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A Prayer for Re-setting the Destination of Our Hearts

Aug 01, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. 2 Thess. 3:5

     Dear heavenly Father, the hymn writer must have been thinking about me when he penned the words, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Take my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.” There are days when my heart randomly races in many unfruitful and unhealthy directions.

     Some days I wake up with my heart running to self-pity—when my disappointments loom larger than your delights. Some days the GPS of my heart seems to be programmed for the dead end lane of man’s approval—when my insecurities are shouting down your name and praise.

     Some days I lace up my running shoes for a quick jog to un-forgiveness and bitterness—when I’ve been rehearsing the failures of others more than the riches of the gospel. Still other “unguarded-heart-days,” I take little side trips into greed, envy and lust; whining, worry, and self-righteousness—and a smorgasbord of other destructive destinations.

     But today, Father, I want you to answer the apostle Paul’s prayer on my behalf, and for my family and friends. Please direct our hearts into the lavish resources of your love, and the much-needed perseverance of Jesus. I’m not affronted, at all, when you limit the assumed “freedom” of my will. By the power of your sovereign goodness, reel in my wandering heart once again, and send it into the glorious refuge of your love. I will persevere to the end, only because Jesus persevered for me—even to the cross; and will persevere in me, as my only hope of glory.

     Father, I praise you for giving me a new heart, and for your commitment one Day, to perfect that heart. My boast is in Jesus plus nothing for my salvation—past, present and future. I praise that I really can sing, “Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours.” So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and trustworthy name.

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A Prayer for Celebrating, “God Is God, and I Am Not”

Jul 31, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isa. 46:8-10

     Dear heavenly Father, this Scripture is so relevant to me. I not only rebel against your commandments, I also rebel against your gospel. That’s why I need a Savior as big as Jesus. My great hope is in knowing that you will complete the good work of salvation you began in me, and in your entire cosmos. You do all that you please, and it pleases you to justify and transform rebels like me. Hallelujah many times over!

     I also find great hope today in knowing that your purposes for everything else will stand. You are God and you do as you please. No one can ultimately resist your will, and we’re foolish to try. Thankfully, you’re not manageable, predictable, nor programmable. I’ve lived long enough to bless you for answering some of my prayers with a big “No”. You’re not just sovereign; you’re our sovereign Father.

     As I stare some important decisions in the face, I’m so thankful that I can trust you fully. I don’t have to panic. I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to take matters into my own hands. I don’t have to fear outcomes, “what ifs,” or “if only’s.” Second-guessing must surrender to gospel sanity. I will plan, and trust you to order my steps.

     Father, help me to want your purposes to stand more than I want life not to be messy. Help me to glory in your pleasure more than I finagle for fewer hassles. Help me to accept disruption as a necessary part of transformation. There is no comfort like the comfort that comes from knowing you as “Abba, Father.” So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ trustworthy and triumphant name.

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A Prayer for Being Re-Parented by Abba

Jul 30, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom all fatherhood derives its meaning, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:14-19

     Dear heavenly Father, this portion of your Word is like an ocean of grace and hope. It intensifies my longing to be re-parented by you in two ways. I want to know you better and better as Abba, Father—the most caring, engaged, and loving parent ever. Continue to free me from the illusion that my earthly parents could have ever been enough.

     I can still play the victim card and think, “If only I’d been given a different dad. If only my mom had been more present in my life.” For the wounds and holes in my childhood, bring the gospel to bear with healing and liberating power. Free me from believing I need any other parent but you, in order to become a whole and healthy person.

     Father, I also ask you to re-parent me as a parent. You’ve already forgiven me for the years I spent parenting by fear and control, and out of guilt and pride; now I pray for the redeeming of those years. That won’t happen apart from the love of Jesus. So, even as Paul prayed, I pray. Grant me power to grasp just how wide, long, high, and deep Jesus’ love is for me and for my children. Indeed, Father, teach me what it means to parent by grace, in every season of our relationship.

     What failures do I still need to own with my kids? I know you resist the proud, but give grace to the humble, so grant me the grace of humility and the humility of grace. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Wrestling with the Sovereignty of God

Jul 29, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?  Romans 9:20-21

      Dear heavenly Father, this morning I’ve been reflecting on the mystery and mercy of your sovereignty, especially as I consider everything you did to redeem idolaters and rebels like me.

     Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t an accident, afterthought, plan B, or the redeeming of a good story gone kaput. It was your plan, made before the foundation of the world and executed in the fullness of time. The comfort and peace I enjoy from this supreme demonstration of your sovereignty is incomparable and immeasurable.

     But Father, as I much as I celebrate and find comfort in the demonstration of your sovereignty in saving sinners, why do I struggle with it in any other part of my life? I relate to Paul’s metaphor in this text. There are times I do want to reverse roles with you, and make me the potter and treat you like pliable clay. With regard to certain stories and broken people, I do fancy myself to be the 4th member of the Trinity, rather than abandoning myself to you—my sovereign Father.

     Indeed, I don’t have any problem with you setting up and sitting down presidents, premiers and potentates. But when it comes to things that are limiting, inconvenient or a contradiction of my sensibilities, I am quite capable of questioning your goodness or faithfulness. Free me from such foolishness. You’re always at work, for your glory and our good.

     Father, give me renewed joy in simply being gospel-pottery in your hands. You’ve placed the incredible treasure of Jesus in my fragile jar of clay to prove your all-surpassing power in making all things new. You are the Potter who is redeeming a pan-national family to inhabit the new heaven and new earth, one Day. Let me be humble, grateful and content with my place in that story. You really do do all things well. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ most glorious and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for God to Be at Work in Things I CAN Imagine

Jul 28, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  Eph. 3:20-21

     Dear heavenly Father, I love Paul’s beautiful and bold affirmation of your omnipotence. Indeed, you can do exceedingly beyond and immeasurable more than all we can ask or imagine. But today, I have no need to test either the limits of my imagination, nor the measure of your ability. There are plenty of things I CAN imagine that I’m bringing to the throne of grace. Bring glory to yourself as you work in these stories and hearts.

     Father, continue to reveal more and more of Jesus to each member of my family, and extended family. I can imagine that, and greatly long for it. May none of us be satisfied with our current experience of the gospel; and for who have yet to experience the only Love that is better than life, grant the gift of new life in Christ. Open the eyes of our hearts to see just how worthy Jesus is of our affection, adoration and allegiance.

     Father, I can imagine a mighty movement of your Spirit among many broken relationships in my larger community. Having lived in the Nashville area for 35 years now, I’ve seen too many church split, marriages disintegrate, and good friends get disconnected—even becoming enemies. The gospel is a great story and storehouse of reconciling love; so, Father, humble the proud, gentle the angry, heal the hurts. “Can dead bones live again?” is one of my favorite rhetorical questions in the Bible. Yes they can, and yes they will, as you, the God of resurrection do what you alone can do. Bring your mercy, grace and love to bear on disconnected relationships.

     Lastly, Father, I can imagine a freer, more loving, more present, more kind, more gospelicious me. I know you will complete the good work you began in me, but please accelerate it before that Day. I want to be much more like the One who is my righteousness, peace and joy—Jesus. So very Amen I pray, in his great and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Grace to See Others, as They WILL Be

Jul 27, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joybecause of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:3-6)

     Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:12-14)

     Dear heavenly Father, the promise of your inviolate commitment to complete the work of the gospel in my life brings me tremendous encouragement. For I can no more make myself like Jesus than I could’ve ever placed myself in Jesus. From beginning to end, salvation is of the Lord—it’s all of grace.

     But today, I want (need) to connect with this magnificent hope for others. Grant me grace to see other brothers and sisters in Christ, not simply as they are today, but as they will be, when Jesus returns to finish making all things new. For lately, it’s been easier for me to get irritated than to be patient, to judge than to be merciful, to curse (while seething on the inside) than to bless (outwardly and sincerely).

     I’d like to blame it on the heat and humidity; I’d like to call it discernment, rather than own it as disgust; I’d like to think it’s “righteous indignation,” when in reality, it’s self-righteous murder in my heart.

     Have mercy on me, Father. Have mercy on me, the sinner. I know that you have, and I know that you will; for even today, your steadfast love never ceases, your mercies never come to an end; for they are new every morning, including this morning. Great is your faithfulness.

     As the day begins, and continues, I choose to put on the garments of grace and avail myself of the resources of the gospel. Grant me power to love others as Jesus loves me. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus merciful and mighty name.

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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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