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A Prayer for Marinating in God’s Unparalleled Kindness

Aug 22, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph. 2:4-7

     Dear heavenly Father, this passage from Paul reminds me of the day I first laid my eyes on the Swiss Alps. It was a glory-overload—just too much to take in, all at once; and that why I go back to Switzerland every chance I get. However, the gospel is the true and eternal glory-overload, and I will keep coming back to the gospel every day.

     But what really arrests my attention in this text is your commitment to demonstrate your kindness to us in Jesus throughout eternity. It was your kindness that first led us to repentance; and it is your kindness that greets us every day, in every situation and circumstance. You’ll never be harsh, aggravated, or annoyed with us. That absolutely fries the circuit board of my imagination, throws fuel on the fire of my longings, and reveals the paucity of my faith.

     Father, the revelation of your kindness touches something very deep inside of me in this season of life. Maybe it’s because of how little kindness I see in the world today. Maybe it’s because of how much I long to be a genuinely kind man. Maybe it’s because it contradicts so many wrong images I’ve had of you so much of my life. By the power of the gospel, continue to rid my heart of all the false notions I’ve entertained about you.

     There is no other God who would raise up dead sinners for an eternity of lavishing on them more and more of his kindness. I’m left speechless, breathless, and ever so grateful. May your kindness towards me be released as your kindness through me all this day long. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ glory-filled and grace-full name.

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A Prayer about the Incredible Blessing of Godly Sorrow

Aug 21, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     You became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.  2 Cor. 7:9-10

     Dear Lord Jesus, this quite timely portion of Scripture moves me to pray about my heart today, and in particular, it’s convict-ability. It would be impossible for me to overstate the joy and peace I have in being able to affirm, “There is now [and forevermore] no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

     I praise you for completely exhausting the judgment I deserve for the multiple ways I fail to love God and my neighbors as commanded. God has now declared me to be righteous in you. Hallelujah, many times over.

     But there’s a disconnect between the no condemnation for my sin and deep conviction about my sin. Through recent circumstances and in certain relationships, I can see that I haven’t been taking my sin as seriously as I should. I know this isn’t right, so I need your help. If anything, the gospel of grace should make for quicker and more repentances, not fewer.

     To be specific, I’ve been indulging a critical spirit towards some people, and working too hard to maintain the approval of others. I’m also aware of the ever-lurking enticements of sexual sin and greed for more “stuff.” Left to myself, I am capable of acting out in very foolish and destructive ways.

     Jesus, bring me to a fresh place of godly sorrow for my sin—the kind of good grief that will lead me to repent more quickly and yet not get weighed down with vain regrets. I know you don’t want me to put my conscience back under the law, but I’m equally sure you do want me to live with my conscience under the gospel. For your grace (more effectively than anything else) convicts and humbles, gentles and frees me, for living and loving to God’s glory.

     Great is your faithfulness, kind are your ways, and sufficient is your grace. So very Amen I pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Resting in God’s Perfect Peace

Aug 20, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

     Most loving and trustworthy Father, you haven’t promised us a storm-less, hassle-free, disappointment-empty life. You offer us no formulas for decreasing the probability of confusing things happening around us or disillusioning things happening to us.  But you have promised something that transcends the disruptions, drama, and discouragements of life. You’ve promised to keep us in perfect peace in the midst of whatever happens.

     Father, I treasure the promise of being kept by you. I treasure it more than all the gold in Fort Knox, all the chalets in Switzerland, all the oil in the Arab States, for I cannot keep myself. I have no bootstraps to pull up, no magic happy pill to take, or any “fix-it” button to push. Thank you for being a Father who will never forget or abandon your children—who will never forget or abandon me.

     But your promise is even grander. You’ve promised to keep us in perfect peace. All we have to do is mine the free riches of the gospel, and keep in mind the wonders of your love. And because Jesus is the precious Living Stone (1 Pet. 2:4-8), the eternal Rock that is higher than us—the Rock of refuge, the Rock of ages, I will not despair, even when I have a hard time focusing and controlling my thoughts. For the peace you give us passes, surpasses, and at times, even bypasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).

