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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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A Prayer for Expressing Our Esteem and Love for Jesus

Oct 21, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Rev. 1:5-6

Dear Lord Jesus, John’s words, early in the Book of Revelation, have the feel of a toast to them. It’s as though we’ve just finished a great banquet and have risen to our feet, with glasses hoisted to honor you, we proclaim in a loud voice “To him who loves us . . .” No one is more worthy of honor than you, and we long for the Day when knowing you in part gives way to knowing you as fully as your glorified Bride will.

Truly, there’s no date on the calendar of my heart more anticipated and longed for than the wedding feast of the Lamb—the banquet of which all other banquets are a mere hint; the mercy meal consummating your great love for us; the bodacious blowout inaugurating of our shared life together in the new heaven and new earth. Even so, hasten that Day, O great Bridegroom; hasten that Day.

Until then, please help me grasp the implications of that one enormous little phrase, “To him who loves us. ” How fitting—that this kiss of grace would be found in the opening words to the concluding book of your whole revelation. What a glorious summation of your work on our behalf. What a magnificent affirmation of the central theme in the history of redemption: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Lord Jesus, keep us from taking your love for granted. Humble us over the cost of your love—the cross. Rescue us when other loves seem more appealing or satisfying. Open our hearts to the immeasurable dimensions of your love. Focus and free us living out the radical implications of your love.

To you be the glory and power forever and ever. Your bride awaits your return. So very Amen we pray, we pray in your matchless name and multiplied mercies.

 

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A Prayer for Days When You’re Feeling Scattered

Oct 20, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Eph. 1:9-10

Dear Jesus, there are days when I’m, as one of my favorites hymns says, “prone to wander—prone to leave the God I love.” When I get dulled and lulled into that place, it’s usually because I haven’t been spending rich, unrushed time with you—gazing upon your beauty, reflecting upon your glory, marinating in your grace, listening for your singing, tasting your delight—all which come to us so freely in the gospel.

That’s when I get enamored, then hammered, with the illusion that you’re not enough—with the foolish notion that someone or something else might make my life more complete. What a maniacal myth, quintessential foolishness, the most dangerous of all, “bait and switch”.

But that’s not what I’m feeling today. I see your goodness in the gospel, and I don’t doubt your love for me, one bit. Right now I’m just feeling scattered, splintered, discombobulated, pulled in a myriad of directions, with a big school of little piranha nibbling away at my energy and focus.

I so long for the day, as this Scripture promises, when “all things in heaven and on earth” will be brought together in you—that is, “summed up,” integrated, reunited—perfectly one. In light of that Day, please meet me in this day. Center and settle me, Jesus. Take my thoughts captive to your perspective; help me to reel in my vacillating emotions; still the clatter and remove some of the clutter from my spirit. Help me choose the best over the good, the necessary over the nice, the essential over the important.

You are my Lord and my life, my peace and my joy, my anchor and my hope. I love being loved by you, Lord Jesus; and I love you only because you first loved me and gave yourself as a sacrifice of atonement and propitiation for my sins. I am presently and eternally grateful. So very Amen I pray, in your sovereign and loving name.

 

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A Prayer for Handing Over Our Battles to the Lord

Oct 19, 2014 | Scotty Smith

The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. (1 Sam. 17:47) This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)

     Dear heavenly Father, I love it when you claim things I don’t really want anyway—especially ownership of our battles. Though spiritual warfare is daily, and though you give us armor to wear (Eph. 6:10-18), it’s you we must trust in as the Divine Warrior. Indeed, we don’t do life as disengaged pacifists, but fully engaged worshipers—waiting on you, and beholding your salvation.

     We’re often little David’s facing big Goliaths; but with you, we will not be afraid. But whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, our battles belong to you. Fear and discouragement, panic and hiding, are not the order of the day; faith and peace are.

     When events in world history fuel our worry (like ISIS and Ebola)—when it seems like evil and terror will triumph, let us hear the calming laughter of heaven. Let us see your already installed and reigning King—the Lord Jesus. Show us the occupied throne of heaven, and it will shut up our anxieties (Ps. 2; Rev. 4).

     When we’re under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let us see Jesus—the author and perfecter of our faith—our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 8:1). Most assuredly (and gladly), our boast is in Jesus, not in anything in ourselves.

