A Prayer for Strength When Facing Temptation

Sep 05, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor. 10:13

     Dear Lord Jesus, as you know, this was one of the very first verses I memorized back in the summer of 1968. It was timely and encouraging then, and a little over four decades later, it’s still just as necessary. The seizing power of temptation is just as real to a nearly sixty-five-year-old guy as to an eighteen-year-old pup.

     It’d be one thing if temptation came like junk mail—easy to recognize, ignore, and discard. But at times temptation comes with such enticing, alluring, and promissory power that resisting it doesn’t seem possible, or even desired. I would despair if I didn’t have the assurance that temptation itself is not sin (James 1:13-15). Jesus, the very fact that you suffered the full fury of temptation also gives me hope and keeps me sane.

     The encouraging and timely parts of this verse, Jesus, are the “commonality” of every temptation and the promise of a “way out” of any temptation. This assures me that no matter how dark, foolish, or destructive are the things that enter my mind, such temptations are not unique to me. Such temptations are common to other believers, just like me. I’m not terrible because I’m tempted, but I am tempted to do terrible things.

     Jesus, I ask for myself and for a host of friends, bring the hope and resources of the gospel to bear at the very places we feel the seducing power of temptation the most. Whether our temptations are sexual lust or power grabs, relational setups or financial hiccups, fleeing to Tarshish or running to Ikea, medicating our pain or pampering our pride, it makes no difference—show us the way of escape. Jesus, give us grace for this one day, to prove your faithfulness and to guard our freedom. So very Amen we pray, in your all-sufficient name.

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A Prayer for Trusting God with Our Fears

Sep 04, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?  Ps. 56:3-4

     Dear heavenly Father, we praise and bless you for not despising our fears and weaknesses. Where else can we go, but to you, when we feel vulnerable and afraid? When King David prayed this prayer he was a prisoner of Philistines in Gath. As we pray, Father, here are some other difficult, fear-producing storylines among our brothers and sisters in Christ.

     We pray for the Christian community in Iraq. The barbarism of terrorism is running rampant, and we cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long before evil will be no more?” Strengthen, protect, and grant supernatural demonstrations of your Spirit and deposits of your grace to those who are in harms way.

     We also pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, Maldives, Bhutan, Yemen, Vietnam, Laos, and China—the ten places in the world where Christians are most likely to be singled out for persecution. Father, may your perfect love for us in Jesus drive out their fears and drive deep their trust in you.

     What can mortal man do to us? Plenty, but in view of whom you are and what really matters, very little. As these dear Christians live out your redeeming story in nations which will one Day be covered with the knowledge of your glory, give them the same grace and courage you gave Justin Martyr. When facing the flames of his own martyrdom, he responded, “You may kill us, but you cannot harm us.” What but the gospel can create such a people? Strengthen and gladden our friends who live in the most difficult providences we can imagine. Their labors in the Lord are not in vain.

     Lastly, gracious Father, though less dramatic, nonetheless important: For friends on our streets and in our churches who wake up today with hard medical reports, dwindling financial resources, and stories where mortal men have brought harm, bring the gospel to bear in profound, tangible, and obvious ways. And use us, Father, as answers to the very prayers we pray. So very Amen we pray in Jesus’ most glorious and trustworthy name.

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A Prayer for Waiting on the Lord When Evil Seems to Win

Sep 03, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:7-9

Dear heavenly Father, you send your Word with Swiss timing and uncanny precision. Whenever we’re vexed or fretful, you anticipate it. Whenever we’re confused or anxious, you’ve already spoken wisdom about the matter, in multiple places in the Scriptures. Whenever we feel vulnerable or angry, time and time again, you come to us in the Bible and bring us back to gospel-sanity. How we praise you for the counsel and consolation of your Word; the grace and power of the Scriptures; the truth and authority of the Bible.