     What a God you are. You are so compassionate and generous. There is none god like you, Father, no not one. How great are your mercies, how profound your kindnesses, how more-than-sufficient your grace. May your peace rule as an umpire in our hearts today. May we see Jesus—the Prince of Peace, more clearly than the waves of any storm. So very Amen, I pray, in his life-giving and peace-securing name.

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A Prayer for Living As Encouragers

Aug 19, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another on to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  Heb. 10:23-25

     Dear Lord Jesus, as I meditate my way through this “let us” patch of gospel admonitions, a couple of things stand out. On one hand, I’m convicted about the importance of holding onto the hope you’ve won for us—a living hope, an anchor of hope, a glorious hope—hope, not hype. Our hope is certain, but I certainly need to “hold it fast,” like gripping one of my favorite fly rods or cameras—for enjoyment, not out of fear of losing it.

     I praise you that the gospel doesn’t call us to “hope in hope” but to hope in you; for you’ve made promises you alone can keep. You are faithful and you are loving, and that’s all we really need to know. Not hoping is not an option. Super-size my hope today, Lord Jesus.

     This Scripture also convicts me about the importance of being a lot more intentional, regular, and creative in bringing encouragement to friends, family members, and anybody you put in my way. As the great Day of your return approaches—the Day when all hoping in part will give way to the fullness of hope—I want to be a man who speaks life, encouragement, healing and hope, to those who need it the most. I want to live as a conduit of your mercy and grace, in timely and tangible ways.

      Put names and faces before us who need the encouragement you alone can bring, Lord Jesus—missionaries afar, a co-worker across the room, a stranger in an airport, the check-out lady at Publix, a grieving parent, a brokenhearted friend, a weary pastor and or a forgotten senior. By the emanating light of the great Day of hope, may we bring rich encouragement to this day. So very Amen I pray, in your grace-full and hope-filled name.

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A Prayer for Loving Jesus Preeminently

Aug 18, 2014 | Scotty Smith

      “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:26-27

     “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  Matt. 10:37

     Dear Lord Jesus, your words to us are both shocking and inviting. Only in light of the gospel can we possibly understand the exclusive claim you make on our affections. Grant us great grace to understand the glory and radical implications of belonging to you.

     We know you’re not calling us to hate anyone—especially members of our own families. For the world will know we’re your disciples by the way we love one another, in response to your love for us (John 13:34-35). We have no greater need than to really know how much you love us. So by the power of the Holy Spirit, help us grasp how wide, long, high and deep your love really is (Phil 3:18-19), Lord Jesus. Make your love the most astonishing and compelling force in our lives (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

     When we love you, as you deserve, our love for our spouses, children, parents and siblings seem like hate in comparison. When we love you as you delight to be loved, we’ll love the members of our families the way you intend.

     Lord Jesus, you are the ultimate Spouse—the one who meets our deepest longings for relationship and intimacy. Forgive us for looking to anyone or anything else for what you alone can give. Forgive us for putting anyone or anything before you.

     Lord Jesus, for your glory, fire up our love for you. Take our affections to new places of liberating and transforming wonder. We don’t want to love you with a status quo, conventional or tame love. We want to love you with consuming abandon and unfettered passion; for you alone are worthy of everything we have and are. So very Amen we pray, great hope, in your majestic and beautiful name.

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A Prayer for the Brokenhearted, Crushed, and Weary

Aug 17, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Ps. 34:18

     Dear Lord Jesus, there’s no Savior like you—none so kind, so compassionate, so merciful, so very close. The brokenhearted don’t need to “buck up” and be brave when they see you coming. The crushed in spirit don’t need to pull themselves together, as though you would be greatly disappointed to find us less than conquerors.

