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Setting Our Hearts for the Day: Praying through Philippians 4:4-9

Jun 29, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 

     Dear Lord Jesus, I have more than ample reasons to rejoice in you as this day begins (and continues). My life in hidden in yours, and your life in me is my hope of glory. You are my perfect righteousness and my constant Advocate, my sovereign Lord and loving Spouse.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 

      Because of your relationship with me and who I am in you, I can risk being gentle in relationships in which I might otherwise feel the instinct to be rigid or the need to be in control. I’m not alone to fin for myself. You are so near—both in terms of proximity and your return. And by the way, I’ve never longed more for  your return!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

     “Do not be anxious about anything“… Jesus, I’m so glad that everything you command you resource with sufficient grace, so I cast my cares on you and bring these anxieties to your throne of grace.  With palms up, I give you the people I’d love to fix; the storylines I’d love to finish; the culture wars I’d love to win; the heartaches I’d love to heal; and the circumstances I’d love to alter.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

     Jesus, thank you for the promise of setting your peace as a garrison for my heart and mind. I gladly enter “Fort Peace.” Double bolt the door!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

     Jesus, you are the truest, most noble, right, pure, lovely and praiseworthy reality I can think imagine, so I set my gaze and affection on you—O blessed author and perfecter of my faith. Take my thoughts to think with your mind; overflow my heart with your beauty and compassion; free my hands and feet to serve as your bidding. So very Amen I pray, in your tender and triumphant name.   

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A Prayer for Closure, Peace, and Thanksgiving

Jun 28, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making all things new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev. 21:3-5 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, today is a day of redemptive déjà vu. Though it took me nearly forty years to make it back to my mom’s grave after her death, that visit proved to be the portal of major heart surgery and liberation for me. A backlog of tears broke like a dam; my relational style of self-protection began to crumble, and your grace commenced dismantling the idols of my heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus.

Ten years later, we laid dad’s body to rest next to mom’s; but during that decade dad and I were able finally able to grieve our shared loss and connect with our hearts. He was 81 and I was 50. Though Alzheimer’s finally robbed dad’s memory of my face and name, it couldn’t steal the gift you gave us. Again, I bless you Jesus, for the power of the gospel to do way beyond all we can ask or imagine.

And today, I’ll make another trip back to that rich plot of earth that holds so much of my heart and story. Today we plant Ruth’s body, my stepmom, into that same little garden of grace—within a few feet of mom and dad. How could I have ever anticipated this chapter in my story? How can I possibly put a value on such grace, love, and kindness? Your name, Jesus, is most definitely Redeemer, and you are, indeed, a most wonderful and merciful Savior. I never could have asked for a better stepmom, and, a 1000 times over, I never could have hoped for a better gospel.

O for the Day of wiped tears and redeemed stories! O for the Day of no more death, mourning, dying, or pain! O for the Day of all things new! So very Amen I pray, in your great and grace-full name.

 

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A Prayer for Trusting, Resting, and Rejoicing in the God of Hope

Jun 27, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom. 15:13 (NIV)

   Dear heavenly Father, meditating on this verse today is like standing under a gentle, steady shower of grace, after near drought-like conditions; or like waking up on a cool, crisp, morning in the mountains of Colorado after a month of high-humidity breath-sucking heat; or like a panoramic train ride through Switzerland, in which every scene seems to top the last. Such is the wonder of your Word, the sweetness of the gospel, and the power of hope.

   Nothing or no one really has to change for your Spirit to bring us hope in the depths of our hearts, the messiness of our stories, and angst of our circumstances. Whether it’s a Supreme Court ruling or the poor choices of good friends, the cancelling of a flight or the loss of a favorite thing, the vacation that didn’t happen or the replacement of the air conditioner that had to happen, the cancer that came back or the prodigal that hasn’t yet… you are still God, still in control, and we have more than sufficient reasons to have hope—even overflow with hope.

   You gave Jesus to us and for us. Everything that needed to be finished, when he was in this world, has been; and everything he’s yet to complete will be brought to a glorious, much-more-than-satisfying conclusion. We don’t have to like your sense of timing, but we cannot help but love and adore your Son. May your peace rule in our hearts as we wait for the sure-and-certain fulfillment of our hope. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

   

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A Prayer for Owning Our Weakness and Resting in the Spirit’s Intercession

Jun 26, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Rom. 8:26-28 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m so grateful for this passage, and all the encouragement, freedom, and hope it offers. I have zero difficulty acknowledging my weakness this morning. For the past month, I feel like I’ve been swimming in a turbulent ocean of hungry sea creatures. Shoulder surgery and physical therapy, friends in crisis and churches in distress, family illnesses and yesterday my stepmom graduated into your presence. I’m worn out, Father, loved, but nearly running on empty.

