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A Prayer for Giving Thanks for the Gift of Good Friends

Jul 05, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. Philem. 1:7

     Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Eccles. 4:9-12

     Heavenly Father, I cannot imagine how storms can be navigated, burdens borne, and hardships handled without the company of a few good friends. I praise you today for the gift of friendship—for the joy, encouragement, and refreshment you give me through my friends.

     When we walk through difficult seasons we’re sometimes inclined to think, “No one can possibly understand what I’m going through; no one can begin to relate to my feelings and confusion; no one’s a mess like me.” Those are the times when it’s easy to withdraw into isolation, fall into the pit of condemnation, and reach for some ill-chosen medication. That’s when the gift of non-posing, always-real, burden-bearing friends becomes especially precious.

     Father, I praise you for the gift of hearing my friends say these two words: “Me too.” I praise you for brothers and sisters who know how to “refresh the hearts of the saints”—including this saint. I praise you for friends who remind me of the truth and power of the gospel, and of the irrepressible love of Jesus, and of the bigger story you are always writing.

     I praise you for friends who share their lives and not just their gospel. I praise you for friends who offer tears and not just their answers. I praise you for friends who give life-giving wisdom and not just mess-fixing formulas.

     Such a “gospel posse” turns my heart heavenward. They constantly remind me that the foundation and fountain of all good friendship is found in Jesus. We cannot hear Jesus say too often, “I no longer call you servants; I call you friends” (John 15:15). Astonishing. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Hallelujah, many times over. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name. 

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Living As God’s Servants in Whatever Nation He Places Us: Praying Scriptures about Our Citizenship

Jul 04, 2015 | Scotty Smith

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jer. 29:7 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, though you gave this instruction to your people telling them how to conduct themselves during the Babylonian exile, living in our country increasingly has the feel of an exile. This shouldn’t surprise us, for indeed, you have called us to live as gospel-sojourners—as resident aliens, longing for our future life in the new heaven and new earth.

     So help us to live and love to your glory in our country. Instead of being cynics, may we be servants and intercessors; instead of withdrawing out of disgust, may we be engaged with hope and kindness; instead of seeking judgment on our nation, may we seek its peace and prosperity.

 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Pet. 2:17 (ESV)

      Show us how to honor our “emperor,” and others in authority, when it’s very hard to do. Our confidence is in the One who sits on the throne of heaven, not the one who sits in the biggest seat in the Oval Office, on in any other seat of authority. It still boggles my mind that Nero was emperor when Peter wrote these words.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Phil. 3:20 (NIV)

     Father, herein lies our peace and joy, freedom and hope. Our truest, most defining and binding citizenship is in heaven. As we seek to obey human authorities as your delegated servants, so we will gladly obey you above all men. Give us strength for the days when that obedience will be necessary and costly.

     As Jesus’ kingdom has already arrived through his resurrection, so one Day it will come in fullness. We eagerly await Jesus’ return, for on that Day defeated evil will be eradicated evil; everything sad will come untrue and all things broken will become all things new; the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15).  Hallelujah! So very Amen we pray, with hope and joy, in Jesus’ name.

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When Tempted to Whine More Than Worship: Praying through Psalm 103:1-4

Jul 03, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—

     Dear heavenly Father, King David captures the desire of my heart—which is to love, praise, and bless you, with everything I have and am. If you never gave me anything, you would still be worthy of my whole-soul worship. But in fact, you have been outrageously generous. Here are a few of your grace-gifts I remember today.
who forgives all your sins

     Hallelujah! Through the finished work of Jesus, you have forgiven all of my sins, and will never hold me guilty for them again. Not just the 4% of my sins I’m aware of, but you have forgiven the other 96% as well—all the ways I fail to love you as you deserve, with my thoughts, words, and choices.

and heals all your diseases,

     Father, though you don’t always heal on our timetable, nonetheless, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have guaranteed us perfect health forever. One Day, every expression of our brokenness will give way to the fullness of Jesus’ beauty. All the ways sin and death have impacted our bodies, emotions, and thinking—it’s all going to be healed and made new. Hallelujah!

who redeems your life from the pit

     You are a great and gracious Redeemer, Father. Not only have you redeemed us from the ultimate pit of death and judgment; you also rescue us out of other kinds of pits—pits we naively fall into, pits we get pushed into, and pits into which we foolishly jump: Waterless pits like self-pity and self-righteousness; seething bitterness and soul-sucking resentment; toxic shame and vain regrets; the deep hole of hopelessness and the dark dry prison of unbelief. Continue your rescue mission in our lives, and in the lives of those we love.

and crowns you with love and compassion,
     Indeed, Father, in Jesus you have removed our grave-clothes of death and have dressed us in garments of your grace. We are no longer condemned for our sins; we are crowed with your compassion. We are righteous in Christ—beloved and delighted in; desired and enjoyed. You cannot love us more and you’ll never love us less. Hallelujah! So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

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Revealing the Life of Jesus through Our Limits and Weakness: Praying through 2 Cor. 4:7-10

Jul 02, 2015 | Scotty Smith

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

     Dear Lord Jesus, to have you plus nothing, makes me as rich as anybody in the history of the universe. To have you plus everything wouldn’t make me any richer than he who has you alone. You are the treasure all other currencies mimic and counterfeit. Nothing compares to the excellency of being loved by you and knowing you.

