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A Prayer of Gratitude for the Gospel on Reformation Day

Oct 31, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8-9

     Dear Lord Jesus, how did it ever come to pass that there was even a need for the Reformation? What circumstances created the necessity for Martin Luther to nail his Ninety-Five Theses to the front door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517? How did the church lose the gospel?

     These questions are rhetorical, for I know quite well why we’ll always need to be rediscovering and reaffirming the gospel of your sovereign and saving grace. I know this because I know my own proud and foolish heart. By nature, I’m allergic to the thing I need the most—the riches of the gospel.

     The gospel declares me to be a whole lot worse off than I can imagine, and certainly a whole lot worse than I want to acknowledge. I needed a substitute, not a model—the Second Adam, not a 2nd chance. I needed you to live a life of perfect obedience for me. I needed you to fulfill all the demands of the law for me. Thank you for doing this perfectly.

     I needed you to take my place upon the cross—taking the punishment I deserve for all the ways I fall short of God’s glory; breaking, ignoring, and not living up to God’s law; and worst of all, worshiping other gods. I needed you to exhaust God’s just and holy wrath against me and my sin—lest I despair of my guilt. Thank you for doing this perfectly. I even needed you to give me the faith by which I could receive this free and full justification. This you have done perfectly as well. From beginning to end, salvation is of the Lord!

     On Reformation Day 2014, I gladly affirm that my hope is built on nothing less, nothing more, and nothing other than your blood and your righteousness. On you, Lord Jesus, the solid and saving Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. Keep bringing me back to the gospel, Jesus; keep bringing me back to the gospel plus nothing. So very Amen I pray, in your most holy and gracious name.

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A Prayer for Seeing People and the World with Eyes of Grace

Oct 30, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7

     Dear heavenly Father, this Scripture makes me long for more of the ophthalmological corrective that only takes place as the gospel does its work on the eyes of my heart. Even if I could see with 20/15 or 20/10 vision, if I’m only focusing on the “outward appearance” of people and things, I’m still not seeing as you intend. My plea? Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, that I may see Jesus, and as I see Jesus more clearly, help me see everything else from his perspective.

     Help me to see people with eyes of grace. Father, help me to see the beauty, dignity, and your image in people, much more clearly than I notice their brokenness and inconsistencies. And when I do see their weaknesses, may I do so with compassion and understanding, not with shock and irritation. Help me to see what you see in my spouse, children, and friends—even in total strangers.

     Help me to see creation with eyes of grace. Father, don’t let me miss your majesty revealed in the ocean and mountains, sunrises and sunsets, flora and fauna, rainstorms and rainbows. Help me live more as a worshipful steward of your creation and less as a selfish consumer of your creation. Help me to live at the pace of grace that I might notice more of the wonders of your love, everywhere.

     Help me to see pain and suffering with eyes of grace. Father, sometimes looking at the crucibles and crises, and cruel stories and crushing blows of life makes me want to run and hide, fix or deny. When overwhelming need is staring me down; hard things over which I have zero control; and stories which seem to contradict your goodness and sovereignty, help me to see from the perspective of eternity. Thank you, Father. So very Amen I pray in Jesus’ kind and healing name.

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A Prayer for Resting in God’s Sovereignty, Ways, and Timing

Oct 29, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     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 to 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 Lord Jesus, this Scripture confronts our unbelief, tames our fears, and consoles our hearts.  We can’t be reminded too often whose kingdom and which King is actually in control, of world events and our daily circumstances.

     You have no rivals, contingencies, or concerns. There’s no sweat on your palms, vacancy in your eyes, or vexation in your heart. You set up kings and you sit them down at your discretion. You live forever, your dominion is eternal, your kingdom endures, and you do as you please . . . period!

     Even as you brought King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to his theological and political senses, so keep us in gospel sanity. Forgive us when we pay more attention to political pundits, sensational blogs, news-naysayers, and talk shows crazies, than we take notice of the occupied throne of heaven and listen intently to what you have to say to us in your Word.

     Today—right now, we affirm that you, Lord Jesus, are already the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The government of all things is presently resting on your broad shoulders. Your kingdom is the only unshakable and eternal kingdom. Indeed, of the increase of your government and peace there will be no end.

      Jesus, we humble ourselves before you as our Sovereign King and we raise our hands in adoration of you; for you, our unrivaled Sovereign, have made us, your beloved Bride.  What wondrous love is this, indeed, that you would conquer, capture, and enrapture us for yourself?

     May our sure and rich standing in grace, compel us into a life of neighbor love and community engagement, and great, great hope. So very Amen we pray, in your triumphant and tender name.

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A Prayer for Resting in God’s Commitment to Non-stop Good

Oct 28, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart heart and action, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, and I will never stop doing good to them. Jer. 32:38-40

    Dear heavenly Father, this Scripture exposes the lingering presence of my unbelief, and the irrepressible, tenacious, measureless wonder of your goodness. Fortunately, your goodness wins the collision with my unbelief.

