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Yearning to Be Controlled by the Love of Jesus: Praying through 2 Cor. 5:13-15 (NLT)

Aug 03, 2015 | Scotty Smith

 13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us.

Dear heavenly Father, what a magnificent and magnetic image—being controlled by Christ’s love; not merely inspired, encouraged, or even enflamed, but controlled by Jesus’ love for us. I cannot imagine a more-to-be-desired way of doing life.

To be free from people’s opinions and cultural agendas; unfazed by the “what if’s” of life in an uncertain world; not preoccupied with everything that “might” go wrong, or anchored to regrets of what I did wrong. To be so liberated by the love of Jesus, people might think I am a bit odd, strange, or crazy, like they did of Paul. That would be so awesome, Father.

Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.

By your Holy Spirit, help me to remember, and reckon with the fact, that I have already been co-crucified with Christ and raised to newness of life in him (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:4-5). By the death of Jesus, I have been set free from the old way of life and have been placed into an entirely new dominion—the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:13). Make this palpable and current in my life.

15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

Merciful and mighty Father, may the love of Jesus be so compelling to me, I will gladly live with him and for him—in my relationships and in my vocation, in my sufferings and in my rejoicings, in my weaknesses and in my encouragements, in the face of known disappointments and with an eye toward an unknown future. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ lovely and loving name.

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A Prayer for Remembering God’s Commitment to Complete His Work

Aug 02, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Phil. 1:6 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, here’s a huge understatement: I am so thankful that “salvation is of the Lord,” from beginning to end. We were dead in our sins and trespasses when you raised us up to new life in Jesus—granting us complete forgiveness, declaring us righteous in Christ, and sealing and indwelling us with your Spirit. Hallelujah, many times over!

     But sometimes I wonder why the process of actually becoming more like Jesus is taking so long—first of all in me, and then in others I love. Quite honestly, at times it’s easier for me to doubt your “whole salvation” commitment to others, than for me—which is a pretty arrogant thing to own, even as I say it and pray it. Forgive me, Father.

     When I don’t live with Paul’s certainty about your covenant faithfulness to each of your children, I don’t love well. I become more aware of what “bugs,” me in the lives of others, than what encourages me. I get more impatient than accepting, more rigid than relational, and more condescending than compassionate. I start making unnecessary observations, offering unhelpful criticisms, and giving unrequested suggestions—the very things I hate for people to do toward me.

     Father, have mercy on me. Free me to accept others the way you have accepted me in Jesus. It’s one thing for me to “provoke others to love and good deeds,” (Heb. 10:24) and quite another just to provoke them unto irritation and avoidance. By your grace, help me offer others a non-anxious presence, your welcoming heart, and genuine encouragement. I know you’re not calling me to naiveté and passivity; but I also know you’re not calling me to act like the 4th member of the Trinity. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ glorious and grace-full name.

    

 

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A Prayer for Still MORE Freedom from Jesus

Aug 01, 2015 | Scotty Smith

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NIV)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Gal. 5:1 (ESV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, I’m free, but still not nearly as free as you delight to make me. Though you’ve already freed me from the darkness and arrogance of thinking I can earn your acceptance, or more of your love; though you’ve liberated me from the fear of Judgment Day and death; though I’m quicker to own brokenness and boast in my weakness, I’m still a babe, neophyte, and rookie in so many other gospel freedoms.

     Jesus, please free me to love your will and glory, a gazillion times more than my druthers and comfort. Free me to humble myself quickly and gladly in my marriage, parenting, and friendships. Help me to use fewer words, explanations, and excuses, when engaging others in conflict. Topple my idols of control and my commitment to a pain-free heart.

     Jesus, please free me from a busy, hurried spirit, so I can be present in the current moment and conversation. Make my to love list more important to me than my to do list. Help me make better eye contact and heart connection with all kinds of people, including strong personalities and total strangers.

     Jesus, break even more of the chains of my insecurities, fears, and feelings of incompetency. Liberate me from thinking too much about what I’m not by showing me more of you and who I am in you. Free me for greater spontaneity, louder laughter, saltier tears, and quicker repentances. So very Amen I pray, in your most tender and powerful name.

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When Tempted to Give Up, Throw in the Towel, and Run Away: Praying through Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)

Jul 31, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for adopting us into a family of brothers and sisters who ran, walked, and crawled this life of faith long before us. None of our pains, heartaches, and failures is unique to us. Many of your beloved children have experienced exactly what we’re going through, and much more and much worse. Forgive us for thinking otherwise.

let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.

