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A Prayer of Praise for the Scandalous Goodness of the Gospel

Nov 14, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Rom. 4:4-8

     Dear heavenly Father, this Scripture contradicts everything we assume about the way life is “supposed to work”. We expect to get what’s coming to us. We demand fairness—an honest return for our labor, time, and sweat. But the gospel flies in the face of conventionality, predictability, and normalcy. To which we cry, “Hallelujah!”

     Thank you for not being fair with us. Thank you for being outrageously generous, immeasurably kind, and scandalously good. What we could never earn—your perfect righteousness, you have credited to us as a gift. What we fully deserve—to be dealt with according to the wages of our sin, you will never do so. What we cannot imagine—that you would justify ungodly people, you have joyfully and legally done.

     Because of Jesus’ perfect and finished work, our transgressions are forgiven (all of them), our sins are covered (every one of them), and you’ll never hold us guilty for them. King David called such people “Blessed”. Because we are among “such people”, we are humbled and grateful, and free beyond our wildest imagining.

     Thank you for reconciling us to yourself through Jesus, and for placing us in an eternity of your permanent favor. Thank you for, not only removing all condemnation for our sins, but for replacing deserved judgment with your exuberant jubilation. Thank you for not just welcoming us, but for wanting us. Thank you for not just “letting us into heaven one day”, but for delighting in us fully in this very day!

     By the power of the Holy Spirit, drive the gospel, this gospel, deeper and deeper into our hearts, that we might live and love to your glory. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus trustworthy name.

    

    

    

 

 

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A Prayer When Feeling Relationally Vulnerable

Nov 13, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. Prov. 7:21-27

     Dear Lord Jesus, we were made for you, and have been redeemed to connect with you deeply—to enjoy an intimacy, union, and communion, of which our best relationships are only a hint, a whisper, a symbol. But alas, like all good things, our longings get hijacked and sabotaged by sin and death. Thus, the relevancy of the Scripture.

     Samson and King David aren’t exceptions. Each of us is capable of relational compromise. We need the gospel to keep us sane, centered, and satisfied. There are many lonely husbands, many lonely wives, many lonely single people who are primed for a fling, targets for an affair—aching, yearning, reaching for a few minutes of pleasure to medicate months, years, even a lifetime of disconnect and emptiness. It may never become physical, but emotional affairs offer exhilaration bordering on intoxication—an intoxication that can lead to addiction; and an addiction whose GPS is set on our destruction.

     So we turn our hearts to you, Lord Jesus. You, who have won us, are constantly wooing us in the gospel, saying, “Come away, my beloved. My desire is for you and my banner over you is love.”

     Who do we have in heaven but you, Lord Jesus, and being with you, who or what could we possibly desire more on this earth?  Should our wildest fantasy be realized, it wouldn’t be enough. You alone have words of eternal life, grace sufficient for our souls, peace that passes all understanding, and the joy we desperately crave. So very Amen we pray, in your loving and holy name.

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A Prayer for Honoring Our Deepest Longing

Nov 12, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.  Rev. 19:9-10

     Dear Lord Jesus, it’s not hard to understand why John fell down to worship the angel who delivered this heart-encouraging vision; for our oldest longings, greatest cravings, and deepest yearnings are claimed by what John saw: The wedding supper of the Lamb—the fulfillment of your measureless love for us.

     Yet, at times, we still foolishly think there’s some set of circumstances or some special person that can satisfy this God’s shaped vacuum in our hearts. But you made us for yourself, and redeemed us to be completed by only you. You are the loving and tenacious Bridegroom, who cherishes a most unlikely and ill-deserving bride—namely, us.

     Thank you for living and dying to make us your own, and for setting your unwavering affection upon us, and for finding great delight in us—though we often disbelieve this good news. Because you’ll bring our salvation to completion, throughout eternity we will celebrate the only love that was ever enough for us, the only love that will never let go of us, the only love that is better than life. For the incomparable gift of your love, we too fall down and worship you.

     Lord Jesus, until the Day you return for us to make John’s vision a reality, help us adjust our expectations of one another. You are the Spouse we always wanted. No other spouse or lover, friend or child, church or club can possibly be to us and for us, what you alone are. Free us from our people idolatries by making yourself increasingly beautiful to our hearts. Free us to love others as you love us. So very Amen we pray, in your matchless and worship-worthy name.

 

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A Prayer for Not Being First

Nov 11, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 3 John 9-10

     Dear Lord Jesus, I certainly don’t begin this day throwing stones at Diotrephes—chronicled as a very selfish man. Indeed, please convict me and free me from the ways, I too, love to be first; and I praise you that there’s grace for that.

     In my marriage—when my zeal to be right and win the argument is more notorious than my commitment to listen and understand my spouse; when I pout more than I pursue my spouse; when my “to do list” is more important than my “to love list”.

     In my friendships—when my “need” to be remembered and appreciated is more pronounced than my commitment to stay in touch and serve my friends.