     I want everything you’ve promised in these remarkable words spoken through Jeremiah, starting with singleness of heart. For quite often, my heart gets distracted, disconnected, and divided. You alone are worthy of my heart’s affection, adoration, and allegiance. Corral and center my wandering heart, for your glory, by your grace.

     I want singleness of action, Father, seeking first the kingdom of redemption, restoration, and righteousness—the kingdom of your beloved Son, Jesus. Too many of my thoughts and too much of my energy is spent on the little fiefdom of me; it is squandered, frittered, wasted. Give me passion for what really matters.

     I want to fear you, Father, now that I no longer have to be afraid of you. Through the work of Jesus, you have eternally freed me from the fear of death and judgment. Now give me awe and reverence, consistent with the measure of your mercies and grace that are ours in the gospel. Give me astonishment and wonder worthy of your great love and endless compassion for us in Jesus.

     Lastly, Father, convince me, over and over and over, of your commitment to never stop doing good to me. Such a promise is overwhelming, almost too much to wrap my heart around, and would be groundless apart from the “It is finished” of Jesus. Even when you discipline me, it’s like a kiss from heaven. Everything you do is for your glory, and therefore, it is good for me. I believe this, but I long to believe it more.

     You’ve forgiven my unbelief, now free me even more from its insidious presence. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ glorious and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Acknowledging True Blessedness

Oct 27, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them. Rom. 4:7-8

     He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:10-12

     Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Rom. 8:1

     Dear heavenly Father, like all words, categories, and concepts, true “blessedness” is to be defined by you. You alone have the right to tell us the difference blessing and curse—between fool’s gold and real gold, and you’ve done so clearly, through the words of a broken king (David – Ps. 32:1-2), and a humbled Pharisee (Paul – Rom. 4:7-8).

     Count me among the blessed, for you have completely forgiven all my transgressions, once and for all, through the finished work of Jesus. You have thoroughly covered my sins by the blood of Jesus. You will never count my sins against me because you counted my sin against Jesus and you now count me righteous in him. Hallelujah, many times over. The cross was my Judgment Day, the empty tomb is the guarantee of my justification, and my true citizenship is now in heaven.

     Abba, Father, whether I live in a penthouse or an outhouse; drive a BMW or pedal a bicycle; feast on caviar or munch on a crust of bread; have a retirement fund or live from paycheck to paycheck; wear updated fashion or recycled hand-me-downs—I am a blessed man, a truly blessed man. There is no greater state of blessedness than simply to be in Christ.

     And in those moments of insanity when I’m tempted to think otherwise, bring me back to gospel sanity, Father. The so-called riches of this world are “chump change” and Monopoly Money, compared to the unsearchable, inexhaustible, always-increasing-in-value riches of your grace. So very Amen I pray, with gratitude, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Fresh Encouragement and Gospel Satisfaction

Oct 26, 2014 | Scotty Smith

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. Jer. 31:25

Dear heavenly Father, we’re like baby birds with mouths wide open this morning. Come, feed and nourish our hearts with the riches of your grace. It’s heartening to know that we don’t have to pretend around you. We don’t have to feel guilty, feign strength, or make excuses. You meet as a loving Father, not as a disgruntled coach. You meet us with the gospel, not with a scorecard; with a smile, not with a scowl; with encouragement, not disgruntlement. Hallelujah, many times over!

So what makes us weary, Father? Where do we start? The demands and delights of relationships; wars and rumors of wars; too many guns in the hands of too many teenagers; cancer in our friends, and heartaches in our breasts; the normal process of bones aching, and the ill-timed moments of stuff breaking; pandemics in our world, and paying for the academics of our kids; Christians that can’t get along, and friends that simply move on; transitions in our vocations, and the long overdue need for a vacation.

Father, we so look forward to an eternity of no more pettiness or petulance; no more hard-heartedness or fragile-heartedness; no more hurt feelings or bullying egos; no more communicating in part or conflicting to win; no more passive aggressiveness or active indifference; no more innuendo or bravado or anything else that hides the beauty of Jesus.

Indeed, Jesus, there’s no lasting refreshment apart from you. You still cry out in a loud voice for the thirsty ones to come to you and drink. You still call to the weary and heavy laden to come to you for rest. Settle and center our hearts today with the good news—the fresh news of the gospel. Not for a month, or a week, but just for this one day, help us to rest in your love and share it with others. So very Amen we pray, in your high and near name.

 

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A Prayer for Those Who “Fight Wild Beasts”

Oct 25, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 1 Cor. 15:30-32

     Dear Lord Jesus, I have no clue what kind of wild beasts Paul battled in Ephesus—whether they were of the four-legged or two-legged variety, or if they were simply demons. Because of his love for you, conflict with evil was inevitable. Because of your love for him, death would be gain. Because of your resurrection, he knew his labors in the Lord were not in vain.

     Jesus, this moves me to pray today for those who have taken on various “beastly” callings. I praise you for friends who work in the seedy, dark world of human trafficking. I thank you for these servants, many of whom endanger themselves every hour. Keep them resourced, wise, and filled with the hope of the gospel.

     I pray for those who are serving in the vortex of the Ebola pandemic. Keep them safe and bless their labors, Lord Jesus. We long for the Day of no more disease of any variety.

