Apr

13

2014

Scotty Smith|4:18 am CT

A Prayer for Palm Sunday

     Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. Zech. 9:9-12

    Dear Lord Jesus, we’ll exhaust the wonder of this passage as soon as we drink Niagara Falls dry; as soon as we memorize the names of every star you’ve launched into the heavens; as soon as we finish climbing all the Alps in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and France. You are the King of Zechariah’s vision, and on this Palm Sunday, we worship, honor, and bless you.

No other king could show up to conquer warhorses and warriors, humbly riding on the foal of a donkey. No other king could break the battle bow and the backbone of all warfare, by the brokenness of the cross. No other king could supplant the politics of evil and tyranny of power, with an eternal reign of peace.

No other king could offer his life and death, for the redemption and restoration, of rebels and idolaters like us. No other king could possibly make prisoners of sin, death, and “waterless pits,” into prisoners of hope.

Lord Jesus, you are that King—the King of glory, the King of kings and Lord of lords—the Monarch of mercy, the Governor of grace, the Prince of Peace. Great is our rejoicing, for you have come to us, righteous and victorious, loving and sovereign.

By the riches of your grace, continue to free us from waterless pits, broken cisterns and worthless idols. By the power of the gospel, enable us to live as prisoners of hope and agents of redemption until the Day you return to finish making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and matchless name.

 
 

Apr

12

2014

Scotty Smith|4:59 am CT

A Prayer for Loving Jesus More Than Anyone/Anything Else

     ”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, the claim you make on our affections is both shocking and inviting. Shocking, because of the stark contrast presented—inviting, because you are so jealous for our love. Grant us grace to understand.

We know you’re not calling us to hate anyone; for the world will know that we are your disciples by the way we love one another, in response to your love for us (John 13:34-35). You even call us to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27-36).

So, Lord Jesus, make your love for us astonishing and compelling (2 Cor. 5:14-15; Phil 3:18-19). This is the only way forward—this is the only way we can possibly love you, as you deserve to be loved.

And 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 will we actually love the members of our families the way you intend—as an extension and expression of your perfect love.

Lord Jesus, you are our ultimate Spouse, and only your love is better than life. It’s only in relationship with you that our deepest longings and greatest needs are met. Forgive us for looking to anyone else for the intimacy you alone can give. Forgive us for putting anyone or anything above you in priority and passion.

Restore and renew our first love for you. Take our affections to new places of liberating and transforming wonder. We don’t want to love you conventionally, politely, or with any reservations. We want to love you with consuming abandon and heart-recalibrating joy, for you alone are worthy. So very Amen we pray, in your tender and loving name.

 

 
 

Apr

11

2014

Scotty Smith|4:54 am CT

A Prayer for Resting in God’s Sovereignty

     At the end of the days 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; 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?” Dan. 4:34-35

Dear heavenly Father, I need to “bookmark” this passage and return to it often, for it doesn’t just tell the conversion story of a pagan King; it’s the ongoing story of my heart. Your sovereignty is our sanity; your rule is our rest; your dominion is our delight. Navel-gazing, circumstance watching, and talk-radio-fixating never serve us well.

Father, help us to understand the glorious implications of your perpetual enthronement. Your dominion is the only eternal dominion. November elections and political insurrections; the world economy and temperature instability; earthquakes and oil leaks; multiplied conspiracies and grassroots organizing, don’t affect your reign one micro-bit, for one nanosecond.

For your kingdom endures from generation to generation. There never has been, nor will there ever be, any nervous sweat, furrowed brows, or anxious pacing in heaven. There’ll never be one moment of consternation or vexation in the corridors of paradise; no need for a contingency plan to emerge from the “big boardroom in the sky.”

Father, you do as you please with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. I praise you for marshaling the powers of heaven for the salvation of ill-deserving rebels, like me, and for securing the ultimate transformation of the cosmos.

The only King who can say, “Behold the world I have made,” is the only King who did say, “Behold the people for whom I die.” The greatest demonstration of your sovereignty is the cross, and the greatest experience of sanity is gospel sanity.

