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A Prayer for Knowing the Full Extent of Jesus’ Love

May 14, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Having loved his own who were in the world, he [Jesus] now showed them the full extent of his love.  John 13:1 (NIV 1984)

     Dear Lord Jesus, I often return to the scene from which this verse is taken, for it’s homeroom for my heart—the place I go to settle and center my restless soul. It’s the night of your betrayal—the night you would be denied and abandoned, not just by Peter, but also by every disciple. You knew the full extent of their weakness, so you showed them the full extent of your love. Washing their feet was a prelude to washing their hearts. Water sufficed for the first, your lifeblood was required for the second.

     This is how you love each of us, Jesus—how you love me. Absolutely nothing can separate us from your love, or impact the way you love us. You don’t love us more when we “get it right”, and you don’t love us less when we fail you. That doesn’t mean you’re indifferent; it means you’re our Savior, the one who remains committed to showing us the full extent of your love—how wide, long, high and deep it really is (Eph. 3:18-19).

     Only your love, Jesus, can free and change me. Only your love is better than life. Only your love is enough. In my most gospel-sane moments, I know this to be true—my truest truth. Nobody or nothing has to change for me to be at peace and joyful. Continue to rescue me from thinking otherwise. Forgive me for plugging my happy-meter into what people think of me, or how easy or difficult life is, or how much or how little money I have, or how in control or not I am of my circumstances, or anything beyond you.

     Jesus, you are my loving Master, not my private masseur. Forgive me when I forget the first and start demanding the second. By the gospel keep washing me, Jesus—bathe me in grace every hour of every day. You are already my perfect righteousness; I long for the Day when I will be made perfect in love (1 John 3:1-3). So very Amen I pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

     

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A Prayer for Seeing Jesus in Painful Moments and Seasons of Life

May 13, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ”Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55-56 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, this vignette from Stephen’s life underscores your tender and tenacious engagement, no matter what we are going through. Just before he was stoned for proclaiming your glory and grace, Stephen saw you standing at the Father’s right hand—rising for the occasion of his greatest need. Indeed, Jesus, you are our Good Shepherd, faithfully caring for us, your lambs, even from heaven.

     Though few of us will be stoned to death as your martyrs, all of us are called to love and serve you in painful chapters and crises of life. Jesus, we too need to see you standing at the Father’s right hand for us. In particular, I’m thinking of friends facing difficult seasons in their lives, for which a fresh and clear sighting of you, Jesus, is greatly needed, and would be overwhelmingly appreciated.

     For friends wearing the label “terminal illness”, grant them a profound and palatable sense of your presence, Jesus. Because the gospel is true, “terminal” is really “transitional”, for we have already passed from death to life, and from judgment for our sin to favor with our God. Hallelujah, so many times over.

     For couples in seasons of marital mess, that feels very much like death, Jesus—Lord of resurrection and hope, merciful and mighty Savior, I ask you to do exceedingly beyond all we can ask or imagine. Rise for the occasion with healing in your wings and grace in your hands. Humble one, then both spouses. Restore the joy of your salvation and then the tenderness to their marriages.

     For friends in church conflicts—Oh, how Satan hates your Bride, Jesus… I pray you will be unavoidably large and beautiful. You are the issue, Jesus, whatever other issues may be on the table, or under the table. May leaders prove to be chief repenters, and may the gospel been 100 times more in play than gossip. May guarding the peace and purity of your Bride take precedent over spinning and winning. So very Amen I pray, in your glorious and grace-full name. 

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 A Prayer for Knowing God’s Goodness and Nearness in the Storm

May 12, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you. Isaiah 43:1-5 (ESV)

     Dear heavenly Father, your Word is solace for the sad and ballast for the bewildered, a firm rock for the freshly rocked, and bread from heaven for the hungry on earth. This isn’t theory, the wisdom of sages, or just true and good theology. It’s our reality, and we praise you. You’ve made promises you alone can keep, and you do not lie. No god is as near or good, merciful or mighty as you—no matter the storm or season.

