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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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A Prayer for Responding to Jesus’ Desire

Aug 12, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.  Song of Songs 7:10

     Dear Lord Jesus, the Song of Solomon has never been one of the most underlined books in my Bible; but the more I look for you in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27), the more I’m drawn to its startling, scintillating, sensual imagery. To read the Song of Solomon is to tap into our deepest longings for intimacy, playfulness, passion, and delight—knowing and being known by you.

     Indeed, you are the great lover of whom this book speaks. In our best moments, our love for one another is a mere hint and whisper of the way you love us. We are the “beloved”—the Bride upon whom you have set your deepest affections, and for whom you’ve given your very life.

     This isn’t the gospel I grew up with, but this is the gospel revealed in the Scriptures. To be desired is to be wanted and pursued, seen and accepted, known and nourished, remembered and cherished. All of these grand realities are promised and provided in the gospel.

     Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to believe and experience the liberating truths, the unparalleled beauty, and the oceans of delight revealed in the Bible, and held out in the gospel. So I cry out today: come, Holy Spirit, come. Rescue me from my unbelief. Unseat and replace any notions of God and the gospel that still linger in my mind. Enthrall my too-easily-satisfied heart. It’s one thing to rest in Jesus’ finished work, but another thing to be alive to his present desire.

     Lord Jesus, forgive me for believing that any human being could possibly satisfy the longings you placed in our DNA. Help all of us realize, (the unmarried, the happily married, and the miserably married), that you are the Spouse we always wanted, and the one to whom we belong. And more importantly, help us believe that you are the Spouse who always wanted us. Nothing is more compelling or transforming than your love. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and loving name.

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A Prayer for the Renewal and Deepening of Joy

Aug 11, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.  Ps. 85:6-7

     Dear heavenly Father, I begin this day thankful for the honesty and candor of your Word; for when you diagnosis a problem, you always resource your children with more grace. Today I’m thinking about my longing for renewed joy, and even greater joy than I’ve ever known. I join the chorus of the Psalmist, who cried, “Revive us again.”

     When I hear the apostle Paul ask believers in Galatia, “What has happened to all your joy?” (Gal. 4:15), I’m not sure how I’d answer. Is my “inner-Older-Brother”(Lk.15) rearing his ugly head? Has a spirit of entitlement, self-pity, or envy slipped in unaware? Is it simply because I’ve been trying to get by with too little sleep? Am I hoarding hurts or harboring resentments? Am I angry with you, and don’t want to admit it? I’m not sure where my heart began to leak joy, but I don’t want to get used to this condition. Show me, Lord.

     Father, since your joy is my strength (Neh. 8:10), cause my heart muscle to beat afresh with the joy that fills the courts of heaven. Holy Spirit, since joy is one of the fruit you grow in the lives of God’s children, please weed, prune, and fertilize my heart for a bumper-crop. Lord Jesus, since you are praying for the fullness of your joy to be in us (John 17:13), I will live with anticipation and hope, for your prayers never fail.

     Jesus, though I’ve never seen you, I do love you; and I love you because you first loved me and gave yourself for us on the cross. Fill me afresh with the inexpressible and glorious joy that comes from living in union and communion with you (1 Pet. 1:8-9). So very Amen I pray, in your tender and triumphant name.

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A Prayer for Resting in Jesus’ Compassion

Aug 10, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And many followed him [Jesus], and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”  Matt. 12:15-21

     Dear Lord Jesus, I’m greatly moved today as I ponder your compassionate heart for the broken and suffering. Surely there’s no Savior like you: entering, not running from our chaos; taking, not despising our shame; shouldering, not ignoring our burdens. “Bruised reeds” and “smoldering wicks” love your appearing. Justice will be fully victorious because you have been the willing sufferer.

     Hallelujah, your sufferings as our sin-bearer are over. As the Lamb of God, you offered yourself once-and-for-all upon the cross. No additional sacrifice for our sin remains to be offered. None. I no longer fear being judged by God for my sins. Your perfect love has driven away all fear of punishment, anxiety about Judgment Day, and uncertainty about eternity. I boast and rest in your sufferings for me, Lord Jesus, and I also shout a hearty “Hallelujah!”

