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A Prayer for a Saturday When You Don’t Feel Like Praying

     In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Rom. 8:26-28

     Dear heavenly Father, today is one of those Saturdays I’m thankful gospel-spirituality is much more about your grasp of us than our grip on you; that your delight in us is not contingent upon our delight in you; and that your vigilance in pursuing us never waxes or wanes, like ours does towards you.

     Father, I have no problem or hesitancy in acknowledging my lethargy and weakness this morning. In fact, it’s freeing to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak but helps us in our weakness, faithfully praying in us with “wordless groans” (Rom. 8:26). Though I don’t understand everything that means I do get that you search our hearts and you know the mind of the Spirit, and that brings me great comfort today.

     No one knows our hearts better than you, Father—for you have made, washed, and are perfecting our hearts. And you search our hearts to save us, not to shame us; to deliver …

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A Prayer for Good Stewardship of Our Words

     Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Eph. 4:29-30

Glorious Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—I praise you for the incalculable riches of redemption you’ve lavished on us in the gospel. Father, for planning such a stunning salvation; Jesus, for accomplishing all things necessary for our complete salvation; Holy Spirit, for faithfully applying the finished work of Jesus to us, and through us. I wish I had adequate words to express my gratitude, but my words fail me.

That being said, I don’t want my words to fail you, gracious God. Indeed, there’s no greater stewardship to which you have called us than being careful about how we speak to one another; for our words have the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21).

Father, you spoke the Word which gave life to my dead spirit—giving me both the will and the wherewithal to believe the gospel. Forgive me when I speak words, or even think words, which have the opposite effect on others, bringing discouragement, decay, even death.

Holy Spirit, you faithfully preach the gospel to my heart—incessantly telling me that I’m a beloved child of God. Continue to so fill my heart with the beauty of Jesus that, like Balaam’s donkey, I cannot help but …

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A Prayer in Response to the Newtown, CT Tragedy

A Prayer in Response to the Newtown, CT Tragedy

Jesus wept Jn 11:35

Dear Lord Jesus, we abandon ourselves to you tonight—we come running with our tears and our fears, our anger and our anguish, our lament and our longings. We collapse in your presence, with the assurance of your welcome, needing the mercies of your heart.

Some stories are just too much for us to absorb; some evil just too great to conceive; some losses  beyond all measurability. We need your tears and your strength tonight. That you wept outside the tomb of a beloved friend frees us to groan and mourn; that you conquered his death with yours, frees us to hope and wait.

But we turn our thoughts from ourselves to the families who have suffered an unconscionable violation of heart and all sensibilities. Bring your presence to bear, Lord Jesus, by your Spirit and through your people. May your servants weep with those who weep and wail with those who wail. Extend your tear wiping hand—reach into this great tragedy with an even greater grace.

We cry out on behalf of the children of Newtown, those most directly affected by this evil, and for children throughout our country and the world, whose little hearts are reeling with fear and terror. Give parents wisdom and kindness, as they seek to love their children well, this night and in the coming days. Raise up gifted counselors and care givers to serve those most traumatized.

Lastly, Lord Jesus, we cry out with a loud voice, …

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A Prayer for Marriages, Our Own and that of Friends

     For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Eph. 5:29-32

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m painfully aware of a growing number of friends who feel disconnected, despairing, or “dying” are in their marriages. I’m saddened, but not shocked, for two reasons.

It makes complete sense that the powers of darkness would assault the one relationship meant to tell the story of your great love for your bride.

Of course marriage is going to be a war zone—the front lines of spiritual warfare, until the Day you return. Satan is a hater. He hates you, he hates the gospel, and therefore, he hates your bride and he hates marriage.

But knowing my own heart also decreases the shock factor. Like most of us, I came into marriage with a little gospel and big naïveté. I had no clue about the depths of my brokenness, the degree of my selfishness, or the devices of my sinfulness. I had no clue about what it would take to love one person well the rest of my life—like every other spouse, someone who needs the gospel just as much as I do.

And I certainly had no clue that your love alone is better …

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A Prayer for the First Sunday in Advent

You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isa. 40:9-11

Gracious Father, Advent is upon us—the cherished season when we remember and celebrate the coming of Jesus, the promised Messiah, your beloved Son, our gracious Savior. Grant that it will prove to be much more than Advent-as-usual. Surprise us, Father. Let us engage with the story of Jesus’ birth as though for the very first time. Rescue us from the sentimental and the predictable. Bring familiar Scriptures alive in worship-producing, life-changing ways. Reshape how we do Christmas this year by the power of the gospel and the glory of grace.

On this, the first Sunday of Advent, my heart has already been arrested with Isaiah’s picture of your “Advent arms.” The promise of the Messiah carries with it the promise of the embrace we all need, but barely believe. In Jesus, you come near to us as the sovereign Lord, with your sleeves rolled up as the great ruler. Your arm rules over all history and every nation; over all kings and every circumstance; over …

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A Prayer for Saturday of Holy Week

     The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” Matthew 27:62-64

     Jesus, as “Good Friday” gave way to silent Saturday, the range of emotions following your crucifixion was as broad as the Grand Canyon. Shock and sadness gripped the hearts of your disciples, family and friends. Yet many others were filled with glee and relief, that you, “the deceiver,” could no longer threaten their existence.