     In my vocation—when the people who work with me feel like I’m far more taken up with my reputation and success, than I’m committed to love and serve as a member of a team.

     In the grocery store or roadways—when I shop and drive competitively—to be first to the checkout line or through the intersection.

     In my memory—when I have better recall of how people have disappointed and hurt me than I remember the ways you love me so faithfully and passionately.

     Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. You didn’t consider your equality with God something to be held onto selfishly. You didn’t love to be first. Rather, you emptied yourself by taking the very nature of a man—a servant man, a man who served me by fulfilling all the demands of the law for me and by exhausting God’s judgment against all my sin on the cross. Now you ever live to serve me as our advocate, intercessor, and Bridegroom.

     I am convicted and humbled afresh by your lavish and selfless love. Restore my first love for you, that my love for being first will decrease and die a thousand deaths. So very Amen I pray, in your matchless and merciful name.

 

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A Prayer for God’s Love to Impact Our Relationships

Nov 10, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph. 4:30-5:2

     Merciful Father, mighty Holy Spirit, most compassionate Lord Jesus, I praise you today for the love with which you love us—the love in which you have rooted, by which you are transforming us, and through which you are revealed in our world.

     As this Scripture makes clear, it took the whole Trinity to redeem us, and it takes the whole Trinity for us to live this life of love to which you have called us. This is our only hope.

     Father, I don’t want to live today just with a theoretical or mere theological awareness of being your dearly loved child. Let it be very real, very encouraging, and very humbling. May your love be the controlling reality in my life today—convicting, liberating, and empowering me.

     All day long, let me hear your serenading voice in the gospel, that I might grieve the ways I grieve the Holy Spirit—with my thoughts, words, and actions. Otherwise, I might try to justify the ways I love poorly.

     Lord Jesus, you are relentlessly kind, compassionate, and forgiving of us. I want the fragrant aroma of your grace to impact all my relationships. But help me remember you’re not calling me to change or fix anyone, but to accept and serve them.

     God the Holy Spirit—you who raised Jesus from the dead, give me the power I will need today to rid myself of all bitterness, anger, rage, brawling, slander, and malice and all the other ways I contradict grace. Indeed, Triune God, the life of love you live for me, please live through me to your glory. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ peerless and praise-worthy name.

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A Prayer for Pondering the “How Much More” of the Gospel

Nov 09, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Rom. 5:15-17

     Dear heavenly Father, this Lord’s Day morning, my heart is filled with praise for the hyper-abundance of grace which you’ve heaped on us in Jesus. This portion of the Word is a zip-file of gospelicious wonder.

     By the 1st Adam’s failure, we were born spiritually dead—willing subjects, co-conspirators, members in good standing in the reign of sin and death. But through the Jesus—the 2nd Adam, we’ve been raised to new life, and live as objects of your affection and subjects in the reign of righteousness, peace, and joy—the reign of grace.

     As dead as we were in our sins and trespasses, we’re much, much more alive in Jesus’ forgiveness and righteousness. As distant and disconnected as we were from you, we’re now much, much more at peace and intimate with you through Jesus’ perfect work. As narcissistic and navel-gazing as we were through our connection to the first Adam, we’re becoming much, much more other-centered, loving, and caring through our union with Christ.

     You didn’t spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will you not also, along with Jesus, graciously give us all things? You justified us, and there is now no condemnation—only full acceptance. Jesus died for us, and now perpetually lives to pray for us and advocate for us. Nothing will ever separate us from your love, Father (Rom. 8:31-35).

     Indeed, as grave and great as our condition was through sin and death, the “how much more” of the gospel has trumped it a gazillion times over. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ glorious and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Resting in God’s Laughter

Nov 08, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. Ps. 37:10-13

     Dear heavenly Father, laughter isn’t one of the things I grew up associating with you—altogether “otherness”, majestic holiness, yes—but not laughter. I’m thankful that the gospel continues to expose, deconstruct, and replace all kinds of groundless notions and incomplete thoughts I’ve had about you.  There’s really nothing more important about us than the image we have of you in our hearts.

     I so look forward to the Day described in this passage—the Day when we will actually hear you laugh; for that will be the Day when all evil, wickedness, and injustice will be eradicated—the Day when everything sad will come untrue, when all things will be put right, when our inward groaning will give way to outward celebrating.

     It’s hard to conceive of a universe, a nation, a city, a relationship—even one heart, my heart—in which every semblance of sin and brokenness is completely gone; but that Day is certainly coming and we praise you for this great hope. Because of Jesus we have an inheritance “that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven” for us (1 Pet. 1:4). Indeed, “the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” Hallelujah, many times over!

      So when wicked plots and gnashing teeth seem to be on the increase, and righteousness and peace seem to be on the decrease, please, Father, let us hear the peace-effecting, fear-abating, anxiety-calming laughter, that fills the corridors of heaven. May your joy be our strength, your promise be our confidence, and your timing be our schedule.