     We praise you that the gospel declares the end to all posing and pretending. Jesus, you have no need for us to be anything other than we actually are. You give grace to the humble, but the proud remain allergic to your grace. This gives us incalculable comfort as we bring ourselves, and a wide array of weary friends, before you today.

     Jesus, we pray for our friends struggling with family issues—marriages devoid of connection and compassion; kids who are making destructive choices; aging parents with complex needs; health issues which escape clear diagnosis, mock antibiotics and stress finances. Grant wisdom and grace, strength and hope.

     Jesus, we pray for weary friends serving on church staffs or in other vocational ministries. Many of them wake up today disillusioned, depleted, and despondent. We naïvely assume some jobs are spared the gamesmanship and pettiness found elsewhere. But sinners saved by grace are still sinners, no matter where they work. Please send your Spirit, and may stories of redemption be written soon.

     Jesus, for those of us who don’t feel crushed in spirit, but rather disoriented and discombobulated in spirit; help us to sort through the issues. Show us what is repent-able and what is repairable; and quiet our noisy hearts with your grace, so we can hear you speak. Help us realize we need your presence much, much more than we need circumstances and people to change.

     Jesus, today and every day, we declare that our hope is built on nothing else, nothing less, and nothing more than your blood and righteousness. On you, the Solid Rock, we stand; everything else is quicksand. So very Amen we pray, in your near and compassionate name.

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A Prayer for Re-salting the De-salted

Aug 16, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matt. 5:13-16

     Dear Lord Jesus, at times I fantasize about running off to Switzerland to live in a community of chalets, inhabited by non-codependent Christians, with few emotional needs and plenty of discretionary cash. We’d enjoy good music, food and conversation, without any of the crazy-making of an ingrown church, or the voices of political pundits, or the traffic of a big city, or the taxes of a wasteful government. That’s actually a confession of sin, not a prayer request.

     For starters, I know I couldn’t afford to pay for such a selfish fantasy. More importantly, I realize this isn’t the lifestyle for which you’ve redeemed us. The church belongs to you, Jesus; she’s your beloved Bride—as broken as she is. Yet, as with everything else, we often take the church into the idol factory of our hearts and retool her to serve our agenda rather than your purposes. Forgive us, Jesus. Forgive me.

     You’ve called us to live as the “salt of the earth.” We’re not garlic, paprika, or sugar; we’re salt. Salt preserves and fends off decay. Salt heals and soothes—it has medicinal value. Salt brings flavor and enhances other flavors. And salt only “works” when it’s out of the saltshaker. Alas, my own prayer convicts me.

     Jesus, how does a believer lose their saltiness, or for that matter, how does a whole church family lose their vision and passion? What’s involved in flavor loss? More importantly, what does renewal look like?

     Come, Holy Spirit, come. We need you to stir our hearts. Only you are powerful enough to re-salt the de-salted; to bring us back to gospel-sanity; to restore in us the joy of God’s salvation; to reengage the disengaged with God’s plan for our communities, the cities, and the nations.

     How we praise you that our cry is your pleasure. Before we ask you know our need. Do exceedingly beyond all we ask and can imagine. So very Amen we pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Resting in the “Full Extent” of Jesus’ Love

Aug 15, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Having loved his own who were in the world, he showed them the full extent of his love. John 13:1

     Dear Jesus, this story always grabs my heart, but today it’s rekindling awe. It’s the night of your betrayal—the night you would be denied and abandoned, not just by Peter, but also by all of the disciples. You knew this, and yet you persisted in disrobing yourself, bending low, and washing the dirty feet of these beloved and weak men.

     The beauty and truth revealed in this scene is what keeps me sane—gospel-sane. It anchors me when I lose my moorings, centers me when I feel vulnerable, quiets me when I’m in restless mood, reels my heart in when I am in a wandering mode.

