A Prayer for Recognizing Our Inner Spiritual Orphan

Oct 01, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  John 14:18

     But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Gal. 4:4-7

     Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for everything you’ve done to make our relationship with God one of perpetual favor and filial affection. However, there are still stretches when I begin to think, feel, and act as though I’m a spiritual orphan—as though I don’t really have a heavenly Father who loves me deeply and is involved in every detail of my life.

     When I get sucked back into this downward spiral, my spirit shrinks and my fears enlarge. My peace says, “Bye-bye,” and my control issues say, “We’re back.” I get defensive and I go on the offensive. In short, I’m no fun to be around. Instead of the life-giving aroma of the gospel, I start exuding the stale smell of unbelief

     Jesus, I come to you now, preventively. Circumstances of late could “grease the track” towards my falling into one of those downward cycles of Abba-less thinking. So I choose to preach the gospel to my heart right now.  You are my comprehensive forgiveness and my perfect righteousness; and you haven’t left me as an orphan. You came to us, your beloved friends, through the gift of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Adoption—the very Spirit by which we now cry, “Abba, Father.” You never have and never will abandon us.

     Instead, I abandon myself to you and to the resources of the gospel. You are working in all things, for my good and your glory. Nothing, and no one, can separate me from your love. As one hour gives way to the next, may the beauty and power of the gospel override the ugly and lethargy of unbelief. So very Amen I pray, in your compassionate and triumphant name.

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A Prayer for Grace to Accept Change

Sep 30, 2014 | Scotty Smith

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Heb. 13:8

     Dear Jesus, change is hard. I love to come home to the normal and known, predictable, and user-friendly—like one of my old, broken-in pairs of Birkenstocks. Grant me grace to accept change, because there’s so much change going on everywhere I look.

     Another new grave of an old friend; a field of wildflowers and grazing cows, bulldozed for 400 new homes; the coffee shop which served awesome java, rich conversation, and an ambiance of welcome was razed to become a huge concrete complex. I don’t like it, Jesus. Change is disruptive. Precious things don’t become vintage things overnight.

     How thankful we are that there’s one part of our lives that will never change, and that’s you, Jesus. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. That certainly doesn’t make you predictable, and even less so manageable. But it does mean that we can trust you without any reservations whatsoever.

     You are the one who puts change into perspective. Change has no sovereignty. Only you are Lord. Nothing is random in this world. Nothing catches you off guard. The scary becomes the sacred when we’re wearing the lens of the gospel.

     The most fundamental change we need is to become like you, Jesus, and that process is the most disruptive and painful change we will ever go through—but the most important of all changes. Yet with the knowledge that one Day we’ll be as lovely and as loving as you, we gladly surrender to the work of the gospel in our lives.

     Jesus, help each of us see and accept change as part of a far better story than we could ever write. You are making all things new, right now—right before our very eyes, if we have eyes to see and a heart to accept. Because of your life, death, and resurrection, we’re destined for a place, family, and eternity in which everything will be the way it’s supposed to be, forever. Hasten that magnificent Day.

     Until then, Jesus, may we love you with abandon, trust you with gladness, and serve you with passion. So very Amen we pray, in your merciful and matchless name.

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A Prayer for Owning and Grieving a Critical Spirit

Sep 29, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matt. 7:1-2) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor. 13:4-6) Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

     Dear Lord Jesus, I should’ve seen it coming. Just when I was starting to feel pretty self-righteous about not being self-righteous, the serial killer inside of me woke up. My irritability factor went from 3 to an 8, on a scale of 1 to 10. Once again, I slipped into a self-appointed role of Olympic judge with scorecards in hand, and I haven’t given out any 10′s. Why is it easier some times, to catch people doing the wrong thing, rather than affirming the many right things they do?

     God, have mercy on me, the sinner. I really mean that, Jesus. You have exhausted God’s judgment against all my sins upon the cross—the 4 percent I am aware of, and the other 96 percent I am oblivious to as well. Who am I to judge your servants—your beloved? To you they answer, not to me. Jesus, you’ve called me to love others as you love me, not judge others with the judgment that has been entrusted to you alone.

     Soften my heart today, Holy Spirit. Gentle my heart with your love, heavenly Father. Tenderize my heart with your grace, Lord Jesus. Indeed, it will take the whole Trinity to change someone like me.

     Bring the resources of the gospel to bear upon my grumpy heart. Bring the power of resurrection to bear upon my untamed tongue. Bring the hope of the new heaven and new earth to bear upon impatient attitude. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ powerful name, with gratitude and expectancy.

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A Prayer for Resting in the Father’s Love

Sep 28, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ ”But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24

     Dear heavenly Father, though this story of irrepressible love is familiar, it never will get old. It shocks our unbelieving hearts, ignites the longings you’ve written into our DNA, and fuels our worship on this very Lord’s Day.

     This is the way you want to be known. This is the way you love us in Jesus. This is the way you greet us this very day. May our services of worship celebrate this ongoing story of our great brokenness, and your much greater compassion.