     It’s heartening (and life-giving) to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak, but he helps us in our weakness—faithfully praying inside of us with “wordless groans.” Though I don’t understand everything that means, I love the fact, Father, that you search our hearts and you know the mind of the Spirit.

     No one knows our hearts better than you, Father—the good and bad, broken and beautiful. You search our hearts to save us, not to shame us; to deliver us, not to demean us; to change us, not chide us. You know my dignity and my depravity, my fears and my longings, my struggles with sin and my standing in Christ.

     And at this very moment your Spirit is praying inside of me, perfectly tuned in to my needs and in total harmony with your will. I cannot measure the peace that brings. I gladly groan to your glory. I know you are at work for my good in all things, including this turbulent season. You have called me to life in Christ, and you will complete your purpose in me. I do love you; Father, and I would love you much more. So very Amen I pray, resting in Jesus’ righteousness and reign.

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A Prayer for Letting Go of Trying to Be the 4th Member of the Trinity

Jun 25, 2015 | Scotty Smith

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Rev. 22:13 (NIV)

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. Ps. 94:19 (ESV)

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isa. 26:3 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, it’s time for me to shift my focus from the immediacy of a big disappointment to the permanency of who you are. It’s one thing to be lovingly concerned about a matter, and another to angrily obsess about it; one thing to pray without ceasing and another to vex without sleeping; one thing to engage sacrificially and another to be enmeshed unhealthily.

     So with palms up, I release my burden to you, Lord. I’m not going to shift into a snarly, “I could care less” attitude; but I will care less, and trust you more. You are God, and I am very much not so. You’ve begun a good work in each of your children, and in every sphere of your creation, and you’re neither AWOL, disinterested, bored, or negligent. You’re going to complete your story to your glory, in your time, on your dime, and in your way. Hallelujah!

     You are the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, and everything in between. Hallelujah, many times over! You are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—perfect Trinity, and not looking to make a Trio into a Quartet. You don’t need me; you love me. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. When I fix my thoughts on you—as opposed to fixating on messy situations and messy people, your peace centers, settles, and liberates me. So as this day begins, and continues, I choose liberation over consternation; I choose to believe the gospel rather than try to be my savior or anybody else’s. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name. 

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A Prayer for Trusting in God’s Ability to Do Immeasurably More

Jun 24, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:20-21 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m so very thankful for your ability to do immeasurably more than all we ask and imagine. Creating the world out of nothing and raising Jesus out of the grave are proof enough. But today my prayer list doesn’t contain things beyond the stretch of my imagination, but things very much within its reach and orbit.

     I ask you to lift the heaviness of my heart the way you lifted the guilt of my sin. I ask you to open the eyes of a good friend’s heart the way you opened the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. I ask you to quiet the voices of cynics, naysayers, and gossips, the way you shut the mouths of Nebuchadnezzar’s lions. I ask you to comfort the hearts of the disillusioned and disheartened, the way your angels comforted the women on the morning of Jesus’ resurrection.

     I ask you to help me see the legions of angels you’ve positioned all around difficult stories and broken people. I ask you to help me grieve with hope—even overflow with hope as Paul instructed followers of Jesus. I ask you to lift your robe, run, welcome, and kiss all kinds of prodigals in the coming days, weeks, and months. I ask you to keep me from relying on myself, and to trust boldly in you—the God who raises the dead. I ask you to bring great glory to yourself, in your church by Jesus for all to see, now and forever more. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ mighty and merciful name.

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Being the Right Kind of a Friend: Praying through Jude 20-25

Jun 23, 2015 | Scotty Smith

20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

     Dear heavenly Father, events of late have forced me to consider what kind of friend I am. It’s quite easy to presume on friendship—kind of like putting on a well-worn pair of jeans or settling into one’s favorite recliner. Ease is one thing, presumption another. Life isn’t as predictable as I’d like it to be.

     As friends, we’ve got to be building each other up in the gospel; praying for and with each other with the Spirit’s fire; looking toward and longing for Jesus’ return together; and staying alive to your love, lavished on us in the gospel.

22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

     Invariably, we will go through various seasons together in friendship. Some of us will struggle with our faith—moving from our first love of Jesus, wrestling with new questions, experiencing difficult providences and suffering that cause us to rethink your goodness. Some of us will give into temptation, get seduced, and run “off the reservation” for a little while. Some of us, by pain or utter foolishness, will “cut our losses” and get entangled in sin and stories that have the power to kill. Show us how to love in all these scenarios, Father, all of them—both on the giving and receiving end.

