind, when you charged us to watch and wait for your return. But this morning, as I meditate on this passage, (thankfully) much of that bad theology has been rewritten.

     Jesus, I’ve never been less anxious and more ready for your return, but only because of a growing understanding of the gospel. I’m already wearing the right clothes—the wedding garment of your perfect righteousness. I’m no longer afraid of your return. I very much want you to come back—Oh, loving Bridegroom. The oil in my lamp will never run dry, for you’ve sealed me as your own and have sent the Spirit to dwell in my heart forever.

     Because the gospel is true, I’m ready for service in two ways. First of all, I’m ready for you to serve me. According to the Scriptures, when you return, you will have us, your bride, “recline at the table,” and you will come and wait on us (Luke 12:37). This is truly mind blowing and heart filling wonder. All you’ve ever done is serve your people, Jesus—in creation, by your incarnation, in your crucifixion, your resurrection, your ascension, and your heavenly intercession.

     Secondly, as I consider all the ways you serve us, Jesus, I have a renewed passion to serve you, and to serve with you, as you gather your bride from the nations and as your kingdom is advancing everywhere. What an eternal honor it is to live as a character in and carrier of your great story of redemption. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and loving name.

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A Prayer for Beholding the Beauty of King Jesus

Jul 20, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty.  Isa. 33:17

     Dear Lord Jesus, Isaiah’s promise summarizes the deepest longing in our hearts. Though we sabotage, repackage, and squander this longing in a myriad of ways, it is you that we want more than anything or anyone else. By the power of the Spirit, the daily mercies of heaven, and the unsearchable riches of your grace—free us to come more fully alive to this irrepressible truth. We want you!

     We want to see you, Jesus—you who made us in your glorious image, have redeemed us for your eternal glory, and are returning for your consummate pleasure—the fulfillment of your great delight in us. Oh, hasten that Day of seeing you, that we may be made like you (1 John 3:1-3); of being with you, that our deepest craving for intimacy may be fulfilled; of no longer knowing you in part, but in the fullness of reserved for the Day of your return.

     We want to see you, Jesus, in your unfiltered, undiminished, unabated beauty. Everything we call beautiful is a mere hint, a quiet whisper, and a vague shadow of the quintessential beauty, which is only found in you. We love beauty, because we were made by your and for you. Oh, hasten that marvelous Day—that Day in which we begin our eternal marveling, for surely it will take all of eternity just to begin fathoming the spectacle of your beauty and tasting the full measure of your love.

     We want to see you, Jesus, in all of your kingly splendor—the monarch of mercy, who is presently working in all things for our good; you who have completely routed the dark enemy on our behalf; you who created, named and hung the stars for our fascination and joy; you who will, one Day return and finish making all things new. Who is the king of glory? It is you, Lord Jesus, only you.

     Lord Jesus, continue to open the eyes of our hearts to see your beauty in the gospel, and everywhere else, until the Day we will finally see you as you are. Greatly hasten that Day. So very Amen we pray, in your grace-full and all glorious name.

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A Prayer for Resting in Jesus’ Triumph Over Evil

Jul 19, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Rom. 16:20

     Dear heavenly Father, this great promise holds much hope and timely encouragement for all of us. Things are not as they appear. Jesus’ crushing defeat of Satan on the cross (Gen. 3:15) is currently being applied to all darkness and evil, threatening our peace and joy. Evil hates Beauty, but Beauty will prevail. We will live to see the Day of Jesus’ triumph over evil played out under our very feet.

     Though at times it feels like we are being walked on by a gloating devil, it is he who is actually getting ready to know our dancing feet on his head. Our labors in the Lord are not, and will never be, in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). And according to your Word, this will happen “soon.” Lord, our weary, yet joyful, cry is, “Make soon, very soon.”

     Lord Jesus, the reason you came into this world was to destroy him who holds the power of death (that is, the devil) and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15). Indeed, you have come to destroy the devil and all his works (I John 3:8). Our foe is defeated and waiting to be utterly eradicated. His present flurry of fury is actually a sign he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Lord, our tired, yet expectant, cry is, “Make short, real short.”

     O God of peace, when the battle rages most fiercely and the schemes of Satan seem to be winning the day, grant us your peace that passes all understanding. O triumphant Lord Jesus, we boldly ask, not just for surviving grace, but for thriving grace, until the Day you return to finish making all things new. May faith, not fear, fill our hearts. We have this great assurance: As we humble ourselves before you, the devil must flee from us (James 4:7). So very Amen we pray with joy, in Jesus’ triumphant and loving name.

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A Prayer for Freedom from Things that Still Bind Us

Jul 18, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”  John 11:43-44

     Dear Lord Jesus, as surely as you called out to a dead Lazarus, and he walked out of his tomb fully alive, so when you called out to me in the gospel, I too was raised from the dead, and made fully alive in you. By your grace, I’ve already passed from death to life, and from being condemned to being declared righteous. For the sovereign grace and the resurrection power of the gospel, I praise you today. Indeed, salvation is of the Lord!

     Yet as surely as Lazarus needed to be freed from his grave clothes, so do I, Lord Jesus. The smell and signs of death still cling to me. There are many areas of my life for which I long for greater freedom.

     Jesus, I want greater freedom from being impacted by people’s opinions of me. I want to respond to trying situations and difficult people with grace and wisdom, rather than reacting with complaining and irritation. I want to see and value in others, what you treasure. I want to be quicker to pray and slower to fret.

     I want my indifference to be replaced with good listening. I want passivity to be replaced with passion. I want to be free from the toxic shame that often paralyzes my heart. I want to know what stuff from my past still needs to be dealt with, and what stuff simply needs to be left till the Day your return. I want to be bolder in sharing the gospel and slower to circulate gossip.

     I want to sit still longer and laugh louder. I want to age grace-fully, not regretfully. I want to live as fully alive as possible to the only love that is better than life—your love for us, Lord Jesus. Free me. So very Amen I pray, in your peerless and priceless name.

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A Prayer for the Discouraged

Jul 17, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”  Ps. 42:1-3

     Gracious Father, your Word gives voice to every season, circumstance, and emotion we experience in the journey to gospel wholeness. In our joy and in our despair, and in everything in between, you are with us and you are for us.

     You don’t love us more when we have a dancing heart. You don’t love us less when we have a doubting heart. Indeed, with kindness you drew us, and with an everlasting, unwavering love, you hold us.

     Today we bring our discouraged, weary friends to you—those more aware of their burdens than your grace. Hard providences and difficult people, aching bodies and blows to the heart take their toll. Friends who bury a spouse way too early and children who seem allergic to the gospel; health concerns and relationship stress; mounting bills and decreasing resources all conspire to turn up the volume on the world’s question, “Where is your God in all this?”

     Lord Jesus, you know what this is like, you better than anyone else. For in your life, and on the cross, you took the ultimate combination of assaults and insults, disparagements and discouragements, abuse by your friends and the absence of your Father.

     Your cry, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” assures us that we’ll never be forsaken—never. Even when circumstances beat us down, and life mocks our faith. It’s your thirst on the cross that guarantees us that our thirst is only fleeting. Indeed, Lord Jesus, as we pant for you, you are running to us with the living water of the gospel right now. We don’t trust in our ability to lower a bucket to you, but in your faithfulness to create a spring in our hearts. So very Amen we pray, in your faithful and tender name.

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