     So we get us and come to you, Father. We come to worship you from the far away lands of our unrighteousness, and from the nearby precincts of our self-righteousness. We own and grieve the many ways we try to make our lives work on our terms, rather than by your grace.

     And as we come, we see you running towards us in the gospel—not with a look of disgust, but with a face of delight; not with a furrowed brow of shame, but with open arms of welcome; not with a list of new rules, but with a robe and a ring.

     We declare our unworthiness, and you declare us worthy in your Son. We want to move into the barn of our penance, and you want us on the dance floor of your mercy. We come to make our promises, and you lavish us with your kisses. Hallelujah, so many times over!

     Father, on this glorious Lord’s Day, we worship and adore you, for so great a salvation and so great a Savior. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Humbling Ourselves without the “Buts”

Sep 27, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Ps. 51:1-2

     Dear heavenly Father, this Scripture is both so encouraging and quite convicting. Few things are as attractive as genuine humility. It’s like a five-course meal in a five-star bistro. When someone offers a contrite heart, takes responsibility for their failure, acknowledges the impact of their choice, asks to be forgiven, and seeks to make restitution—there’s no restaurant on the face of the earth that can offer up more exquisite cuisine.

     Yet, Lord, when it comes to asking for forgiveness, too often I’m like short-order cook in a fast-food drive through. I hear myself saying things like, “I’m sorry, but you took what I said all wrong.” “I’m sorry, but if you weren’t so sensitive, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.” “I’m sorry, but if you understood what my last couple of weeks were like, you’d cut me some slack.” “I’m sorry, but if you know what kind of home I grew up in you’d realize I didn’t get the ‘relationship chip.’”

     Father, as I pore over your Word, I don’t see a single place where the phrase “I’m sorry, but” is celebrated as the vocabulary of genuine humility. Have mercy on me, indeed. May your unfailing love and great compassion free me from all “I’m sorry, buts.”

     Instead, I want to offer many more of these: “Will you forgive me?” “I can see I really hurt you. What do you need from me?” “Tell me more about how my words and actions made you feel.” “I’m genuinely sorry and I offer no qualifiers, just a sincere apology.”

     Father, you have had mercy on me according to your steadfast love. I know that in Jesus, all of my sins have already been blotted out and forgiven—past, present, and future; sins of thought, word, and deed. May this glorious gospel make it increasingly easier for me to humble myself and ask forgiveness of those I fail and hurt, and difficult to remain proud and unbroken. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Hearing God’s Voice in Creation

Sep 26, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Ps. 19:1-3

     Dear heavenly Father, as I begin my day, the summer heat and humidity have been ushered off the calendar by 50ish degree early mornings. Soon you will begin to paint our trees and hills, with the kaleidoscopic beauty of Fall.

     Slow me down, Father. Slow me down in the coming days to savor nature’s declaration of your glory. I’ve been way too busy this summer, and I don’t want to waste the upcoming Fall. Tune my ears to hear what you want to show me about yourself through the things you have made.

     The pouring forth of nature-speak is endless, wondrous, and sumptuous—a visual, auditory, aromatic smorgasbord of delights. How can anyone with any degree of sensual awareness ponder creation and not worship you, the Creator of all things?

     Father, you created the sonic dessert of waves crashing on the shoreline and the mesmerizing sparkle in my grandson’s eyes. It was you who designed the Swiss Alps—delectable and irrepressible in their power, to draw forth awe from my soul. You hand paint every “Brookie”, Brown, and Rainbow Trout in the world, and you decorate our fowl friends with your along feather artistry.

     You’re responsible for the permanent smile on the face of dolphin, the crunch in toffee, and the aroma in coffee. You gave the gift of melody to The Beatles and the gift of symphony to Beethoven. You are the envy of every artist who studies sunrises and sunsets, some of your best and most daily work.

     Topping everything you have done to reveal the good, true, and beautiful, it was you, Father, who gave Jesus for us. Not content just to be a magnificent Creator, you choose to be a merciful Redeemer. O, how we praise you, O, how we praise you! Indeed, slow us way down this Fall; slow us way down. May we hear you speaking louder than ever to us, in the things you have made and in the One you have given.  So very Amen we pray, in Jesus mighty and merciful name.

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A Prayer of Thanksgiving, Encouragement, and Hope

Sep 25, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Eph. 1:13-14

     Dear heavenly Father, sometimes reading Paul’s letters is like standing in front of a gushing fire hydrant, or under a cascading waterfall. It’s hard to stand up to the rush of so much glory and grace. It’s simply overwhelming.

     For instance, as I read through Ephesians I’m “blasted” with being known and loved before the foundation of the world; chosen in Christ and called in life in him; being justified by faith and declared righteous by faith; and being adopted by Abba, Father, betrothed to Jesus, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. I have a completely forgiven past and a present standing in grace.

     But what really encourages me today is knowing that all of this is guaranteed. You’ve “sealed the deal” by the Holy Spirit. You’ve guaranteed our inheritance in Christ. You’ve given us the down payment, the firstfruits, the promise of a future beyond our wildest dreams and asking. I praise you for being so outrageously generous with us, Father.

