A Prayer for Freedom from Things that Still Bind Us

Jul 18, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”  John 11:43-44

     Dear Lord Jesus, as surely as you called out to a dead Lazarus, and he walked out of his tomb fully alive, so when you called out to me in the gospel, I too was raised from the dead, and made fully alive in you. By your grace, I’ve already passed from death to life, and from being condemned to being declared righteous. For the sovereign grace and the resurrection power of the gospel, I praise you today. Indeed, salvation is of the Lord!

     Yet as surely as Lazarus needed to be freed from his grave clothes, so do I, Lord Jesus. The smell and signs of death still cling to me. There are many areas of my life for which I long for greater freedom.

     Jesus, I want greater freedom from being impacted by people’s opinions of me. I want to respond to trying situations and difficult people with grace and wisdom, rather than reacting with complaining and irritation. I want to see and value in others, what you treasure. I want to be quicker to pray and slower to fret.

     I want my indifference to be replaced with good listening. I want passivity to be replaced with passion. I want to be free from the toxic shame that often paralyzes my heart. I want to know what stuff from my past still needs to be dealt with, and what stuff simply needs to be left till the Day your return. I want to be bolder in sharing the gospel and slower to circulate gossip.

     I want to sit still longer and laugh louder. I want to age grace-fully, not regretfully. I want to live as fully alive as possible to the only love that is better than life—your love for us, Lord Jesus. Free me. So very Amen I pray, in your peerless and priceless name.

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A Prayer for the Discouraged

Jul 17, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”  Ps. 42:1-3

     Gracious Father, your Word gives voice to every season, circumstance, and emotion we experience in the journey to gospel wholeness. In our joy and in our despair, and in everything in between, you are with us and you are for us.

     You don’t love us more when we have a dancing heart. You don’t love us less when we have a doubting heart. Indeed, with kindness you drew us, and with an everlasting, unwavering love, you hold us.

     Today we bring our discouraged, weary friends to you—those more aware of their burdens than your grace. Hard providences and difficult people, aching bodies and blows to the heart take their toll. Friends who bury a spouse way too early and children who seem allergic to the gospel; health concerns and relationship stress; mounting bills and decreasing resources all conspire to turn up the volume on the world’s question, “Where is your God in all this?”

     Lord Jesus, you know what this is like, you better than anyone else. For in your life, and on the cross, you took the ultimate combination of assaults and insults, disparagements and discouragements, abuse by your friends and the absence of your Father.

     Your cry, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” assures us that we’ll never be forsaken—never. Even when circumstances beat us down, and life mocks our faith. It’s your thirst on the cross that guarantees us that our thirst is only fleeting. Indeed, Lord Jesus, as we pant for you, you are running to us with the living water of the gospel right now. We don’t trust in our ability to lower a bucket to you, but in your faithfulness to create a spring in our hearts. So very Amen we pray, in your faithful and tender name.

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A Prayer for Being Taken Over by Gladness and Joy

Jul 16, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. “I, even I, am he who comforts you.”  Isa. 51:11-12

     Dear heavenly Father, I bless and adore you for the hope these promises bring today. As this day begins, I choose to remember I’ve already been ransomed and rescued, by Jesus for you. I was bought out of sin, condemnation, and death; and brought into your secure welcome eternal embrace. Thankfully, I’m no longer my own. I’m yours, and you love me because you love me, period.

     All captivities—the ones I’ve generated and those brought upon me by others—all of them, are broken in Jesus. No imprisonment, no bondage, no stronghold will keep me from arriving safely home in the New Jerusalem.

     Indeed, Lord Jesus, you are our promised Jubilee—our eternal year of the Lord’s favor. Though we’ll only fully enjoy this freedom when you return, it’s no less ours right now. The saints in heaven are happier than us, but they’re not more loved or more secure; they’re more aware of your beauty and sovereignty, but they’re not greater beneficiaries than we are.

     My imagination goes into overload mode, when I try to picture what it’s going to be like when we, your Bride, are “crowned with everlasting joy.” I know what it feels like to be overtaken by guilt and shame, but what will it be like to be overtaken, and taken over, by gladness and joy? I cannot wait to experience the blessed Day when all sorrow and sighing will flee away forever. Hasten that Day—hasten that Day of consummate gladness.

     Indeed, Lord Jesus, you comfort us like no one else. Forgive us for foolishly seeking our consolation in anyone or by anything else. So fill our hearts with your beauty and grace that we might overflow with the peace and joy we find in you. So very Amen I pray in your matchless and magnificent name.

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A Prayer for Repenting of My Complaining and Whining

Jul 15, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isa. 40:27-29

     Dear heavenly Father, whenever I started to whine as a child, my parents had a way of letting me know our home was a low-tolerance zone for whiners. I “got it” once I became a parent, and then a pastor. Nobody likes to be on the other end of a whine.

     Today I find great delight in knowing that, as your children, when you have to discipline us, it’s always in love. You never roll your eyes at us in disgust. You never get exasperated or irritated with us.  Though you convict us, you never shame us. The only look you give us declares your welcoming heart. Though you find no pleasure in our whining, you greatly delight in us; for you have hidden our lives in Jesus—in whom you find ultimate joy and pleasure.