So rather than hunkering down in our pain, we want to humble ourselves before you; rather than running away, we choose to run to you; rather than giving up, we want to “grace-up.” Grant us the power of your Spirit to strip off the weight of our unbelief, self-absorption, and pity-parties. And forgive us for trying to minimize or micro-manage our sin, rather than collapsing on Jesus, in repentant faith and love.

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Father, right now, we unplug the GPS of our runaway strategy, and enter the race and destination you’ve marked out for us—confident that you will grant us the endurance we need. Though it may be painful to get there, any place you take us is better than any place we’d choose for ourselves.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

Thankfully, the burden isn’t on us, but on Jesus—who took our sin and will now take us to the end.  Hallelujah, for so great a salvation and so great a Savior! Hallelujah, that from beginning to end, this journey is one of grace—even when it hurts.

Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Lord Jesus, thank you for going to the cross for me, and for exhausting my guilt and taking my shame. Thank you that the joy that filled your heart, you now pray will fill mine. Thank you that you will complete the good work you began in me. Right now, I choose to take up your cross, rather than “throw in my towel.” So very Amen I pray, in your tender and triumphant name.

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A Prayer for Bringing Weary Friends to a Caring Jesus

Jul 30, 2015 | 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 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, though I slept well, I begin today restless with concern. A few of my friends are dangerously depleted, spiritually numb, and close to giving up.

A teenaged friend can no longer fight the strong undertow of rage he faces every single day in his home. He’d rather be “swept out to sea” than continue to fight the cruel current of spite, resentment, and bitterness. Another brother lives in a swirling vortex of shame, either unable or unwilling to believe you won’t crush him if he comes to you. Then there’s the married couple that’s lost sight of their real issues, and are simply trying to out-mean and out-last each other. They seem oblivious to the ways their bitterness and bickering are impacting their children.

Jesus, I am weary and burdened for my friends, and I do 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 them well. 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 from arrogantly assuming these situations are mine to fix. None of this is about my competency as a caregiver; it’s about their crises and your glory.

Jesus, please 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 me 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.

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A Prayer for Rejoicing in Our Salvation and Encouraging One Another

Jul 29, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thess. 5:9-11 (ESV)

Dear heavenly Father, there are many things over which I don’t have any control; many outcomes that remain hidden from me; and many broken stories, broken people, and broken circumstances that may, or may not, get better this side of heaven. But this I do know, because of the finished work of Jesus, my future contains zero judgment and 100% joyful welcome by you you; zero wrath and100% perfect righteousness in Jesus; zero brokenness and 100% perfect relationship with you. It’s all gonna be—not just okay, but magnificent beyond our wildest dreams and hopes.

Until then, Father, make me a genuine encourager and “builder-upper” of my family, gospel-posse, and friends. Thank you for the privilege we have of bearing one another’s burdens; showing up in one another’s stories; holding one another accountable for believing the gospel; giving each other hope-fueling perspective at low times, and life-giving rebukes at wandering times.

Father, thank you that, whether we die before Jesus returns, or live to see that blessed Day, we are your beloved children, now and forever. Nothing can ever separate us from your love, deplete your mercies or exhaust your grace.

Thank you that the darkest clouds often bring the most refreshing rains; that boasting in our weakness is still the best way to taste your sweetness; and that none of us will ever be beyond the need or reach of your grace. Indeed, Father, make me an encourager with this good news and living hope, as long as you keep me in this world. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name.

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When We’re Feeling Sensitive and Defensive: Praying through 1 Peter 2:21-25 (NLT)

Jul 28, 2015 | Scotty Smith

21 God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.

Dear Lord Jesus, I need every truth so beautifully crammed into this one small portion of the Word. First of all, don’t let me ever forget that you are my substitute before you are my example. You suffered in our place on the cross, once-and-for-all; and now, we follow you into the fellowship of suffering in our world.

Because you never sinned, we have the resources of the gospel when we do sin. And “testy,” provoking, conflictive relationships are the fertile soil in which I can super-grow weeds of defensiveness, self-righteousness, and a bad attitude. Jesus, grant me a thicker skin and a bigger heart.

23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.

     Jesus, if anyone ever had a right to get hair-trigger defensive and vengeful, it was you. Your sufferings were entirely unjust, and yet, they fulfilled the demands of perfect justice for us, forever. Hallelujah, many times over!

     Because you “left your case in the hands of God,” you have won salvation for your whole Bride, including me. And now, through your finished work, I know God to be Abba, Father—the one I too, can trust in difficult moments, stories, and relationships.

24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.

     Jesus, thank you for living, dying and rising for us; and for reigning now, and returning for us one Day. We’ve already experienced a great deal of healing, but we long for the perfect wholeness for which we wait. Until that Day, free us to love to your glory, even when that’s the hardest part of our day.

25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.