     There’s no possibility of “bait and switch” or “revoking the warranty.” There’s no factory recalls, no fine print or doublespeak, no possibility of bankruptcy or legal maneuverings. Nothing will sabotage your bringing to completion of the good work you’ve begun in us, and in your entire cosmos. The peace and hope this assurance brings is liberating and transforming.

     Father, rip and grip, fill and free our hearts with this gospel of your grace. Focus us for living to the praise of your glorious grace the rest of our lives. What else is there? What else could we possibly want to do with our now, and forever? So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ glorious and worthy name.

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A Prayer for Rejoicing in God’s Forgetfulness

Sep 24, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. Heb. 10:17-18

     Dear heavenly Father, what a mind-centering, heart-encouraging, soul-liberating joy it is to begin this day by remembering your forgetfulness. You promise never again to remember our sins against us. You will never deal with us according to our sins or reward us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:10), for on the cross, you dealt with Jesus according to our sins and rewarded him according to our iniquities on the cross.

     But that’s not all, gracious Father. Because the gospel is true, you now deal with us according to Jesus’ righteousness and reward us according to his perfect obedience. We are fully and eternally accepted in Jesus. What an exchange. What a salvation. What a God. No sacrifice for our sins remains to be offered. You are fully satisfied with Jesus’ work on our behalf. It’s not cliché; it’s revolutionary to be able to affirm, “Jesus paid it all.”

     Our hope, joy and peace are summarized perfectly in this bold affirmation from the Heidelberg Catechism:

Question: How are you right with God?

Answer: Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart. (Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 60)

     Father, thank you for such a legal, lavish, life-giving salvation. Rescue us in those delusional moments when we forget your forgetfulness, when we act as though Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins wasn’t enough, when we think there is something more we can do to gain your acceptance and enjoy your favor. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ great and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Resting in the Sovereignty of God

Sep 23, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? Rom. 9:20-21

     Gracious Father, this morning I’m pondering the mystery and mercy of your sovereignty, especially as I consider everything you did to redeem rebels and broken people like me. The cross was no accident. It was you who handed over Jesus to wicked men, who put him to death by nailing him to the cross, all according to your set purpose and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23-24).

     Indeed, Jesus’ death for us on the cross was no accident, after-thought, plan B, or redeeming of a good story gone kaput. The comfort and peace I enjoy from this supreme demonstration of your sovereignty is immeasurable.

     Indeed, no one could’ve put Jesus on the cross apart from his will, and though his own disciples tried, no one could have kept him from the cross. Because of forthcoming joy, Jesus endured the cross for us—scorning its shame and exhausting our guilt (Heb. 12:1-3). I praise you for your incomparable gift.

     So Father, as I celebrate and find comfort in your sovereignty seen in Jesus’ cross, why should I struggle with it anywhere else? Why am I even tempted to reverse roles, and make me the potter and treat you like malleable clay? Why would I ever prefer a Play-Doh or Gumby God, instead of a sovereign Father?

     I have no problem with you setting up and sitting down presidents, premiers, and potentates. But when it comes to things that are limiting, inconvenient, or a contradiction of my sensibilities, I sometimes question your goodness—a clear display of my foolishness.

     Father, give me joy in simply being gospel pottery. You’ve placed the incredible treasure of Jesus in this jar of clay to prove your all-surpassing power in making all things new. You truly do all things well—even when you don’t do all things easy. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ most grace-full and sovereign name.

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A Prayer for Days When Fleeing to Tarshish Looks Pretty Good

Sep 22, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LordJonah 1:1-3

     Dear Lord Jesus, this is one of those days when fleeing to Tarshish looks inviting. If I could offer you selective obedience, there’d be no problem; but the gospel is sending me to places and stories I’d rather not visit.

     I get Jonah’s struggle, but more importantly, you get mine. No one wrestled with doing the will of God more than you. No one’s been more honest about the price of obedience. But you were thinking about the great needs of others; I’m thinking about me, and how much I want a hassle-free, mess-free, conflict-free life.

     This is why it’s so easy for me to come to you today without editing my feelings, repackaging my angst, or spinning my thoughts; because I’m one of those people you were thinking about as you prepared to go to the cross. As you cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing,” you had me in view. As you crushed the head of the serpent, you had me in mind. As you were raised from the dead, you had me in your heart. When you spoke the words to Mary, “Don’t be afraid,” it wasn’t just for her benefit, but for mine as well. I praise and bless you.

     Just talking to you this morning, I’m feeling better. It’s not that all of a sudden I now want to go to “Nineveh.” But I am feeling a little less inclined to break in line at the ticket counter to pay my fare to Tarshish. Thank you for being so welcoming, patient, and understanding.

     You paid our fare for a life in the new heaven and new earth, and you’ll walk with us every step of the way until that Day. Even as I’m not thrilled about my current and future assignments to “Nineveh”, to know that you are with us and for us is enough. Surprise me with the power of the gospel. Turn my resigned heart into a rejoicing heart. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and loving name.

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