     I pray for pastors and churches, in the throws of conflicts, strife, and division. As the Prince of Peace, bring your peace to bear, Jesus. May the real issues be identified and dealt with in a way than commends the gospel.

     I pray for missionaries, Young Life leaders, RUF campus directors, Christian counselors, social workers, etc—for, surely, these servants of yours engage in spiritual warfare on a daily basis. Renew their affections for you, and keep the gospel fresh to them. Grant them strength beyond their own and enough fruit to keep them encouraged, trusting, and hopeful.

     Jesus, don’t let us sin against these faithful sisters and brothers, by failing to pray for them. We don’t understand all the mysteries of prayer; we just know you have taught us to pray. Shut the mouths of the beasts by the power of the gospel, for the glory of your name. So very Amen we pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Being “Schooled” by Grace

Oct 24, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce 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 works. Titus 2:11-14

Dear Lord Jesus, if there’s one teacher I want to excel under, one curriculum I need to master, one school I want to do well in, it’s the academy of God’s grace. In the past, I’ve either taken education too seriously, turning grades into idols; or I’ve been irresponsible—doing just enough to get by. But when it comes to grace, I want to get “schooled”—big time.

Your grace first appeared to me like a longed-for sunrise after the bleakest night of darkness. It came, quite literally, bringing salvation to me—for I could never find it on my own, earn it through my efforts, or even desire it, apart from the Spirit’s work.

And this is the grace of your gospel, Lord Jesus: You gave yourself for us on the cross to redeem us from sin, to purify us for yourself, to make us zealous to do good. Anything less, more, or other is not the gospel.

So as one under the pedagogy of your grace, Jesus, help me say an emphatic “No!” to everything that robs you of your glory, and an enthusiastic “Yes!” to everything that promotes your honor and reveals your beauty.

Jesus, continue to teach me the difference between an uptight life of rigidity and a freed-up life of godliness. May my repentances be more notorious than my sins, my kindness more obvious than my “rightness”, and my forgiving come quicker than my resenting. May the blessed hope of your future return free me to live and love to your glory, this very day. So very Amen I pray in your tender and triumphant name.

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A Prayer for Days When You’re a Bit Fearful, Proud, or Forgetful

Oct 23, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. Rom. 11:2-6

Dear heavenly Father, at least seventeen times a day I need to be reminded of how I got into your story of redemption and how I stay there—only and fully by grace.

Occasionally I’m like Elijah, assuming I’m special because I’m one of the few who really “gets” the gospel—no longer bowing the knee to performance-based spirituality, moralism, or legalism. At other times I know myself to be an idolater—not worshiping Baal, but worshiping almost anything or everything else—and wondering how I could possibly be yours.

Then, like a rebuke or a kiss from heaven (depending on my disposition), I hear the Holy Spirit speak these words to my heart: “I have kept for myself a people for myself.” As in the days before Elijah, of Elijah, and long after Elijah, you are keeping and are preserving a much-loved people for yourself.

Many of them have Israeli passports, but most don’t. In fact, every race, tribe, language and people group will be a part of your eternal family—so great your plan of redemption (Rev. 7). My only claim to being your son is that you’ve hidden my life in the Son—Jesus (Col. 1:1-5).

Father, because of past grace, present grace, and future grace, I want to live with bowed knees and palms upward, towards you. I will seek to worship other things less by loving Jesus more. Because salvation is free, I want to freely serve you and love my neighbors. So very Amen I pray in Jesus’ exalted and loving name.

 

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A Prayer for Resting in God’s Commitment to Keep & Change Us

Oct 22, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23

     Dear heavenly Father, it’s a source of incredible comfort to know that you are resolutely committed to keeping and changing us—to make us more and more like Jesus. For you’ve promised to bring to completion the good work you began in your children (Phil. 1:6).

     We’d despair if this wasn’t the case, for the disparity between Jesus’ beauty and our brokenness is overwhelming to us at times. The thoughts we think, the things we feel, and the choices we make often contradict the gospel we love. We could never be our own savior, and only a great Savior like Jesus is sufficient for people like us.

     So here’s our peace and joy: As the “God of peace” you’re completely sanctifying us— transforming us through and through—spirit, soul, and body; and you’re not impatient in the process. You don’t roll your eyes, cross your arms, or furrow your brow when you think about us. You are completely at peace with us.

     We will be wholly blameless and shameless, at Jesus’ second coming, only because he took our blame upon the cross, and despised its shame. Even now, our lives are hidden safely in Christ; and when he does return, we will appear with him in glory, for Jesus is our life—our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:31; Col. 3:4).

     Therefore, our boast is in Christ, for there’s nothing in us that’s boast-worthy. Our hope is built on nothing less, nothing more, and nothing other than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Hallelujah, many times over.

       Father, as we lean into the rest of this beautiful Fall, we actively surrender to the very active ministry of the Holy Spirit—by whom we’re sealed, with whom we’re indwelt, and through whom we will be safely delivered into your presence. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ strong and loving name.

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