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When Our Theology Becomes Our Doxology: Praying through Eph. 1:15-17

May 29, 2015 | Scotty Smith

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 

     Dear heavenly Father, the prayer life of the Apostle Paul reminds me of the importance of praying the things I believe and treasure deep into my heart. It’s precisely because the Ephesian believers were marked by Christ-centered faith and a robust love for one another that he continued steadfast in prayer for them. My affection for you cools too easily, or gets diverted to lesser loves.

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 

     Do the same for me, Father—glorious Father. May the Holy Spirit do his renewing, relationship-deepening work in my heart. I want to know you better and better and better, for to know you and Jesus IS eternal life (John 17:3).

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…

     Open the eyes of my heart that I might experience more of the wonder and certainty of the hope to which you have called us in Jesus. Christ in me is my only hope of glory; me in Christ is the basis of my hope, for Jesus is my righteousness; Christ for me is my utter delight and unshakable assurance of a future beyond my greatest dreams and longings.

the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people… 

     Father, continue to free me from my unbelief. Convince my dull heart that we—your wayward-yet-beloved-people, are your inheritance, “portion,” and treasure—that you really love us that much.

19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

     Lastly, Father, keep releasing the power of Jesus’ resurrection in and through my life. There’s no other way I will become like Jesus, and no other way I will love like Jesus. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ exalted and worship-worthy name.

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When Caring for Addicts in Our Lives Becomes Overwhelming: Praying through 2 Cor. 1:8-9 (NLT)

May 28, 2015 | Scotty Smith

8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die.

Dear heavenly Father, my heart is burdened today for those of us who have the unrelenting and painful reality of “addiction” woven into our family stories. The cost of loving an addict well requires all kinds of currencies, perhaps none more so than emotional money and reserves, a lot of it. Paul’s images of being crushed, overwhelmed, and “done” certainly apply, when we engage in caring for an addict to your glory.

Father, grant us thick skin and big hearts—first and foremost for loving the addict, but for also dealing with all the comments and whisperings, “arm chair quarterbacking” and spiritualized spin that comes from outsiders. Until we really enter the world of addiction, most of us are pretty naïve about the complex interplay of substance abuse, sin, and illness.

But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.

     But especially, Father, I pray that, along with taking advantage of resources available for addict care in our communities (for which I praise and bless you)—I pray we will know what it means to abandon ourselves to you—the God who still raises the dead. Grant us supernatural mercy and grace, wisdom and strength. May parents, siblings, and children of an addict be driven to you in fresh and powerful ways. May the gospel become more precious and real than ever.

May our churches become far more informed, equipped, and engaged with caring for families marked by addiction. And forgive me for ever thinking my workaholism was more acceptable and less destructive than other forms of miss-placed worship. Father, I am so thankful that your name is Redeemer, your grace is sufficient, and your power is limitless. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name.

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A Prayer for the Day of Your Surgery

May 27, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Phil. 4:6 (ESV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Prov. 3:5 (NLT)

Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. Jer. 17:14 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and am fully and gladly yours. On this morning of my surgery, I am so thankful that you are my God and I am your child. It’s a vulnerable feeling to know that pretty soon I will be under anesthesia, and without any knowledge of what’s going on in my body; but it’s a glorious thing to know that you are in control, and that I can trust you with everything.

     I pray for my dear friend and surgeon. Guide his head, hands, and heart. He has incredible skills; now grant his your good providence—not only for me but for others he will serve today as well. I pray for his team and attendants—thankful that we live in a part of the world that affords us incredible medical care.

     I pray for my family and friends, while I’m in surgery—grateful for their care and prayers. Grant them peace and assurance that all is well. Father, help me to be a good post surgery patient—following my doctor’s orders and doing the work of rehab as prescribed. I can be self-sufficient, pig-headed, and presumptuous. Free me from all three.

     Lastly, Father, I’m so glad the gospel is true. I won’t live one day longer or less than you prescribe. Of this I am absolutely sure: if I should wake up in heaven today, it will only be on the basis of the finished work of Jesus and by the sovereign appointment of you, my loving Father. You do all things well, all the time. I praise, bless, and adore you. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name. 

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Responding to God’s Perpetual Invitation to His Banquet of Grace: Praying through Isaiah 55:1-3 (NLT)

May 26, 2015 | Scotty Smith

1 Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free!

Dear heavenly Father, I should remember this great gospel invitation at least three times a day—breakfast, lunch, and suppertime, for I need your grace all day long. Thank you for being so dialed into our needs, and so generous with your provision. Indeed, through Jesus, you give us choice nourishment. There’s nothing “fast-food” or “leftover” at the table of your hospitality. And it’s all free—free to us, that is, for it cost you the price of your Son.