It’s easy to get worked up over the apparent success of those who bring harm to others—evildoers who even get rewarded for their madness. The recent beheadings is glaring and horrific example. How long, O Lord, before you send Jesus back to put all things right? When will Jesus return to finish making all things new?

Though you won’t give us a date, you do give us yourself. You’re calling us to stillness and fretless waiting. Every day, in multiple contexts, we need to hear you say, “Be still and know that I am God.” No good comes from our obsessing about darkness and evil-making. Nothing profitable results from our spending extra time fertilizing our anger, fueling our disgust, fuming about how much evildoers get away with.

Satan was defeated at the cross, and he is filled with fury because he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Having been humiliated, he will be eradicated. Death and dying, terror and terrifying, evil and evil-makers will be gone forever. For a Day is coming when the knowledge of your glory will cover the entire earth as the waters cover the sea.

Until that Day, we will work hard to push back the effects of the Fall, and offer our communities a foretaste of the world to come. How we praise you that the very righteousness with which you have already robed us is the same righteousness with which you are going to fill the earth. Fill our hearts with your grace and our hands with your mercy. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ reigning and returning name.

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A Prayer for Rejoicing in Jesus, Our Joyful King

Sep 02, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Heb. 1:8-9) “I am coming to you now (Father), but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (John 17:13)

     Dear Lord Jesus, there’s really nothing that affects my life more than how I think about you. The more I see you everywhere in the Scriptures, the more I understand why you alone are worthy of our adoration, affection, and allegiance. I expect to say the same thing ten thousand years from now.

     I marvel at the joy with which you rule the world, love righteousness and hate wickedness—indeed, it deepens my peace and fuels my hope. You delight in crushing evil and you rejoice in making all things new—there is no other King like you. Indeed, your kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:7). The Father has placed the government of the entire cosmos on your shoulders, and your reign of grace and peace is expanding all the time. Hallelujah, many times over.

     But I also marvel at your request for the Father to grant us the fullness of your joy—the same joy you’ve eternally enjoyed within the Godhead (John 17:13). Thank you for caring about our joy. As our joy is refreshed and increased, may it be the fire we need for doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. May your gladness encourage us when we grow weary in the battle, are tempted to lose heart, and withdraw into unbelief.

     Lord Jesus, Satan was crushed under your feet on the cross, and he will soon be crushed underour feet at your return (Rom. 16:20). Therefore, our labors in you are never in vain. Your throne will last forever, your kingdom will never end, and your joy will never abate. So very Amen we pray, in your triumphant and loving name.

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A Prayer for Repenting of Resentment

Sep 01, 2014 | Scotty Smith

Resentment kills a fool. Job 5:2

     Dear Lord Jesus, it’s been so hot and humid lately, and I’ve been registering that complaint entirely too many times—so much my complaining morphed into resenting. It came to a head when I canceled a bike ride, and started cursing the humidity, heat, lack of a breeze, sweat glands, even the sun. That inaugurated a pointless thirty-minute pout about which you convicted me, and let me know the weather’s not the only thing I’ve been resenting lately.

     I resent having to explain and repeat myself. Why can’t everybody instantly intuit what I’m thinking? I resent grocery carts in the middle of an isle I’m in. I resent gossips, so much that I gossip to others about their gossip. I resent last minute suggestions. Why do my plans and “groove” have to be disrupted?

     I resent resentful people. Why can’t they stop their whining and be more content with what they have? I resent roads that are always being repaired; drivers that delay moving four seconds after the red light turns green; birds that do their business on my windshield. I resent good grass dying and crabgrass thriving. I especially resent disproportionate suffering for people I love. Why can’t you spread “hard stuff” around a little?

     Jesus, my resentment will either kill me as a fool or drive me to you for life. I choose the second option. Forgive me for fertilizing a spirit of entitlement. Forgive me for not pulling up the roots of bitterness quicker. Forgive me for demanding life in the “not yet” before the “already” is over. Forgive me for preaching the gospel with gusto to others, but with a yawn to myself. Forgive me for telling others of the sufficiency of your grace while looking for some other balm for myself.