     This is how you love each of your followers, all of your disciples, your whole bride. You’ve made us your own at the price of your blood. We’ve been redeemed from sin and death, and placed into your righteousness and embrace. Absolutely nothing can separate us from your love.

     The only thing more certain than death and taxes is your love for us. You love us when we’re seeking you and enjoying your presence; and you love us when we ignore you, throw pity-parties, and make foolish choices. Not that you’re passive and indifferent, just the opposite—you’re engaged and patient. Your love is not based on anything in us, but everything in you.

     Jesus, it’s the last line in this little verse that really “does me in”. As with the men in the upper room, so with those of us in any of a number of rooms right now: you’re still committed to showing us the full extent of your love—its height, depth, width, and breadth. You love us to the end, and evermore.

     Though you died for a huge pan-national bride, I affirm, with the Apostle Paul, that you loved me and gave yourself for me (Gal. 2:20). This isn’t narcissism, it was a necessity; it’s not Western individualism, but gospel liberation. Hallelujah, many times over! So very Amen I pray in your truly astonishing name.

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A Prayer for Loving Well, When It’s Easy and Not

Aug 14, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:16-19

     Dear Lord Jesus, the daily-ness of relationships makes this Scripture so relevant—for life is all about relationships. We love you, and anybody, only because you first loved us. It’s only because of your great love for us that we neither fear Judgment Day nor this day. It full reliance on your love, hear our prayer.

     Help us love the members of our immediate family in fresh and creative ways. Our marriages and parenting are always in need of your grace. Bring your kindness, compassion, patience, and perseverance to bear. Help us to provoke one another to love and good deeds, and not just provoke one another. Show us how to give each other feedback lovingly, and receive it non-defensively. Grant us mutual respect and hearts of encouragement.

     Help us to love our friends well—not taking anyone, any day, or anything for granted. Forgive us when we expect our friendships to be a mutual admiration society, rather than a community of groaning, grace, and growth. May we share our fears and tears, and our uninhibited laughter and unfiltered struggles.

     Help us love the irritating people in our lives—those we try hard to avoid. Help us love the foolish people in our lives—the ones making destructive choices. Help us love the depressed and sad people in our lives—without trying to fix them. Help us know how to love those who have used us and hurt us; for we don’t want to grow and fertilize roots of bitterness

     Help us love the poor, the orphans and widows, the marginalized, “the least and the lost,” for among them we will surely find you, Jesus. So very Amen we pray, in your faithful and compassionate name.

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A Prayer for Hearing the Spirit’s Voice

Aug 13, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  Rom. 8:15-16

     Dear heavenly Father, on any given day a number of voices contend for our attention. There are the voices of from the past—sometimes shouting, sometimes whispering, always seeking to disrupt our peace and rob our joy. “You still don’t have a clue, do you? You haven’t changed one bit. Why would God ever love someone like you? Didn’t I tell you you’d never amount to much? If people really knew who you are . . .”

     Then there are the voices of the present—often hijacked by our defeated enemy, Satan. His incessant scheme is to tempt, seduce, and then condemn us—doing everything possible to rob us of our enjoyment of the gospel. Then there are the voices from the future, usually fueling our fears with suggestions like “You’re not as sharp as you used to be, are you? You’ll probably be forgotten, won’t you? You’ll eventually end up alone, right? Why do you think God would let someone like you into heaven?”

     But then there’s the voice of the Holy Spirit. Oh, how we praise you for that one voice which transcends and trumps every other voice—the gossiper of the gospel, the herald of our healing, the bearer of beauty, the messenger of mercy, the singer of sanity, the cantor of Christ—God the Holy Spirit testifying with our spirits that we are your bought, belonging, and beloved children. How we praise you for the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

     Abba, Father, by the Spirit of Sonship, continue to free us from all of our slavish fears—past, present, and future. May the Sprit speak so loudly; every dark voice will be quieted. May he speak so clearly; every deceiving lie will be silenced. May he speak so convincingly; every paralyzing doubt will be routed. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name. Amen.

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