     As you have spoken clearly through Isaiah, you created us and are redeeming us, all for your glory. You summoned us by name, calling us to life in the gospel. You gave us a new name—“Mine”. There’s no sweeter, more perspective-giving or peace-generating name you could call us. You never promised we wouldn’t experience floods and torrents, fires and flames. But you have promised to be with us. To know your great affection for us, and your absolute sovereignty over everything is enough, Father.    

     Indeed, we know ourselves to be precious, honored and greatly loved, because you gave Jesus in exchange for us. Though he was rich, yet for our sakes, he became poor, so that through his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). We praise you for the indescribable gift of the gospel (2 Cor. 9:13).

     And since you didn’t spare your own Son, certainly we can trust you graciously to give us everything else we need (Rom. 8:32)—in current storms and future fires. We don’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone. You are with us and you are for us. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ great and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Relating to Full-time Weaker Brothers and Gospel Epicureans

May 11, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:1-4 (NIV)

     Jesus, the more I travel the more I realize just how diverse the Body of Christ is. We see many things quite differently, sometimes to the point of critical attitudes and painful separation from one another. So I find great comfort in the last affirmation of this text morning. We will stand on the Day of Judgment, not in our “rightness” but in your righteousness. You will cause us to stand, and for this we will praise you eternally. The good work of the gospel will come to a perfect completion in each of us (Phil. 1:6). Hallelujah!

     But until then, it’s often complicated. I have a fresh appreciation of the challenges Paul faced in serving the multi-cultural, poly-perspective, socially complex, theologically diverse churches of Rome. The continuum of “weak faith” and “strong faith” has never seem broader to me, and the conflicts between “meat eaters” and “non-meat eaters” are increasing.

     Jesus, help us recognize the difference between disputable and indisputable matters. What is clear in the Scriptures, and what is not? The line often gets challenged, blurred or changed. I certainly realize your faithful servants will disagree about many issues until your second coming. But give us fresh humility to tremble at your Word, as the court and garden in which we will have these very important discussions. Help us steward our scruples with kindness and mutual respect.

     Jesus, give us wisdom and grace for relating to those who seem to relish the role of “vocational weaker-broker”—faultfinders, conspiracy-hunters, liberty-smashers and self-appointed prosecuting attorneys in the Body of Christ. Help me know how to love them. More often, I just want to avoid and run from them.

     And give us wisdom and courage for engaging friends who have turned Christian liberty into epicurean fantasies—“Eat, drink, and be merry, for we have a big gospel!” Having escaped legalism they now feel free to indulge, even over indulge in many things once considered taboo. I’m tempted to join them, Jesus, but show me… show all of us, what real gospel-freedom looks like. You are our loving Master, not our social masseur. Help us to do all things to your glory with your joy. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and healing name.

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A Prayer for Rejoicing in the Riches and Power of the Gospel

May 10, 2015 | Scotty Smith

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Rom. 1:16 (ESV)

When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Cor. 9:16 (NIV)

The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. Col. 1:6 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, I woke up today incredibly thankful, peaceful, and joyful for the gospel. That’s the way I’d love to begin every day. I bless you for the privilege of hearing the gospel, believing the gospel, and sharing the gospel. For the gospel meets our deepest need and fulfills our oldest longings. And it’s all of grace—from beginning to end. We contribute nothing but our sin, brokenness, and thirst. Jesus has done for us what we could never do for ourselves—fulfill the law demands and exhaust the law’s judgment.

     May I never be able to speak about what Jesus has done for us without my knees buckling, my heart dancing, and my worship igniting. The truth of the gospel is “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; (it is) sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.”

     Father, I’m especially grateful for the power of the gospel today. No only has the power of the gospel raised me from the dead, but it’s continuing to remove deadness from my heart. Indeed, Abba, since it’s for freedom that you have set me free in Christ, I want to be free in every way. I want to be freer to overlook offenses and forgive trespasses; quicker to bless and slower to judge; more generous with listening and more miserly with complaining; faster in my repentance and slower in my excuse making.

     Father, I want to live the rest of my days as humble and gentle, passionate and generous, and as focused and free as the gospel will make me. I hoist the sails of my heart to the breath of your Spirit. Take me and make of me what you would, Father. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus exalted and loving name. 