     When we get pulled into petty fights—in our marriages, churches, and circle of friends, center us quickly with the gospel and bring us back to faith expressing itself in love (Gal. 5:6).

     When we’re in the presence of evil, and dangerously broken people, keep us calm and rooted in the gospel. Some of these conflicts require extraordinary wisdom. When our divided hearts wages war inside of us, come to us in the storm, Jesus, and make peace and be our peace. So very Amen we pray, in your loving and triumphant name.

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A Prayer Regaling God’s Everlasting Love & Unfailing Kindness

Oct 18, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jer. 31:3

     See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

     Dear heavenly Father, not just in the past, but in the present—in this very moment, you love us with an everlasting love. We cannot add to your love for us, nor take away from it, because it’s entirely generated, maintained, and guaranteed by what Jesus has done for us. Oh, the peace and joy, freedom and focus this gives us.

     Indeed, such astonishingly good news doesn’t turn us into spiritual narcissists—spending most of our time pondering how “special” we are. Rather it compels us into a life of living and loving to your glory. The more convinced and secure we are in your love, the less we obsess about what others think about us; the less we foolishly look to success, stuff, and sex to fill up the God-shaped hole inside of us.

     The more we are alive to your lavish love for us in Jesus, the less we worry, and the more we worship; the less we criticize others, and the more we humble ourselves; the less we manipulate, and the more we minister; the less busy and irritated we are, and the more unrushed, uncluttered time we spend with you.

     Father, we also bless you for your perpetual kindness towards us today, and everyday—every nanosecond of every single day. Your kindness first drove us to repentance—that we might receive Jesus as our righteousness; and your kindness continues to drive us deeper into your commitment to make us like Jesus. Hallelujah, many times over!

     By light of the Day, when you will complete your good work in us, we purpose to live this day to your glory. Free us to fully enjoy, and generously share, your love and kindness with others, all day long. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus magnificent and merciful name.

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A Prayer for Knowing God Is at Work in Our Pain

Oct 17, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     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 hope. Jer. 29:11

     Heavenly Father, there’s 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 in Babylon. How could they not feel bereft, bewildered, even betrayed by you?

     Yet we know by your own testimony, Father, that when you lead us into difficult seasons, it’s not to punish us but to prosper 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.

     You know exactly what you’re doing with your people and everything else in the world, and you always act congruent with the gospel. 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’ve made. His life, death, and resurrection are the guarantee of our gospel prosperity, living hope, and glorious future. 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 to bear upon our personal stories of pain, the brokenness our local churches, and the multiplied needs of our communities.

     Turn our sighs into songs, our cynicism into servanthood, and our grumblings into the rumblings of the Day when everything sad will become untrue. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and compassionate name.

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A Prayer for Understanding the “Gift” of Affliction

Oct 16, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. (Ps. 119:71) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Pet. 4:12)

     Dear heavenly Father, only a humble certainty about your love could have moved King David to praise you for the “gift” of affliction. The same is just as true for any of us. I well remember the years I spent trying to spiritually finagle my way out of hardship’s way—believing that if I just claimed the right verses, prayed the right prayers, did the right things, then I’d have an “abundant life”—filled with “blessings” and very few difficulties.

     Looking back at some of the early teaching I received, I can see how I was led to believe you were more of a “sugar daddy” rather than “Abba, Father.” I wasn’t thinking about learning your decrees, but about escaping discomfort. I wasn’t preoccupied with your glory being revealed among the nations, but with no unnecessary obstacles cluttering my week. I’m embarrassed as I remember that season, but encouraged as I remember my Savior.

     Lord Jesus, you took all the afflictions I deserved as a sinful rebel; now I’m only afflicted as a beloved son. Because of you, Jesus, I’m not afraid of God as my judge, but I revere and love him as my Father. Only because of you, Jesus, I no longer despise or dread the decrees of God, but I delight in them. I now understand that God’s law isn’t a set of rules by which I earn anything; they are the wisdom by which I learn about everything—everything I need for life and godliness.

     Holy Spirit, continue to make God’s glory my supreme passion, over my default mode of wanting a predictable, “safe”, manageable, hassle-free life. This short life is too precious to waste on little fancies and even smaller dreams. Because the gospel is true, help me to seek first the kingdom of God—even this very day. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ name and for his glory.

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