     May the hope of great peace compel us and propel us into greater expressions of missional living and loving. Give us eyes to see and hearts to believe that, even right now, Jesus is making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

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A Prayer for Guarding Our Hearts

Nov 07, 2014 | Scotty Smith

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

     Dear heavenly Father, how I long for the day when I will no longer be tempt-able, deceivable, or capable of worshiping any other “god” but you. Hasten that most awesome of all Days.

     I so look forward to an eternity of giving you the adoration, affection, attention, and allegiance of which you alone are worthy. No one redeems, loves, or cares for us like you. There is no God but you.

     In Jesus, you’ve already given us a new heart and have placed your Spirit inside us—you’ve turned our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:25-27). We now yearn to know and love you (Jer. 24:7) and obey your law, now written upon our hearts (Jer. 31:33). Your generosity is beyond measure; your steadfast love is never-ending; your mercies are new every morning, and all day long.

     Indeed, Father, you’ve already given me a perfectly forgiven heart—yet it is far from being a fully perfected heart. The battle for my heart’s worship continues, daily and relentlessly. This conflict will persist until the Day Jesus returns to finish making all things new. Thus, the warning in today’s Scripture, to keep myself from idols, is not going away.

     Father, there are some idols I run from like the plague; some I feed like a new puppy; but others I don’t even recognize as idols. It’s easy to see the idols outside of me, but help me to discern the “idols of the heart” (Ezek. 14:4). Help me to know when I’ve made a good thing an ultimate thing. When I don’t think you’re “enough,” show me where I too readily turn for life, deliverance, and salvation. Show me these things by showing me more of the beauty and bounty of Jesus.

     Father, I praise you for the assurance that I’m already one of your “beloved children.” You cannot love me more than you already do, and you’ll never love me less. Surely the gospel—this gospel, will win the day, my heart, and the entire cosmos. So very I pray, in Jesus’ worship-worthy and trust-worthy name.

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A Prayer of Hope

Nov 06, 2014 | Scotty Smith

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Rom. 15:13

Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Prov. 23:18

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isa. 41:10

     Dear heavenly Father, thank you for revealing yourself as the God of hope—the one who intends our hope to abound; who promises our hope will never be cut off; the God who is our hope. We praise, bless and adore you.

     Because the gospel is true, we live by hope, not by hype; by having faith in you, not by having faith in our vacillating faith; by collapsing on Christ, not by pulling ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps. It is your righteous right hand that upholds us, not our sweaty-palmed, tired-fingered grasp of you.

     We come boldly to your throne of grace today, bringing with us some of our challenging stories into the storehouse of your goodness and faithfulness.

     Father, for our children who have yet to find their peace, rest, and home in Jesus, we declare our hope is in you—not in our parenting skills, our “getting it right”, our groveling over past mistakes, or our anything.

     Father, for our marriages, which need refreshment, reconnection, and renewal, we declare our hope is in you—not in our spouses changing, some “magic bullet” marriage conference, or finding the “perfect” counselor.

     Father, for our own brokenness and weaknesses, we declare our hope is in you—not in our multiplied resolutions, certainly not in beating ourselves up, not in our doing more and trying harder.

     Our hope is built on Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Our hope is in your steadfast love. Our hope is your commitment to Father us, pursue us, change us, and bring to completion your good work in us. And this hope will not disappoint us, or put us to shame (Rom. 5:5). Hallelujah, many times over. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

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A Prayer for Loving Difficult People–Even Our Enemies

Nov 05, 2014 | Scotty Smith

      If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36

     Dear heavenly Father, if I was ever in doubt about the power of your law to drive me to Jesus, all doubt is removed by this one Scripture. I cannot and I will not love like this, apart from union and communion with Jesus. So as I pray through this passage today, I do so convinced of your love for me in Jesus and comforted to know that you have hidden my life in his.

     Father, I’m the ungrateful and wicked one to whom your kindness has been wondrously expressed in the gospel. Indeed, it was while I was your enemy that you reconciled me to yourself through the death of your beloved Son, Jesus (Rom. 5:10). Every time I try to excuse myself from loving difficult people, remind me of these truths. I’ve never been “choice,” just chosen by your sovereign grace.

     Who are my enemies, real or imagined? Forgive me for labeling some people “the enemy” simply out of my bruised pride, hurt feelings, and fragile self. Bring the power of the gospel to bear. Gentle me in those relationships. Simply avoiding them will do no good, and rehearsing their failures will only fertilize my loveless-ness.

     Father, for those who have been instruments of harm in my life, by their words or with their own hands—revenge belongs to you; a calling to love with wisdom is mine. Help me, Lord. Give me a bigger heart, thicker skin, and a longing for stories of redemption and reconciliation. So very Amen I pray in Jesus’ strong and compassionate name.

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