We choose to lift our eyes to heaven today and fix our gaze on Jesus—the author and perfecter of our faith. We cry with unfettered, unabated joy, “Hallelujah, what a Savior! Hallelujah, what a salvation!” So very Amen we pray, in the name and for the glory of the true King—Jesus.

 
 

Apr

10

2014

Scotty Smith|4:40 am CT

A Prayer for Seasons When It’d Be Easy to Lose Heart

     Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18) Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 4:16)

     Dear heavenly Father, as Paul’s words clearly confirm, you give us freedom to acknowledge our emotional stress and mental duress—those stretches when we’re spiritually tired and physically “fried”—those seasons when it’d be easy to lose heart and lose our way.

Thank you, thank you, thank you; that the gospel presupposes our weakness, and promises us the exact grace we need, when we need it. So we come boldly (even if a bit weary) to the throne of grace today.

Some of us need relational grace—for loving and serving well in broken, messy, difficult-to-navigate storylines. Grant us wisdom and impartiality, tongue control and heart strength. May a clean vision of what is unseen in heaven, help us deal with what we clearly see before us.

Some of us need physical grace—for accepting the fact, like Paul, that “outwardly we are wasting away.” Even though we know that our bodies are subject to decay and that you’ve promised us a glorified version of the current model, nevertheless, our aches and pains, new cancers and fading memories frighten us. Father, inwardly renew us with the hope of the gospel.

Some of us need emotional grace—for stewarding feelings like anger, grief, anxiety and fear. Father, help us discern and honor the voice of our emotions. What’s really going inside of us? In what ways are we over-needing something and under-believing the gospel?

What unhealed heart wounds are we carrying? Whose voice is louder in our conscience than yours? Where have bitterness, stubbornness, and/or willfulness taken root? Show us, Father.

Humble and gentle us, by your grace; center us and settle us, by your peace; and free and fill us, with your Spirit. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ holy and loving name.

 
 

Apr

09

2014

Scotty Smith|3:46 am CT

A Prayer for Being Schooled and Freed by God’s Grace

     For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, teaching us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possessions who are zealous for good worksTitus 2:11-14

Dear Lord Jesus, if there’s one teacher I want to sit under—if there’s one curriculum I want to master (and be mastered by)—if there’s one school I want to excel in, it’s the academy of grace. Paul’s words to Titus fire me up.

Your grace first appeared to me like a spectacular sunrise after the bleakest night of darkness. It came, quite literally, bringing salvation to me; for I would never desire it, find it, or earn it, if I’d been left alone in my sin, brokenness, and foolishness.

And this is the grace of your gospel, Lord Jesus: On the cross, you gave yourself for us, once and for all, to redeem us from sin (hallelujah!), to purify us for yourself, and to make us zealous to do good.

Anything less is not the gospel. Anything more is not the gospel. Anything other is not the gospel. Your grace is the most liberating and transforming power in all of history. You love us as we are, but you’re not going to leave us as we are (thankfully). One Day, we will be as lovely and as loving as you—as totally hard as that is to imagine.

So as one of your beloved, gladly sitting under the pedagogy of grace, Lord Jesus, give me great joy in saying an emphatic “No!” to everything that robs you of your glory, and an enthusiastic “Yes!” to everything that reveals your beauty and glory.

May the heart-thrilling hope of your second coming motivate me for a greater, quicker, and more joyful obedience in the present moment. Continue to teach me the difference between an uptight life of rigidity and rules keeping, and a grace-fueled life of serving you and loving others. So very Amen I pray, in your glorious and grace-full name.

 
 

Apr

08

2014

Scotty Smith|3:36 am CT

A Prayer for Remembering Those Who Gave Us the Gospel

 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.Hebrews 13:7

(Obviously, this is a very personal prayer. As you read it, I encourage you to think about the men and women who have made Jesus beautiful and believable to you.)

Dear heavenly Father, eighteen years ago today, April 8, 1996, you welcomed my spiritual father, Jack Miller, into your eternal presence. A part of my heart was ripped with profound sadness; for you used Jack to open the curtains, raise the shades, and lift the window of my soul to the riches of the gospel of your grace. No man has even showed me more of your Fatherly love, and no man has ever loved me more fully as a son.