     As in the past, so in this moment, we turn to you—the Good Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. There is no safer haven; there is no other savior. We worship and love you. So very Amen we pray, in your kind and powerful name.

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A Prayer for Friends/Family in Dark, Entangled, Broken Stories

Jul 27, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Col. 4:12 (NIV)

     Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Rom. 8:26 (ESV)

     Dear heavenly Father, quite literally, sometimes all we can do is pray for certain family members and friends—people we love, who live in the vortex of mental and emotional illness; others who are willing participants and suppliers of their own destructive addictions; still others whose rage, pain, and trauma have more power over their lives than the true Trinity.

     Father, help us to know what our limits are in these situations; what loving well in dark brokenness looks like; and what resources are available to us. Teach us how, like Epaphras, to wrestle in prayer for our loved ones, without, literally, wrestling with them one on one. Some situations are beyond reason, conventional care, or safe interactions. Help us Lord; help us.

     It’s heartbreaking to watch people we love become people we fear. It’s unnerving to hear threats of self-destructive behavior, and to feel helpless—even hopeless in the midst of the emotional frenzy, rage-fueled words, and irrational activity. It’s paralyzing to feel responsible but incapable of helping. Help us Lord; help us.

     Father, thank you that the Spirit is praying in us and for us, when we don’t know what to pray, do, or say. And as the Spirit prays, Father, I pray for those for whom this prayer isn’t a memory or a theory, but a present reality. Lead my brothers and sisters to the right resources, to the best of gospel-wisdom, and to the professional caregivers tailored for their individual stories and struggles. None of us is enough; we need you, Father, and all the grace you will give us. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name.  

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When Our Sufferings Feel Like Too Much: Praying through Psalm 13

Jul 26, 2015 | Scotty Smith

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

     Dear heavenly Father, I bless you that these difficult words were first sung by your people in Temple worship, for they show us that some seasons and sufferings in life cause us to wonder about your goodness, and question your faithfulness. Yet you are neither offended nor affronted when we feel this way. You welcome us in our woes, and if we don’t bring our cries and confusion to you, where can we go?   

     Indeed, Father, there are some times when it feels like you have forgotten us, or are hiding from us. For some of us, that moment is now, and that season has been going on for quite a while. Help!

How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

     The worse thing about not sensing your heart and hand, Father, is that we’re left to the shallow waters of our own counsel, and the voices of mockers and haters. “I though you said Jesus was enough. Where’s your mighty and merciful God now? Didn’t you tell me God wouldn’t give you too much?” Father, we don’t want the voices of darkness to prevail. We don’t want our suffering to sabotage our trust in your sovereignty. Come, Lord.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

      Meet us in this hard, difficult place. It’s not our pride, but your praise that we care about the most. As much as our bodies and hearts may hurt, the gloating of your enemies hurts even more. For the sake of your name, bring the power of your hand.    

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

     Father, this we know for sure: Your steadfast love for us in the gospel is unquestionable and inexhaustible. Though our rejoicing and singing may presently be reduced to a still, small voice, we bless you for dealing bountifully with us through finished work of Jesus. This pain, heartache, and season soon will pass. May soon be sooner. Until then, we unabashedly and unhesitatingly proclaim, we are your beloved children and you are our grace-full God. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

 

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Taking Responsibility for the Way We Speak to Each Other: Praying through Various Scriptures about Our Words

Jul 25, 2015 | Scotty Smith

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45 (NLT)

     Dear Lord Jesus, this Scripture is the bottom line, the “skinny,” the chase to which we must always cut, when it comes to stewardship of our words. The main issue isn’t tongue control, but heart fullness. Whatever I treasure in my heart will be reflected in the stream of my words.

     This is why I must preach the gospel to myself every day—before any other storyline or crisis, disappointment or aggravating person, “fool’s gold” or personal agenda grabs the attention and affection of my heart.

The tongue has the power of life and death. Prov. 18:21 (NIV)

     How important is the issue of my words? Jesus, may this one little verse stay ever before me. I am capable of bringing destruction and resurrection with my words—great harm and eternal good. I want to bring life today, Jesus. Help me with my instinct is to choose the opposite.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Eph. 4:29 (NLT)

     Jesus, you never command anything you don’t resource, so when you tell me no foul or abusive language, you’ve not exaggerating. That’s not the law of performance, but the way of freedom and encouragement. You forgive me when I fail, but you also give me grace to speak like a man of grace. Never let me get used to hurting people with my words, never.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Prov. 16:24 (ESV)

     Jesus, no words are sweeter and more health-generating that the words you speak. So grant us listening hearts as you sing to us today in the gospel, and may the quickest, surest overflow be seen in the way we speak to one another. So very Amen we pray, in your tender and triumphant name.

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