     I make no excuses or promises. Today, right now, I simply collapse upon you afresh as my wisdom, my righteousness, my holiness, and my redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). I praise you that I’m not feeling condemnation, for there is none. I praise you that I am feeling conviction, for there’s reason for plenty. So very Amen I pray, in your patient and transforming name.

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A Prayer for Trusting God to Do the Impossible

Aug 31, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But he [Jesus] said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

     Dear Lord Jesus, you offered these words of hope to disciples trying to picture a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle. You speak the same words to me in light of many situations for which I need to accept my limitations and lay hold of your sufficiency.

     I begin this day remembering that your commitment is to make all things new, not make all new things. There is an enormous difference between the two. Indeed, Jesus, you’ve placed us in a story of restoration, not replacement. You are actively at work in the broken places and among broken people, including me. Through your resurrection, we’ve been given great assurance and hope for a redeemed universe. This is incredibly good news—the best news ever; but it’s not going to happen on our timetable or according to our script.

     This means we getting used to the fact that many things are, and will remain, impossible for us. My best intentions, efforts, and resources are simply not enough. I see this especially in relationships, and with people I care about a lot. This requires a humility and faith the gospel alone can provide. Grant me both, Lord Jesus—bunches of both.

     I cannot change me, so why do I assume the omnipotence to fix others? As much as I long to see friends freed from addictions, marriages brought back from the brink of death; along with stubborn people made gentle and kind, and negative people filled with faith and hope, Jesus, you alone have the power of resurrection.

     Maybe the greater challenge will be for you to make me a patient and caring, persistent and present friend. Please show me the first nose hair of this camel poking through a needle’s eye. Hasten the Day of perfect and perpetual newness in my heart, and in your world. So very Amen I pray, in your merciful and majestic name.

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A Prayer for Times You Feel Like a 3rd Luke 15 Son

Aug 30, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m not beginning my day in a far away country, derelict and destitute. Though I’m capable of anything, I’m not sitting here filled with shame for squandering an inheritance, and neither am I out in a field feeding somebody else’s pigs. I’m in a comfortable chair, sipping a fresh cup of coffee, surrounded by more than my share of creature comforts; and yet I’m just as much in need of fellowship with you as any of your broken children; so here I come.

     Because the gospel is true, I bring you my busy, easily distracted, somewhat-blasé heart. I feel like a 3rd Luke 15 son right now. I’m not on a hedonistic holiday and I’m not indulging the ugliness of my self-righteousness. I’m just somewhere in between. I still hear and love the music of the gospel, but I just don’t feel like dancing right now. I’m not cold, hot, or lukewarm; I’m just here.

     So, Father, as I come to you today, I take great comfort in knowing that I’ll always find you filled with compassion for me, even when my feelings are not fully engaged with you. As I saunter toward you, you’re always running toward me in Jesus. When I’m not as inclined to lift my arms in praise to you, your embrace is the most predictable element in my day.

     You don’t just put your hand on my shoulder; you throw your arms around me in the gospel. And though my affection for you wavers, you shower me with multiple kisses all day long, for you love your children with an everlasting, unwavering love.

     Because the gospel is true, I’ll seek to live to your glory today—neither by sight nor by my feelings, but by the faith you’ve given me to trust and love you. It’s not my peace with you, but your peace with me that is the anchor for my soul. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

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A Prayer for Trusting God with Our Children

Aug 29, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Ps. 127:1-3

     Heavenly Father, it’s a joy to address you today as the architect and builder of your own house—including the household of faith, and our children’s place in your family and story.

     As I look back over the years at the ways my parenting was marked by pragmatics and moralism, fear and control, I’m saddened; but I am also gladdened, for you’ve always been faithful to your covenant love, even when I was overbearing and under-believing. The move from parenting by grit to parenting by grace was a slow but fruitful journey—a journey that continues.