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A Prayer for Praising God for Rescuing Us from Various Pits

May 09, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, your beauty is beyond compare; your love is better than life; your faithfulness is without question; your grace is without limits; and your mercies are new every single day. We praise, bless, and adore you. There is no god like you; there is no God but you.

     We rejoice in your pit-rescuing goodness today. Father, I don’t know what “pit of despair” King David was writing about in this Psalm, but I can name a great number of “pits” from which you have been faithful to rescue us, and others for which we now trust you for rescue.

     We worship you for plucking us out of the pit of graceless religion and gospel-less spirituality. Father, thank you, thank you, thank you for opening the eyes of our hearts to see the greatness of our need and your even greater provision for us in Jesus. There is no life apart from Christ and no hope without the gospel of your grace. That we are now in Christ means we will one Day be out of every conceivable pit.

     We trust you to rescue us from pits we’ve been pushed into, fallen into, and those we’ve jumped into. Father, rescue us from the pits of self-pity and vain-regrets. You have forgiven our past. There’s no need to beat ourselves up with “if-only’s”. Rescue us from the pits of unforgiveness and bitterness—perhaps the most daily and deadly of pits. You can be trusted with our pain and with putting things right—in your time and in your way.

     Father, rescue us from the pits of hopelessness and melancholy. A vacant cross and empty tomb are all the evidence we need that you can be trusted—no matter our story, no matter the issues, no matter the mess. From these, and every other “pit”, we wait upon you for rescue. So very Amen we Pray, in Jesus’ bold and beautiful name.

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A Prayer for Recognizing When We Turn A Good Desire into a Now Need

May 08, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. 1 John 5:21 (NLT)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 1 Cor. 10:14 (ESV)

My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways. Prov. 23:26 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, the battle for our hearts is nonstop, and this war will continue until the Day you perfect your salvation in us. What encourages me the most is your relentless pursuit of more of our hearts. You want us, you delight in us, and you enjoy us. A big Hallelujah to all of that!

     Through the gospel, you’ve already taken away our stony hearts and have given us a new heart; and you’ve written your law upon our hearts and placed your Spirit there (Ezek. 36:26). As though that’s not enough, you’ve also forgiven every sin of our hearts and have declared our hearts to be guiltless and righteous in your sight. This is all truly astonishing, and truly true. So what does heart-idolatry look like is this season of my life? What vies for your place in my heart? Heart-warfare is subtler than it used to be.

     Father, I don’t find myself sucker-punched by the craving and quest for more and newer material things, more power and authority, or more acclaim and applause by the world. Rather, the battle for my heart centers more on my turning legitimate desires into un-promised goals. Whenever I make a good desire a central need, I’m in trouble. What does this look like? Father, hear my confession, as I give you my heart.

      Father, I want to live in a world (now) of no relational tensions and no emotional conflicts, no angry words and no sarcastic body language, no misunderstandings or need for clarifications, no unforgiveness and no un-reconciled relationships, no nursing grudges or hoarding bitterness, no withholding grace or throwing threat grenades, no pouting and no withdrawing, no pretending and no gamesmanship, no imputing motives or believing the worse, no gossip, just gospel.  

     Father, that Day is coming, and it’s called life in the new heaven and new earth. Until that Day, help me to live and love to your glory, period. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ big and beautiful name. 

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A Prayer for Wisdom for Loving Well in Complex Storylines

May 07, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:5 (NLT)

Dear heavenly Father, like every day, I begin this day grateful for your daily mercies, eternal kindness, and measureless generosity. Not only have you given Jesus to us as our perfect righteousness, you provide us with everything else we need in life. Today, I need wisdom, and I trust your promise to give it gladly and freely.

Father, I need wisdom for loving well in complex relationships and broken storylines. Please help me know the difference between overlooking a fault and covering up something that needs to be revealed. When does patience turn into denial; turning the other cheek become enabling; and “trying to be nice” morph into unhealthy conflict avoidance? You must show me, Father, I just don’t know.