     As the sun rose on Saturday, no one had a clue that the most undeserved death imaginable would yield the greatest return calculable. As you were nailed to the cross, the written code—God’s law, with all its regulations and requirements, was taken far away from us, losing all condemning power over us. As you drew your last breath, you were actually disarming the powers of darkness and triumphing over all authorities marshaled against the reign of God (Colossians 2:14-15). We praise the glory of your name!

     No one yet grasped that your mortal punishment would bring our eternal peace; that your fatal wounding would secure our everlasting healing; that your …

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A Prayer About Submission to Abba, Father

      We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Hebrews 12:9

     Gracious heavenly Father, though I understand the illustration, the first half of this verse needs some qualifications. Indeed, many of us didn’t grow up respecting fathers for the ways they disciplined us. Some of us we’re just flat out willful, rebellious and disrespectful of good fathers. Others of us had fathers who seemed to delight in crushing our spirits more than cherishing our hearts.

     Still others of us grew up as orphans in our own homes—either suffering an early death of our dads… the disappearance of our dads through divorce or abandonment… or we had fathers who we’re physically present, but in another orbit, emotionally and spiritually. You know all this and you meet each of us exactly where we are…

     But the second half of this verse is wondrously incontrovertible—it needs no qualifications and it cannot be denied. You are the Father of our spirits and you generously give us life—eternal life… abundant life… everlasting life. No matter how healthy, hollow or horrible our experience of our earthly father was/is… you can be trusted without reservation.

     You delight in us as your God and you discipline us for our good. You deploy angels on our behalf to protect us and you deliver good gifts to us for our enjoyment. You’ll complete the good work you began in …

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A Prayer About the Last Command in the Bible

     The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17

     O blessed Holy Spirit, it’s Pentecost Sunday, and how appropriate that I would find myself meditating on the very last command…  the last imperative… the last appeal in the whole of the Word of God. “Come! Come! Come and take the free gift of the water of life”, you say to each of us… you say to me.  I am thirsty… I do wish… I do come, gratefully and expectantly.

     On the day you first revealed Jesus in my inner man… from the moment I had my first taste of the water of life I became irrepressibly thirsty for more. For the bitter waters of my sin only bring more thirst. The deceiving waters of my broken cisterns satisfy only for a nanosecond. The illusionary waters of countless mirages are just that, illusions.

     So once again, I bring my thirst to you. I am thirsty to know Jesus better and better. I am thirsty to be quicker in my repentances and slower in my excuses. I am thirsty to grow more of your fruit and less of my thorns. I am thirsty to be freer to love others as Jesus loves me. Slake these thirsts a little more by the waters of the gospel… the free gift of the water of life.   

     …

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A Prayer About God Comforting the Downcast

For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus… 2 Corinthians 7:5-6

Most gracious and kind Father, this brief vignette from Paul’s life comes to me today like a well-timed kiss from heaven… like a call from the right friend when you least expected it but most needed it… like the first sign of daylight after a starless night.

First of all, Father, I praise you for chronicling Paul’s experience of being restless, conflicted, fearful and downcast. I still suffer at times from “should-ness”. If I really loved you… if I was more full of the Holy Spirit…  if I truly got the gospel, I should never feel downcast. I should only feel upbeat, on “top of my game,” and happy.

It’s so good to know the gospel doesn’t make me less human, simply more yours. Thank you for being a Father who doesn’t shame the downcast… you pursue them, you provide for them, you comfort them… you comfort me.

As I begin this day, I feel like I’m swimming in a pool of baby piranha… no big sharks like Paul was dealing with… just small piranha nibbling at my spirit. I’m surrounded by a lot of little decisions… a lot of little needs… a lot of small conflicts… a lot of little unfinished projects… a lot of little things over which I have …

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A Prayer About Good Things from a Bad Flood

     And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m gladly driven today to this classic passage in the midst of our  unprecedented ordeal. Seeing the aerial view of tens of square miles… driving through several neighborhoods… checking on numerous friends… dragging ruined furniture and belongings to the street from my son’s home… it’s all quite sobering. But it’s also quite centering.

     Father there are no exceptions to the category called “in all things” in which you work for the good of your children. There’s no fine print qualifying the limits of your goodness. There’s no hidden rider in this passage excluding certain crises or delineating mitigating circumstances. There’s no broken situation too big or too little NOT to be thought of in terms of you, and your purposeful calling on our lives in the gospel.

     We love you, NOT because you’ve promised a life free of hard things and confusing providences. We love you because you first loved us and gave your Son, Jesus, for our redemption. May this good news never be cliché to us, but evermore profoundly humbling, gladdening and centering.

     Even if it’s hard for us to imagine what good things you might bring through this bad flood… (or any of a number of mind-blowing, heart-wrenching, envelope-pushing situations many of you may be going through right now)… we have NO reason NOT to trust …

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