But another part of my heart was filled with irrepressible gladness; for Jack longed to be with Jesus, more than anything else; a close second being his passion that everyone would come to know Jesus. So Father, it’s easy for me to obey this Scripture today—the call to remember those who spoke your Word to me. Thank you for giving Jack to me for 21 years—to me, and to so many others, all daughters and sons in grace.

When I consider his life and its outcome, I see the heritage of what can happen when we hoist the sails of our hearts to the steady winds of your grace. I watched grace gentle, transform and free a “recovering Pharisee.” I never knew a more kind, generous, and unselfish man—who rejoiced with the laughter of angels and loved with the affection he found in you.

How do I imitate his faith? By believing the gospel, with which he blasted my heart for 21 years; by loving to pray the way Jack loved to pray—spending time fellowshipping with his Father, meditating on your kingdom promises, and seeing more and more of the beauty of Jesus.

By “risking, instead of rusting”; by putting myself into situations to prove that you remain the God who raises the dead; by being the “chief repenter” in every relationship; by giving myself to your commitment to redeem your family from the nations and make all things new, through Jesus.

Father, on the anniversary of his death, I remember Jack’s life and joy, faith and love, freedom and boldness. By your grace, please make of me a little of the beautiful man Jack was. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

 
 

Apr

07

2014

Scotty Smith|4:18 am CT

A Prayer for Accepting Change(s)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Heb. 13:8

Dear Lord Jesus, I really don’t like change. I like newness, excitement and adventure; but when it’s all said and done, I crave the predictable, normal, and safe. Grant me grace to accept change, because there’s so much change going on everywhere I look. Change is disruptive. Things don’t become precious or vintage overnight.

Our kids get older and our bodies get weaker. Adjusting to a new voice and heart in our pulpit, after a pastor-friend takes a different call. Unexpected job changes and beautiful spacious farmland becoming the next densely populated subdivision. Styles change, worship changes, weather changes, skyline changes…

How thankful we are that there’s One part of our lives that will never change, and that’s you, Lord Jesus. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. That certainly doesn’t make you predictable, and even less so manageable; but it does mean that we can always count on you.

The most fundamental change we need is to become like you, Jesus, and that process is the most disruptive and painful change we will ever go through. Yet with the knowledge that one Day we’ll be as lovely and as loving as you, we gladly surrender to the work of the gospel in our lives.

Likewise, Jesus, the better we know you, the more we come alive to your promise to make all things new. Change has no sovereignty. Only you are Lord. Nothing is random in this world. Nothing catches you off guard. The scary becomes the sacred when we’re wearing the lens of the gospel.

Jesus, help each of us see and accept changes as part of a far better story than we could ever hope to write. Because of your life, death, and resurrection, we’re heading towards a place, family, and eternity in which it will all make sense, and everything will perpetually be the way it’s supposed to be. Hasten that magnificent Day!

Until then, Jesus, may we love you with abandon, serve you without question, and order our lives after your eternal passions. So very Amen we pray, in your merciful and matchless name.

 
 

Apr

06

2014

Scotty Smith|4:41 am CT

A Prayer for Perceiving God’s Work in Our Pain

     For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hopeJer. 29:11

Dear heavenly Father, there’s simply no other god as merciful, gracious, and engaged as you. Your forbearance is immeasurable; your kindness is inexhaustible; your plans are irrepressible.

When your people received this letter of encouragement from Jeremiah, they were in exile, hurting, not in the temple, rejoicing. How could they not feel bereft, bewildered, even betrayed by you? It seemed to them like the rulers of Babylon had more power than you.

Yet these words of hope remind us that when you lead us into difficult seasons, it’s not to shame us, but to change us. When you send hardships, it’s not to bring us harm but to give us hope. When you discipline us, it’s not to send us into the “doghouse” of your displeasure, but to guarantee our good future.

It’s comforting to remember that you always know exactly what you are doing with your people, and everything else in the world. You know the plans you have for us—individually and corporately. There’s no happenstance in heaven. You don’t make up things as you go along. You’re not a God who reacts out of irritation, but one who always acts out of great affection. There are no coincidences, just providences. “Stuff” doesn’t just happen; sovereignty is always happening.