I know the gospel will always require more of us than I readily give, but grant me wisdom to know what that means, when its just not easy to discern. How do I validate the emotions of others without taking responsibility for those emotions? How do I listen, not with the goal of fixing, but loving? When should I risk losing relationship because of a greater commitment to honor you and protect the innocent? What’s the line between waiting a little longer, and now’s the time to act?

Father, help me with my own emotional triggers. Shame, fear, and anger are always lurking around the corner. Continue to reveal and heal the wounds of my heart that remain in need of your grace, surgery and rehab. Continue to expose old relational patterns I learned (and perfected) in response to abandonment, betrayal, and insecurity.

I so long for the Day when I will be made perfect in love, and will love perfectly forever. Until that Day, I will rest in your love for us, Father, and trust you for all the grace and wisdom that I need on a daily (even hourly) basis. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

 

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A Prayer for Relying on God’s Unfailing Love

May 06, 2015 | Scotty Smith

      The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you. But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. Ps. 33:16-18 (NLT)

     Dear Lord Jesus, though we avoid it like the plague, it’s a good thing to come to the end of ourselves—to be in situations where all of our resources and strength, wisdom and cunning, magic and mojo are simply not enough. Indeed, it is a gospel thing to realize whatever worked in the past is not working in the present; to feel the confusion of not knowing what to do next; and to feel the helplessness of being out of control.

     For only in those times do we fully abandon ourselves to the God who alone can part Red Seas (Ex .14); overthrow whole Midianite armies with three hundred gun-less soldiers (Judges 7); take down Goliaths with a pebble (1 Sam. 17); feed multitudes with a few fish and pieces of bread (John 6); and raise a dead man for the salvation of his people and the transformation of the cosmos (1 Cor. 15).

     Hallelujah, Jesus, you are that dead man who now lives, and by your finished work, we now live in the permanent favor of God and have been given all the resources of Abba’s unfailing love. In this very moment, we abandon ourselves to God’s immeasurable, inexhaustible, incomparable love. There is no other supply sufficient to the need; no other strength sufficient for the task; no other balm sufficient for the pain; no other rest sufficient for the exhaustion; no other hope sufficient for the crises.

     We bring our bewildered hearts to you. We bring our struggling marriages to you. We bring our failing health to you. We bring our conflicted relationships to you. We bring our wayward children to you. We bring our idols, addictions, and obsessions to you. We bring the brokenness of our communities to you. We bring it all to you, Jesus. You alone are worthy, and you alone are able. So very Amen we pray, in your merciful and mighty name. 

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A Prayer for Relishing the Gift of Friendship

May 05, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Eccl. 4:9-10 (NLT)

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Prov. 27:9 (ESV)

Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. Job 6:14 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, of the many gifts you give us in life, few compare with the gift of good friendship. I’m grateful today for the unique gladness and sweetness that come from walking together with a few close friends. And since both oil and perfume are produced only by pressure and crushing, it shouldn’t surprise us when our friendships become most precious to us during the most difficult seasons of life. And yet, many times when life gets hard, we retreat into a dark hole of isolation or the illusion of self-sufficiency.

     Father, forgive me when I withhold my struggles and heartaches, strong temptations and foolish choices from my friends. This is friendship-larceny—grand friendship-larceny. We fulfill the law of Christ by bearing each other’s burdens, and that includes letting someone bear our burdens. Surely one of the main tactics of the devil is to alienate us from the very place where you meet us—in the cathedral of our brokenness, the fellowship of mutually needy friends… in the sanctuary of grace given and grace received. Father, may the gospel grant be greater freedom to be vulnerable, honest, and generous when sharing my weaknesses with close friends.

     Likewise, Father, may the gospel free me to be way more present in the crises and crucibles of my friends. Quite often, I feel incompetent and ill informed to wade into certain messes. But friendship isn’t about giving the right answers, but offering merciful listening—it’s not about our competency, but your compassion.

     By your grace, and for your glory, Father, make me a much better friend. And I bless you today, 1000 times over, for the good friends you have woven into the tapestry of my life. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

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