     You inhabit my weakness like an original Rembrandt painting in a picture frame of straw; or like the Hope Diamond mounted in a necklace of tin foil and Scotch Tape. You get all the attention and honor, and I get the supreme privilege of simply being used of you. Just as it should be, and just as I want it to be.

8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

     Unlike Paul, I haven’t been in a season of persecution, but I totally relate to his images of being hard pressed and perplexed, and I’ll throw in frazzled, head-spinning busy, and primed for Sabbath rest, renewal, and refreshment. The stories, demands, and emotional expenditure of these past six weeks have taxed my limits and driven me to you—which is a good thing. In all of it, I’ve been keenly aware of your presence, shocked at the strength you’ve given me, and thankful for what I see you doing.

10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

     Jesus, I am fine—actually happy to do life accepting my limits and boasting in my weaknesses, as long as your life is revealed in me and through me. I don’t feel the need to be as competent as many of my gifted friends; but I do want to finish my life as a conduit of your beauty and love, mercy and grace. So very Amen I pray, in your tender and triumphant name.

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A Prayer for Rejoicing in Christ’s Righteousness

Jul 01, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. Isaiah 61:10-11(ESV)

     Dear heavenly Father, as my day begins, Isaiah’s words compel me to rejoice in two glorious expressions of your righteousness. I praise, bless, and adore you for clothing me in the righteousness of Christ. My hope is built on nothing less, more, or other than Jesus’ shed blood and perfect righteousness. Apart from Jesus, my works are as filthy rags, in terms of earning of gaining and maintaining a relationship with you. But trusting in Jesus’ work, my filthy rags have been exchanged for a grace-tailored wedding garment. Hallelujah, many times over!

     And Father, I’m also exceedingly thankful today for the righteousness that will be manifest on earth, when you send Jesus back. As surely as Jesus’ kingdom has already come, it is coming in fullness. O how I long for the Day when the entire earth will be as a giant garden of grace—filled with the knowledge of your glory and the beauty of your heart.

     No more inequity or disparity; no more death or dying; no more racism or any other “ism” that contradicts the gospel; no more burning churches or broken relationships; no more knowing in part or loving in part. No more violation of your will or persecution of your children; no more chronic illness, just perfect wellness; no more funerals, just one Big Wedding. Hasten that Day, Lord; hasten it. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name. 

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Coming to Jesus for the Rest We Crave: Praying through Matthew 11:28-30

Jun 30, 2015 | Scotty Smith

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

     Dear Lord Jesus, I’ve always loved this invitation, but sometimes I’m desperate for it, and this is one of those little “stretches.” I feel like I’ve got seven balls to juggle but I’m only a three-ball juggler. I praise, bless, and adore you for the promise of rest in the middle of the “much-ness” and the “manyness.”

   Sometimes I take too much on myself, and nobody’s to blame for that but me. But other times, like this one, there’s a convergence of important stuff that demands more energy, mental focus, and time than I have. So today, I readily and gladly cry, “Help!” Grant me rest in the middle of a 24-hour day with 72 hours of demands.

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,

     Jesus, thank you for not giving me a lecture on time management, but your gentle and humble heart, and your yoke of grace. Reading through the gospels, I don’t ever remember encountering a busy, frustrated, irritated, rushed spirit in you. You always spent time with your Father, and you always accomplished his will. May it be the same for me.

and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

     So, I fully expect your Holy Spirit to give me rest well before my to-do list becomes a now-done list. Yoked to you, I trust you for a palpable sense of your presence and a keen sense of priorities. Lead me through this stretch at the pace of grace. Help me to do what I do today with wisdom and kindness, and for your glory. In fact, may my to-love list stay much more my priority than my to-do list. So very Amen I pray, in your loving and powerful name.

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Setting Our Hearts for the Day: Praying through Philippians 4:4-9

Jun 29, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 

     Dear Lord Jesus, I have more than ample reasons to rejoice in you as this day begins (and continues). My life in hidden in yours, and your life in me is my hope of glory. You are my perfect righteousness and my constant Advocate, my sovereign Lord and loving Spouse.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 

      Because of your relationship with me and who I am in you, I can risk being gentle in relationships in which I might otherwise feel the instinct to be rigid or the need to be in control. I’m not alone to fin for myself. You are so near—both in terms of proximity and your return. And by the way, I’ve never longed more for  your return!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

     “Do not be anxious about anything“… Jesus, I’m so glad that everything you command you resource with sufficient grace, so I cast my cares on you and bring these anxieties to your throne of grace.  With palms up, I give you the people I’d love to fix; the storylines I’d love to finish; the culture wars I’d love to win; the heartaches I’d love to heal; and the circumstances I’d love to alter.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

     Jesus, thank you for the promise of setting your peace as a garrison for my heart and mind. I gladly enter “Fort Peace.” Double bolt the door!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

     Jesus, you are the truest, most noble, right, pure, lovely and praiseworthy reality I can think imagine, so I set my gaze and affection on you—O blessed author and perfecter of my faith. Take my thoughts to think with your mind; overflow my heart with your beauty and compassion; free my hands and feet to serve as your bidding. So very Amen I pray, in your tender and triumphant name.   