Father, this way of thinking would be utter madness if you never sent Jesus—a big-time spitting into the wind; the spin of all spins; delusional at best, demonic at worst. But Jesus is the “Yes” to every promise you have made. His life, death, and resurrection are the basis of our standing in grace, living with hope, and trusting you in the hard places. Apart from Jesus there is only unimaginable hopelessness. Because of Jesus there is joy unspeakable.

So bring the truth, grace, and power of this gospel into our current situations, into our personal stories of pain, into the brokenness our local churches, and into the needs of our communities. Turn our sighs into songs, our cynicism into servanthood, and our grumblings into the rumblings of a coming visitation of the Holy Spirit. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and compassionate name.

 
 

Apr

05

2014

Scotty Smith|5:00 am CT

A Prayer for Relishing the Awesomeness of the Gospel

     Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Eph. 3:7-8

     Dear heavenly Father, as I meditate on this passage this beautiful spring morning, it occurs to me that I enjoy Paul’s experience of the gospel, almost as much as I enjoy Paul’s gospel. Oh to be as smitten and undone, humbled and gladdened, alive and transformed by the awesomeness of the gospel as Paul was.

Father, continue to open the eyes of my heart to the boundless wonders of the gospel; tune the inner ears of my soul to hear the rapturous music of grace; ignite all my senses, for knowing and savoring more of the unsearchable riches of Christ; and provide the strength I need for mining those riches.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, that as this day begins (and continues), I am fully and eternally accepted in Christ—all my sins are forgiven and you’ve already declared me to be righteous in Christ. I’m adopted and beloved as your child; sealed by and indwelt with the Holy Spirit; possessing citizenship in heaven, and the new heaven and new earth as an inheritance.

Nothing can separate me from your love, and it is your love separates me from my love of sin. I cannot be more legally free in your court of heaven, though I long to be more actually free in every arena of life. Indeed, Father, free me to be free like Paul was free.

Free me to care a gazillion times more about the glory and worship of God, than the approval and praise of man. Free me to love and do your will, now that I’m no longer under the demands and weight of law. Free me to wash more feet and judge hearts less. Free me laugh more and stress less.

Father, free me to forgive and repent quicker, and to hoard and self-protect less. Free me to count my life as worth nothing to me, that I might finish my days relishing, sharing, defending, enjoying, living and serving the gospel of your grace. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ holy and loving name.

 
 

Apr

04

2014

Scotty Smith|5:38 am CT

A Prayer for Freedom from Self-First-Ness

     I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 3 John 9-10

Dear Lord Jesus, how humbling… being chronicled in the Bible, by name, as someone “who loved being first”… ouch. I don’t know the circumstances, but Diotrephes’ story certainly invites me to look at mine. Jesus, please convict me and free me from the ways I too love to be first.

In my marriage—when I’m more aware of the things that bug me about my spouse, than I’m committed to encouraging and serving, listening to and loving her.

In my friendships—when my “need” to be remembered and appreciated, is more pronounced than my commitment to stay in touch with, pray for, and serve my friends.

In my vocation—when the people who work with me feel like I’m preoccupied with me and my success, than I’m committed to loving and serving as a member of a team.

In the general population—when I navigate through life with little eye contact, to-do-list driven, and no obvious effort to engage strangers.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. You didn’t consider your equality with God something to be held onto for personal gain. You’ve never loved to be first.

Rather, you emptied yourself by taking the very nature of a man—a servant man (Phil. 2:1-11), the promised Servant of the Lord (Isa. 52-53)—who served us by fulfilling all of the demands of God’s law, and by exhausting all of God’s judgment against our sin on the cross. Now, you ever live to serve us as our Advocate, Intercessor, and Bridegroom.

Your unimaginable humility, unparalleled servanthood, and immeasurable love, convict me to the core. Restore my first love for you, Lord Jesus, that my love for being first will decrease and die a thousand deaths. So very Amen I pray, in your merciful and matchless name.