2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good?

I don’t take these two questions lightly, Father. Why, in view of a free banquet of grace do I still, at times, prefer to “pay my way” for things more akin to a “sugar rush”? That’s probably the point and issue. Sometimes I foolishly want instant gratification over good nourishment, a buzz over beauty, a quick “high” over growth in grace. Free me from me, Lord.

Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. 3 ”Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.

As this day begins, and continues, I will seek to listen to your beckoning, liberating, soul-satisfying voice, Father. By the Holy Spirit, may your voice be louder than every other “food truck” offering me goods that will cost me more than I can afford.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.

Father, all I need in life is your unfailing love for me in Jesus, plus what you sovereignly decree. I praise, bless, and adore you for the everlasting covenant you established between yourself and your people. The gospel is true. The gospel is good. The gospel is everything. Hallelujah, what a Savior we have in Jesus! Hallelujah, what a salvation! So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ near and satisfying name.

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A Prayer for Memorial Day: The End of All Wars

May 25, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords. Rev. 19:11-16 (NLT)

     Dear Lord Jesus, on this Memorial Day we rightfully honor the courageous men and women who lost their lives serving our country, in a world filled with “wars and rumors of war.” But on this particular Memorial Day, we want to honor you, as the ultimate Servant-Warrior—the quintessential Serviceman, who on the cross won the war to end all wars. No one paid a greater price to bring the final and full peace, for which we long and hope. John’s vision of that Day fills our hearts with worship.

     Having secured the defeat of the prince of darkness, you’re now the rider on the white horse—alone worthy of the name Faithful and True and Word of God. You are faithful to fulfill every promise God made for the salvation of his people, and the restoration of cosmos. We praise and bless, worship and adore you, Lord Jesus!

     Though evil hates beauty, your love trumps all evil. Indeed, evil will not prevail. It has been defeated, and it will be eradicated. Hallelujah, many times over! We’re not waiting for you to become the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, for you already are. Your kingdom has come and, one Day, will come in fullness. Consummate peace will replace all petulance and pettiness, hating and being hated, fuming and fighting, quarrels and quarrelsomeness—of every variety and expression. Hasten that Day, Lord; hasten it. So very Amen we pray, in your triumphant and exalted name.

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Savoring the Incomparable, Inexhaustible Love of God: Praying through Psalm 63:1-5

May 24, 2015 | Scotty Smith

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

     Dear heavenly Father, you are my God only because you have made me your beloved child in Jesus. I praise, bless, and adore you for so great a privilege, secure a relationship, and so liberating a joy. I earnestly seek you today because you first sought me and found me, and continue to pursue me for rich fellowship.

     Every experience of thirst I’ve known in life pales in comparison with the thirst I feel for you. I long for you with the most intense craving—for you made me for yourself and redeemed me for your praise.

2 I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.

     My clearest sighting of you comes in the sanctuary of the gospel. There, in the face of Jesus I have discovered you to be more glorious and beautiful than I ever imagined, more grace-full and powerful than I ever hoped.

3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!

     Father, your love doesn’t just give me a great life; it is better than life itself. When I am most alive to your love, nothing else really matters. I worship you for pouring forth your lavish love on me in Jesus—a love from which I’ll never be separated, a love which is steadfast and limitless.

4 I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.

     With my heart and hands, my time and treasure, in my joys and in my sufferings, I will seek to honor and glorify you.

5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.

    Father, there is no feast or banquet, no riches or currency, no relationship or set of circumstances that satisfy me the way you gratify me in Jesus. May my whole being praise you with songs of joy and a life of thanks. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name. 

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When Feeling Discouraged and Tempted to Lose Heart: Praying through 2nd Cor. 4:16-18

May 23, 2015 | Scotty Smith

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 

     Dear heavenly Father, I run to the throne of grace today for a number of friends living in difficult, heart-deflating stories—friends for whom Paul’s words couldn’t be more appropriate. I thank you for encouragement we find in the Scriptures and the strength you give us by grace. You give us hope, not hype; honesty, not puffery, more grace, not more spin.

     Indeed, some of us are actually, “outwardly wasting away.” Father, I long for the Day of no more cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, addictions… and the list goes on. I don’t underestimate your power to heal, but right now, I greatly value your commitment to inwardly renew the hearts of ailing friends, and their family members. Father, make the gospel so real, your presence so sensate, and your love so palpable. It’s a short life we live, but we need you in every second of it.