     Though it presently feels as though heaven isn’t paying attention to some very important things in my heart and story, I hear you say to us in your Word and gospel, “My name is Redeemer. I am at work in all things for my glory and your good—trust me. I do all things well, not all things easy—relax. In my time—not yours, I will make all things beautiful. You will see.”

     Lord Jesus, you took the ultimate abandonment of the cross that I might be assured I will never be disregarded or abandoned. Though I’m impatient and tired, you’re not. Though you may not answer me the way I want to be answered, you promise to give me all the power and strength I need to honor you. Turn my whining into worship this day, Oh gracious and ever-present Lord. So very Amen I pray, in your exalted and loving name.

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A Prayer for Acknowledging Weaknesses and Turning to Jesus

Jul 14, 2014 | Scotty Smith

      The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.  1 Cor. 10:13

     Dear Lord Jesus, this verse has been underlined in my Bible, pasted on my refrigerator, and calligraphied by a dear friend. But today I need to believe this promise and see your faithfulness at work. I’m desperate for the strength you alone can give, Jesus. There are powerful temptations nibbling away at my heart. You’ve promised that I will never be in any circumstance that will not also find you providing a way forward. Show me the way, Lord.

     To start with, I’m weary of certain people having more functional power over my heart than you, Lord Jesus. That’s my issue, not theirs. Their affirmation can “make me,” and their disapproval, critical words, and coolness can wreck a perfectly good day or week. Help me break that relational pattern. I cannot love anyone to whom I’ve given such idolatrous influence.

     Next, I have friends who are choosing to live destructively. Marriages, health, and your glory are on the line. I need grace for getting involved where, quite frankly, I’d rather not. It would be much easier just to “pray from afar” than to run after prodigals. You pursued me, and you pursue me still. Be the same persistent lover through me, in these messy, broken stories.

     Lastly, Jesus, I repent of spending more time doing things for you, lately than spending quality, unrushed time with you. I’ve been an irritated and critical Martha, more so than an adoring and peaceful Mary (Luke 10:38-42). I’m sure that malady has been like rocket fuel to the issues I’m bringing before you today.

     Restore to me the joy of my salvation, as you return my heart to its first love for you. Jesus, you alone are worthy of my heart’s affection, adoration, and allegiance. My mouth is wide open like a baby Robin; fill it with fresh grace. So very Amen I pray in your patient and loving name.

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A Prayer for Bringing a Heavy-Laden Heart to Jesus

Jul 13, 2014 | Scotty Smith

      Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matt. 11:28-30

     Dear Lord Jesus, in response to your gracious invitation, I’m lacing on my running shoes this morning to come to you as fast as I can. Your gentle, lowly heart is simply irresistible to me. Your easy yoke and light burden beckon me, and I will gladly shoulder up. Your promise of soul rest is like a kiss from heaven. Thank you for being so welcoming, understanding, and kind.

     The heaviness I feel is clearly connected to old wounds with lingering pain. Sometimes current events become a magnifying glass, or a megaphone, by which you reveal to us the “unfinished business” in our souls. Like a broken bone that wasn’t set properly, broken hearts that weren’t healed the first time are vulnerable, and are in need of your healing grace.

     Jesus, I need you. Flood my heart with your presence. Confirm the promise that we can—that I can do all things through you, as you give us strength. Give me the sufficient grace you have pledged. By the Spirit, I will resist the accusing, condemning, and lying whisperings of the dark one.

     As the day unfolds, help me separate the issues at hand. By faith, I offload my burdens onto you. I cannot afford to lug around the tonnage of old drama and new disappointments. If I do that, I will get defensive and will be on the offensive. As usual, this isn’t about me, but about your glory.

     Jesus, help me walk today as a man of faith, hope, and love. Give me the wisdom and power you promise. Bring much glory to yourself. Write stories of repentance and restoration by the grace and truth of the gospel. So very Amen I pray, in your most worthy and gracious name.

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A Prayer for Trusting and Hoping in God’s Unfailing Love

Jul 12, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The warhorse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.  Ps. 33:16-18

     Dear Lord Jesus, though it’s not fun thing, I realize it’s a good thing to come to the end of ourselves—to be at the place where all of our resources, “mojo,” and wisdom are simply not enough. Indeed, it’s a gospel thing to experience our insufficiency, lack of control, and helplessness.

     For only in those times do we fully abandon ourselves to the God who alone can part Red Seas (Ex.14); overthrow whole Midianite armies with three hundred gun-less soldiers (Judges 7); take down Goliaths with a pebble (1 Sam. 17); feed multitudes with a few fish and pieces of bread (Matt. 14); raise a dead man for the salvation of his people and the transformation of the cosmos (1Cor. 15).

     Lord Jesus, we abandon ourselves to you today, for you are that dead man who now lives. You are the One who is redeeming his Bride and making all things new. It’s your unfailing love that we can, and must, hope in. There is no other supply sufficient to the need. There is no other strength sufficient for the task. There is no other balm sufficient for the pain. There is no other rest sufficient for the exhaustion. There is no other trustworthy hope sufficient for the broken stories.