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A Prayer for Closure, Peace, and Thanksgiving

Jun 28, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making all things new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev. 21:3-5 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, today is a day of redemptive déjà vu. Though it took me nearly forty years to make it back to my mom’s grave after her death, that visit proved to be the portal of major heart surgery and liberation for me. A backlog of tears broke like a dam; my relational style of self-protection began to crumble, and your grace commenced dismantling the idols of my heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus.

Ten years later, we laid dad’s body to rest next to mom’s; but during that decade dad and I were able finally able to grieve our shared loss and connect with our hearts. He was 81 and I was 50. Though Alzheimer’s finally robbed dad’s memory of my face and name, it couldn’t steal the gift you gave us. Again, I bless you Jesus, for the power of the gospel to do way beyond all we can ask or imagine.

And today, I’ll make another trip back to that rich plot of earth that holds so much of my heart and story. Today we plant Ruth’s body, my stepmom, into that same little garden of grace—within a few feet of mom and dad. How could I have ever anticipated this chapter in my story? How can I possibly put a value on such grace, love, and kindness? Your name, Jesus, is most definitely Redeemer, and you are, indeed, a most wonderful and merciful Savior. I never could have asked for a better stepmom, and, a 1000 times over, I never could have hoped for a better gospel.

O for the Day of wiped tears and redeemed stories! O for the Day of no more death, mourning, dying, or pain! O for the Day of all things new! So very Amen I pray, in your great and grace-full name.

 

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A Prayer for Trusting, Resting, and Rejoicing in the God of Hope

Jun 27, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom. 15:13 (NIV)

   Dear heavenly Father, meditating on this verse today is like standing under a gentle, steady shower of grace, after near drought-like conditions; or like waking up on a cool, crisp, morning in the mountains of Colorado after a month of high-humidity breath-sucking heat; or like a panoramic train ride through Switzerland, in which every scene seems to top the last. Such is the wonder of your Word, the sweetness of the gospel, and the power of hope.

   Nothing or no one really has to change for your Spirit to bring us hope in the depths of our hearts, the messiness of our stories, and angst of our circumstances. Whether it’s a Supreme Court ruling or the poor choices of good friends, the cancelling of a flight or the loss of a favorite thing, the vacation that didn’t happen or the replacement of the air conditioner that had to happen, the cancer that came back or the prodigal that hasn’t yet… you are still God, still in control, and we have more than sufficient reasons to have hope—even overflow with hope.

   You gave Jesus to us and for us. Everything that needed to be finished, when he was in this world, has been; and everything he’s yet to complete will be brought to a glorious, much-more-than-satisfying conclusion. We don’t have to like your sense of timing, but we cannot help but love and adore your Son. May your peace rule in our hearts as we wait for the sure-and-certain fulfillment of our hope. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

   

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A Prayer for Owning Our Weakness and Resting in the Spirit’s Intercession

Jun 26, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Rom. 8:26-28 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m so grateful for this passage, and all the encouragement, freedom, and hope it offers. I have zero difficulty acknowledging my weakness this morning. For the past month, I feel like I’ve been swimming in a turbulent ocean of hungry sea creatures. Shoulder surgery and physical therapy, friends in crisis and churches in distress, family illnesses and yesterday my stepmom graduated into your presence. I’m worn out, Father, loved, but nearly running on empty.

     It’s heartening (and life-giving) to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak, but he helps us in our weakness—faithfully praying inside of us with “wordless groans.” Though I don’t understand everything that means, I love the fact, Father, that you search our hearts and you know the mind of the Spirit.

     No one knows our hearts better than you, Father—the good and bad, broken and beautiful. You search our hearts to save us, not to shame us; to deliver us, not to demean us; to change us, not chide us. You know my dignity and my depravity, my fears and my longings, my struggles with sin and my standing in Christ.

     And at this very moment your Spirit is praying inside of me, perfectly tuned in to my needs and in total harmony with your will. I cannot measure the peace that brings. I gladly groan to your glory. I know you are at work for my good in all things, including this turbulent season. You have called me to life in Christ, and you will complete your purpose in me. I do love you; Father, and I would love you much more. So very Amen I pray, resting in Jesus’ righteousness and reign.

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