     You’ve rescued me from parental “laboring in vain”—assuming a burden you never intended parents to bear. Father, only you can reveal the glory and grace of Jesus to our children. Only you can give anyone a new heart. You’ve called us to parent as an act of worship—to parent “as unto you,” not as a way of validating ourselves, getting our kids to like us, proving our worthiness of your love.

     I was arrogant to assume my best parenting days accomplished what you alone have graciously done in the lives of my children. I was equally arrogant to believe my worst parenting days forever limited what you will be able to accomplish in the future. I now understand the undue pressure our children feel when we parent more out of our guilt and pride, than by your love and grace.

     Since our children and grandchildren are your inheritance, Father, teach us how to care for them as humble stewards, not as anxious owners. More than anything else help us parent and grandparent in ways that best reveal the unsearchable riches of Christ. Give us quick repentances and observable kindnesses. Convict us quickly and deeply, when our parenting contradicts the truth and ways of the gospel (Gal. 2:14). So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ grace-full and faithful name.

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A Prayer for Rejoicing in the Only Love Better Than Life

Aug 28, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.  Ps. 63:3-5

     Dear Lord Jesus, King David’s song of unbridled adoration is a rebuke to my measured heart. I spend a lot of my time and energy trying to make a “better” life for myself, and yet David speaks of your love as being better than life itself! What a holy paradox. Oh, to know your love in such a sensate, soul-satisfying way.

     Jesus, what would it be like to be so alive to the width, length, height, and depth of your love that I lose control? David danced with shameless freedom before the Ark of the Covenant. I long to be just as free because of the riches of the gospel.

     I have no trouble singing to you or lifting my hands in the assembly of your people. But I want your immeasurable love to spill over into all of my relationships. I want to finish this journey with my spouse as sweethearts. As I get older, I don’t want to suffer from the “hardening of the categories”; rather I want to grow more spontaneous, flexible and willing to take risks with family, friends and whomever you bring into my day. I want to be less controlling and cautious in relationships, and more relaxed and engaged.

     Jesus, I want your love to be so compelling to me that I don’t think of “witnessing” to people, just loving and serving them. I want to greet people with your welcoming heart; grant them your mercy when life is hard; and extend your grace when relationships get sticky.

     I want your love to be so satisfying that I find it hard to make excuses for my brokenness, and much easier to live transparently and authentically before others. I want your love to bring forth hot tears of compassion and loud guffaws of joy. You’ve set me free for eternity. Jesus, please set me free for today. So very Amen I pray, in your loving name.

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A Prayer for Repenting of Our Unbelief

Aug 27, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     “He (Peter) went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.  Acts 12:12-16

     Dear heavenly Father, thank you for chronicling this rather comical prayer meeting. Though is exposes our unbelief, in a far greater way, it highlights your faithful commitment to do exceedingly beyond all we can ask or imagine. I relate to this scene. I often dutifully pray, but faithlessly doubt. Forgive my unbelief; override my unbelief.

     Father, I’d love to hear “Peter knocking at the door,” with regards to these matters weighing on my heart. I pray for persecuted churches and believers, and their leaders. Evil hates beauty, and Satan hates you and your church. Strengthen, encourage, and grant miracles of provision and deliverance. Cause the gospel to spread like wildfire in the face of evil. Grant those in harm’s way, an extraordinary measure of your presence and peace.

     Father, I pray for the courageous men and women who are laboring in the dark world of human trafficking. Bring justice to bear; deliver women and children from the evil of slavery, in every form. Protect the rescuers and provide good aftercare for those rescued. We long for the Day of no more evil, sin and death—in any form.

     Father, I pray for a fresh outpouring of your Holy Spirit on our church families. Grant us a renewed vision of Jesus and his kingdom. Intensify our love for your glory; inundate us with a fresh supply of your mercy and grace; compel us to love others as Jesus loves us; constantly override our unbelief. “Supersize” our compassion for “outsiders” and our cities. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ exalted and compassionate name.

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