24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

     Father, this is our hope, peace, and joy. You are able to keep of us from falling away and bring us home safely. We’re already blameless in Jesus—who is our righteousness and you’ve given us everything we need for the rest of our journey. All glory to you, blessed and loving Father. We will seek to live and love each other to your glory. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ holy and beautiful name.

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A Prayer for Days When You’re Overwhelmed with Grief and Anger

Jun 22, 2015 | 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. Psalm 73:21-23 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, as many times as I’ve read and prayed, taught and preached Psalm 73, I’m not sure I’ve ever related to Asaph’s anguish more than I do today. I am grieved and heading towards bitterness, feeling beastly and quite capable of thinking senseless, unhelpful thoughts. I pray for myself and others sitting it stories that make our heads spin and our hearts sink.

     Father of mercy and God of all comfort…

Show us how to handle deep disappointment and hurt, as redemptively as possible.

Show us the difference between appropriate anger and destructive rage.

Show us how to pray down the gospel, lest we try to call down fire.

Show us how to hope when we want to hurl something.

Show us how to keep from importing old wounds into a new wound.

Show us how to listen to you quietly, 100 times more than we launch our opinions.

Show us how to grieve and lament, and not gossip and mock.

Show us the difference between worldly sadness and godly sorrow.

Show us what the gospel looks like in stories that seem to utterly contradict it.

Show us how to be still, and know that you are God.

     Father, let us palpably feel the grasp of grace right now. You are guiding us in and through the valley of the shadow of death, and you will bring glory to yourself in the most heart wrecking of stories. Who do we have in heaven, or on earth, but you? Being with you is what we need more than anything else, in the coming hours and days, weeks and months.  So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Father’s Day

Jun 21, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom all fatherhood, in heaven and on earth, derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:14-19 NIV

     Dear heavenly Father, on this Father’s Day, it’s a supreme joy to affirm that you are the Father we’ve always longed for and needed. Our most loving and engaged fathers have been a wonderful taste of what it means to be your beloved children, but they could never be to us what you are.

     Thank you for adopting us, through the finished work of Jesus. Thank you for freeing us from our slavery to sin and our orphan-like ways; and for giving us the Spirit of Sonship, a secure place in your family, and an inheritance that can never spoil or fade. Thank you for being the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. Thank you for promising to complete the work you began in us, and for always and only, disciplining us in love.

     Father, thank you for grace to forgive our earthly fathers who didn’t love us as you intended—including those who broke our trust and hearts. Continue to heal us, Lord, help us to love them, and free us to parent to your glory.  

     Lastly, Father, we thank you for the spiritual dads you’ve given us—the gospel-fathers who help us discover more and more of the multi-dimensional love of Christ. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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What Does the Gospel Look Like in Everyday Life? – Praying through Micah 6:8

Jun 20, 2015 | Scotty Smith

“O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you”:

     Dear heavenly Father, from the beginning, you created us for life in a garden paradise—a life of revealing your goodness, truth, and beauty. Our calling hasn’t change but our context has. We now live in a fallen world as broken people. But you are a God who is rich in mercy and abounding in grace; and through the gospel, you’ve forgiven all our sins, declared us righteous in Christ, and have re-deployed us to live as a people to the praise of the glory of your grace. What does this glorious gospel look like in everyday life?

“to do what is right,”

     Father, thank you for saving us by Jesus’ perfect “goodness,” so that our goodness might simply be for our neighbor’s benefit, and not our anything. Intensify our love and joy for doing what is right—for doing the next gospel-thing. By your grace, make servanthood, sacrifice, and holiness a bouquet of beauty to us, and to our neighbors.

“to love mercy,”  

      And deepen our love for mercy, Father. Keep us ever mindful of your great mercy for us in the gospel. You didn’t give us what we deserve—judgment; instead, you gave us Jesus. Forgive us when we indulge an arrogant, irritated, critical spirit toward anyone.

     Your mercy is also revealed by a life of advocacy for the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. Father, by the power of the gospel, make each of us more like the “good Samaritan”—with a heart of compassion and the generosity of his grace.

“and to walk humbly with your God.

     Walking humbly with you shouldn’t be difficult for us, Father, because we have a lot to be humble about. We love humility in others; cultivate much more of it in us. Help us keep our conscience under the gospel—so we’ll be convicted, not condemned. And grant us godly sorrow when we sin, quick repentances, and the joy of a deeper work of the gospel in our lives. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ exalted and loving name.

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