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 

     Thank you that our pain, suffering, and troubles are not in vain, Father. You are a great and gracious Redeemer. Though some troubles doesn’t seem very “light and momentary,” before long, they will. One Day the weight of your sovereignty and wisdom will tip the scales towards eternal Hallelujahs. We will unhesitatingly proclaim, “Our God has done all things well!”

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

     Until then, Father, be with our friends who suffer, and we who engage their sufferings. Help us not to run to denial, but to you. Help us fix our gaze on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith—the One who suffered for us, and now suffers with us; he who once made all things, and is now making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ kind and powerful name.

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Returning to Gospel Sanity and a Heart of Worship: Praying through Psalm 73:21-26

May 22, 2015 | Scotty Smith

 21 I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant—I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.

     Dear heavenly Father, I can handle getting lost on a trip a lot better than getting disconnected from a vital, robust relationship with you. Because when my fellowship and communion with you get broken, like Asaph, I can start acting like a “senseless animal.”  I get grumpy and critical, whine more than I worship, complain quicker and longer. I start acting like a spiritual orphan—like I don’t have you as my loving, sovereign, grace-full Father.

23 Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.

     Then, as the Holy Spirit applies the gospel to my heart, yet again, I come back to my senses. More importantly, I come back to you. Abba, Father, I belong to you, and that’s all that really matters. You hold my right hand with a grip of grace, even when I try to pull away. You’re actively guiding me—working in all things for my good and your glory, even when don’t see it or feel it. And you will bring your work in me to completion, and me, safely into the new heaven and new earth. What a Father. What a gospel. What peace.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

     In my most gospel sane moments, I gladly affirm—even shout, Father, you are all I want and more than I need. I desire you more than getting my way and getting more stuff, more than being in control—even controlling you. You don’t guarantee me perfect health or easy circumstances in life, but you have given me yourself, the righteousness of Jesus, and a perfect future. I am yours, and you are mine, forever. Hallelujah. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name. 

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A Prayer for Loving Well in Messy Relationships

May 21, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. Acts 15:36-40 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father, I start this day so grateful for the no-spin honesty and daily applicability of the Bible. In particular, I’m thankful today for this story of two good friends, Paul and Barnabas, having “such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.” All of us have “been there and done that”, and yet we want, and need, you to teach us the difference the gospel makes in loving well in broken, messy relationships. Sometimes the issues are complex and the way forward isn’t real clear or easy.

Father thank you for sending Jesus to tear down walls, destroy hostilities, and make peace—between you and us, and us and others. It took time plus grace for Paul and Barnabas to get back together. What are the implications of that for us in our fractured, stressed, and disconnected relationships?

Help us to want reconciliation more than we want to be right, your glory more than our vindication, and the beauty of redemption more than we want the satisfaction of winning. Grant us grace to steward our hurts, fears, and anger.

Father, we long for the Day of perfect relationships (Rev. 21:1-22:5), and we thank you that this day is a day of sufficient grace. As you help us is our most challenging relationships, help us care for our friends in theirs. By the truth and grace of the gospel, help us to love and listen, and serve and counsel our friends well. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name.

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Trusting Jesus for Fresh Grace in Our Relationships: Praying through Colossians 3:12-14

May 20, 2015 | Scotty Smith

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you that this is my truest, most life-defining, heart-encouraging, life-transforming identity: I am chosen by God (not choice); holy (set apart for God’s perfect purposes); and dearly loved (not merely but dearly loved). All of this is true because of what you have done for me. The gospel is true and I am in you. Hallelujah!

… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 

Therefore, as I think about my relationships, by faith, I reach into the closet of the gospel and reach for these garments of grace—all which I have in you. Jesus, grant me your compassion and kindness, for hurting and broken people. I’m not to fix anyone, but to love everyone.

Grant me your humility and gentleness, lest I default to my critical and rigid ways. I repent of quick and harsh reactions. Increase my patience, with trying people and “inconvenient” circumstances—as I see with your eyes, and love with your grace.

13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

Jesus, this is so very convicting… indeed, supersize and gentle my forbearance (so I don’t just “put up with” people), and free me to forgive grievances(big and little ones) with joy . May your comprehensive and complete forgiveness for me, define and empower my forgiveness of others. Help me Jesus! I have some difficult and complex forgiving to do.

14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Not playing “make believe”, but really believing the gospel, right now, I “put on” love—your love, Jesus. You cannot love me more than you do in this moment, and you will never love me less. How can I possibly not choose to love others? Your love is compelling, and your love is enough. Love in me and through me to your glory—all this day long. So very Amen I pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

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