     We bring our broken hearts to you. We bring our struggling marriages to you. We bring our divided churches to you. We bring our conflicted relationships to you. We bring our battles with sin to you. We bring our wayward children to you. We bring our unbelieving friends to you. We bring our financial challenges to you.

     We bring our fragile health to you. We bring the needs of our community to you. We bring it all to you, Jesus. We will trust in you and your unfailing love. Astonish us by bringing much glory to yourself. So very Amen we pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Revealing Jesus When Life Is Stressful

Jul 11, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Cor. 4:7-10

     Dear Lord Jesus, to compare my stressors with the apostle Paul’s would be like comparing my photography with Ansel Adams’s, my preaching with Charles Spurgeon’s, or my cobbler making with a 5 star French pastry chef’s. There is simply no comparison. When I consider everything he experienced as your servant, honestly, I have nothing to bemoan or groan about.

     Nonetheless, Paul’s honesty is a great gift to me this morning. His freedom to acknowledge both his anguish and his joy in the same paragraph, gives me tremendous encouragement and focus. Posing and pretending were crucified at Calvary. Despair and hopelessness were sabotaged by your resurrection.

     Jesus, help me to be far more preoccupied with the treasure within than with the pressures without. If your all-surpassing power will be shown most dramatically through my weaknesses, then I’ll boast in them. If your incomparable beauty will be most clearly revealed through my hardships, then I’ll stop my whining. If your redeeming purposes will be most fully realized through my brokenness, then I’ll humble myself and surrender.

     With my palms up, I offer you praise for the treasure of the gospel. The gospel will win the day, my heart, the nations, and the cosmos. Though there are seasons when throwing in the towel, finding another story, or just flat running away are incredibly attractive, where else would I go but to you?

     Jesus, you alone give the words of life, sufficient grace, and the hope of glory. May your voice grow ten times louder than any other voice, clamoring for my attention. In the coming hours, days, and weeks, demonstrate the wonders of your love and the sovereignty of your rule. So very Amen I pray, with hungry expectancy, in your trustworthy name.

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A Prayer for Recalibrating My Heart

Jul 10, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Ps. 73:21-26

     Dear heavenly Father, the older I get, the more I appreciate the many characters and voices you’re recorded for us in your Word. There’s no moment or scenario I’ll experience in life that you haven’t anticipated. Such is the reach and riches of the Scriptures. Today I praise you for leading Asaph to write a song for the grieved and the embittered.

     There are times when I forget that I’m living in a fallen world, with a fragile heart, among people just as foolish as me. When my fellowship with you gets broken, I’m capable of acting out in very harmful ways. I lose perspective and love poorly. My expectations of you and of others become more connected to “la-la land” than to reality. I start throwing pity parties, like Asaph, and indulge my envious, irritated, discontented attitude.

     That you tolerate me in those times of disconnect is extraordinary. That you still treasure me when I lose touch with gospel sanity is astonishing. When I shake my fist at you, your grasp of grace is all the tighter. When I complain about a stony silent heaven, you’re actively, quietly guiding my every footstep. When I try to ignore or emotionally run away from you, you’re just as resolved to end my journey in the full presence of your glory. The gospel really is this big and this good.

     Such love melts my icy heart. Continue the thaw, Father. I’m not just the biggest loser when I pitch my tent in the land of disconnected heart. I’m also a thief, robbing a lot of people who are dear to me. Rescue me from my self-centeredness and demandingness. That you treasure me is humbling; that I might more fully treasure you, is my heart’s desire. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus tender and triumphant name.

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A Prayer for Resting in Jesus’ Shameless Love

Jul 09, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.  That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Heb. 2:11-13

     Dear Lord Jesus, I treasure this portion of the Word, for several reasons, but especially for how it addresses the issue of our shame. Shame is a pillaging thief—a marauding bandit of our dignity, freedom, and joy. So when I hear you say you’re not ashamed of us—that you’re not ashamed to call me yours, it humbles and gladdens me like nothing else.

     Indeed, Jesus, you’re the only one who can break the binding power of our shame because you have completely broken the condemning power of our guilt. Thank you for doing everything necessary to deal with the ways we’ve been both agents and victims of sin—sin that has led to multiple layers of shame.

     We now freely cry, “Abba, Father,” because you first cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). You took all the guilt and all the shame of our sin on the cross. This is my theology; make it my doxology—my life-giving song of praise to you.

     And, Lord Jesus, you’re the only one who can make us holy, for you are our wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, our holiness, and our redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). What peace, what transcendent and everlasting peace this brings to our hearts. It’s all of grace, from beginning to end.

     Now you constantly sing to us about the Father’s love—you declare his praise every time we hear the gospel; every time we gather to worship in Spirit and in truth; every time we read the Scriptures or drink in the wonders of creation. You are always proclaiming the majesty and mercy of God.

     Lord Jesus, I cannot hear this too often or too loudly—you’re Jesus, not ashamed of us—you’re not ashamed of me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. So very Amen I pray, in your most holy and compassionate name.

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