     But I also cry out, “Help me, Lord Jesus, help me.” Help me go with you into the sufferings of friends and family, further into the groans of my own heart, and into the injustices and brokenness of my community. Like most, I have an aversion to pain and suffering. Like many, I’d love for the Christian life to be an antidote for all discomfort and distress. Like others, I get overwhelmed and overtaxed by the sufferings around me.

     Here’s my peace, my consolation, my ballast, Jesus: you’re not calling us to suffer for you, but to suffer with you; and that makes all the difference in the world. We’re called into the fellowship of your sufferings, not into the isolation of our sufferings.

     You’ll never lead us into hard places where you’re not present. You’ll never ask us to do anything all by ourselves. You’ll never leave us or forsake us, Jesus. You will lead justice to victory, and in your name all the nations will put their hope. So very Amen I pray, in your kind and compassionate name.

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A Prayer for Loving God, Fire or No Fire

Aug 09, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  Dan. 3:16-18

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m impressed, convicted, and encouraged by the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three friends didn’t worship you because of the gifts you give, but because of the God you are.

     They were firmly convinced that you could rescue them from the fiery furnace, but even if you didn’t, it wouldn’t impact their love for you one bit. They’d rather be delivered into your presence through the fire, than worship some other false god just to escape the fire.

     Father, forgive me when my worship varies in response to my perceptions of how well and quick you answer my prayers. As cynical as I am about the “name it and claim it” and prosperity theologies, I’m quite capable of doubting your love when life gets complicated and painful. I want to worship you before there’s a fire, when I’m in the fire, when the fire’s extinguished, or if you should choose to take me home through the fire.

     Lord Jesus, only you can give me such freedom and love for God. You’re not only the fourth man King Nebuchadnezzar saw walking around in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:25), you’re the one who endured the fiery trial of the cross for us. Even as you purchased us with your blood, you stay present with us by your Spirit, in every season of life—no matter the temptation, trial, or trauma. Life may not be pain free for us, but it’ll never be Christ absent. Hallelujah, many times over.

     Because of you, Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid to die, and we don’t have to be afraid to live. May your beauty and grace be increasingly compelling to us. So very Amen we pray, in your peerless and powerful name.

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A Prayer for Celebrating Jesus’ Birth in August

Aug 08, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isa. 9:6-7

     Dear Lord Jesus, there aren’t “Christmas verses” that are the private domain of Advent. There’s just you, and your glory, and your magnificent story of redemption and restoration. Today, on this hot August morning, I’m glad to remember—I need to remember, why you came and what you’re up to right now, especially in light of the current “messes” in our global community.

     Lord Jesus, the government of the entire cosmos is already sitting squarely upon your shoulders. Nothing happens apart from your sovereign doings and delight. I don’t have to be vexed over nuclear-armed terrorists in Iraq or Iran, any more than I have to be defined by a lousy golf game. It may not be apparent to my naked eye, but everything is subject to you. You are before all things, and in you all things are held together (Col. 1:17). Everything in heaven and on earth is being summed up in you (Eph. 1:10).

     You are Wonderful Counselor—that is, our wisdom from God, our righteous, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). There is no salvation apart from you. It’s the gospel or despair. You are Mighty God—eternally one with the Father, co-equal, co-glorious—along with God the Holy Spirit. There’s nothing you can’t do. You never “try” to do anything. You simply execute your pleasure at your discretion.

     You are Everlasting Father—the Son who perfectly reveals the Father’s image and riches to us. It’s because of you, Jesus that we’ve been adopted into God’s family, and have been given all the rights and delights of the children of God. You are Prince of Peace—by your life and death, you made peace between God and us. You yourself are our peace, Jesus; you destroyed the hostile barrier that stood between us (Eph. 2:14-15).

     Right now, on this early August morning, you are extending your glorious kingdom of peace. You are “shaloming” all things, making all things new, putting all things right. Justice and righteousness are coming to every place where sin and death have done their worst. All of this is happening because you are the zealous Lord, jealous for his bride, who accomplishes everything he has promised. Suddenly I feel like putting on some Christmas CDs, Jesus! So very Amen I pray, in your peerless and powerful name.

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