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.

 
 

Apr

03

2014

Scotty Smith|5:07 am CT

A Prayer for Hearing the Laughter of God

     A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. Ps. 37:10-13

Dear heavenly Father, laughter is not one of the things I grew up associating with you. A dazzling, glowing bright aura, and a big exalted throne, surrounded by “legions” of angels, yes—but I never imaged you laughing. I praise you that the gospel continues to expose and all kinds of insufficient notions I’ve had about you.

I so look forward to the Day when we actually get to hear you laugh; for that will be the Day when all evil, wickedness, and injustice will be eradicated. It’s hard to conceive of a universe, a nation, a city, a relationship—even one heart, my heart—in which every semblance of sin and brokenness is completely gone.

But that Day is coming, and we praise you for this great hope that “the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” Because of Jesus we have an inheritance “that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven” for us (1 Pet. 1:4). I only wish the “little while longer” we have to wait would be a little less long.

But you are the God who does all things well—even when that doesn’t seem apparent to us. So when wicked plots and gnashing teeth seem to be on the increase, and righteousness seems to be on the decrease, please, Father, turn up the volume dial, and let us hear your laughter, that is, even now, filling the courts of heaven.

May your joy be our strength, your promise be our confidence, and your timing be our schedule. By your steadfast love and daily mercies, compel and propel us into greater expressions of missional living and loving. Give us eyes to see, and hearts to believe, that even right now, Jesus is making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in his triumphant and loving name.

 
 

Apr

02

2014

Scotty Smith|4:38 am CT

A Prayer When Facing Uncertain Outcomes

     Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Hab. 3:17-18

     Dear heavenly Father, I approach the throne of grace today on behalf of those of us who are living in difficult stories, like Habakkuk, with unsettling circumstances and uncertain outcomes. I’m so thankful you always welcome us in our brokenness, never despise us in our anxiousness, and thoroughly understand our weariness. You, alone, are grace-full—bidding us cast our cares on you, even as you are prepared to catch everyone of them.

I pray for those of us facing difficult health issues—in our own bodies and minds, or in the lives of those we deeply love. Father, the promise and hope of our resurrection bodies never looked so good (2 Cor. 5:1-5).

We know that Jesus’ finished work has secured our ultimate healing (Isa. 53:5); but as our “outer man” further deteriorates, we trust you for wisdom, grace and the supernatural work of your Holy Spirit. It’s not a matter of “claiming healing,” but loving and trusting the Healer. Bring great glory to yourself, and peace to our hearts, no matter what you write in the next chapter of our stories.

I pray for those of us living in difficult relationships—marriage and family, church and vocation, neighborhood and community. Few things are as unsettling and upsetting, as broken, strained and messy relationships.

We praise you for Day when we will enjoy perfect relationships forever—in the new heaven and new earth. But until that Day, grant us mercy, strength and love—whether we get to see the beauty of reconciliation, or must bear the pain and grieve the loss of relationships.

I also pray for those of us facing uncertain outcomes in difficult jobs, legal proceedings, financial stress, parenting challenges, global fears, and in any of a number of hard providences—though we may not yet see and fig leaves, grape buds, olive blooms, or baby calves, grant us a centering inner joy—knowing the gospel is true, we are your beloved children, and you are in complete control of all things. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus trustworthy name.

 
 

Apr

01

2014

Scotty Smith|4:28 am CT

A Prayer Craving the Day of No More Sorrow and Sighing

     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, words cannot capture my gratitude for the hope these promises bring today. I very much believe your Word, but free me even more, from the unbelief which dogs and dulls my heart, at times.

As this day begins, I choose to remember I’ve already been ransomed, redeemed, purchased by Jesus for you. I was bought out of sin, condemnation, and death and brought into your 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 was born into and the ones I’ve brought upon myself; and those generated by evil and 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.

Lord Jesus, you are my Jubilee—my present and eternal year of the Lord’s favor. I will enjoy this freedom more fully when the new heaven and new earth arrives, but I am already fully and eternally accepted in you. The saints in heaven are more joyful than I am, but they’re not more secure.

What will it be like when we’re crowned with everlasting joy—the Day when all sorrow and sighing will flee away, and be gone forever? What will it sound like when my voice blends in with the entire family of God as we enter the New Jerusalem together?

I know what it feels like to be overtaken by guilt and shame, but what will it be like to be thoroughly overtaken by gladness and joy? Jesus, hasten that blessed, promised and craved Day.

Indeed, Jesus, even now, you comfort us like no one else. You comfort us in our heart of hearts—giving us so much more than better circumstances, less hassles and easier days. Forgive me for settling for mere relief when you’d give me more of yourself. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and loving name.

 
 

Mar

31

2014

Scotty Smith|4:30 am CT

A Prayer for Bringing Our Weary Friends to Jesus

     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 lightMatt. 11:28-30

(As I pray for hurting friends and real situations, ask the Holy Spirit to show you who to bring the throne of grace today.)

Dear Lord Jesus, though I slept really well last night, I begin today quite restless with concern. I’m burdened for a few friends who are dangerously depleted, emotionally on edge, and spiritually numb. I could not be more grateful for your call to the heavy-laden and promise of soul rest.

One friend can no longer fight the strong undertow of rage she faces every single day in her home. She’d rather “pull in her oars” and drift down stream, rather than continue to fight the cruel current.

Another brother lives in a vortex of shame—either unable or unwilling to believe you won’t crush him if he comes to you. Satan has convinced him he’s hopeless and irredeemable. Then there’s the married couple, who’ve lost sight of the issues, and, now, are simply trying to out-maneuver and “out-mean” each other. They seem oblivious to the ways their bitterness and bickering impact their children.

Jesus, I am weary and burdened for my friends, and I bring them to you right now. Out of the strength of your gentleness and the power of your humility, give me what I need to love well in messy places. Show me how to pray and wrestle in the Holy Spirit for them. I take on your yoke because it unites me to you.

Free me to be comfortable with not being able to fix anything and anyone. More than anything, I want you to receive glory in each of these broken stories.

Write stories of redemption for your name’s sake. Bring your resurrection power to bear in each of these three situations, I pray. The things that are impossible with us are more than possible with you.

Keep me restless for my friends, Jesus, but keep me fully resting in you. So very Amen I pray, in your gentle, humble-hearted name.