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When Our Sufferings Feel Like Too Much: Praying through Psalm 13

Jul 26, 2015 | Scotty Smith

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

     Dear heavenly Father, I bless you that these difficult words were first sung by your people in Temple worship, for they show us that some seasons and sufferings in life cause us to wonder about your goodness, and question your faithfulness. Yet you are neither offended nor affronted when we feel this way. You welcome us in our woes, and if we don’t bring our cries and confusion to you, where can we go?   

     Indeed, Father, there are some times when it feels like you have forgotten us, or are hiding from us. For some of us, that moment is now, and that season has been going on for quite a while. Help!

How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

     The worse thing about not sensing your heart and hand, Father, is that we’re left to the shallow waters of our own counsel, and the voices of mockers and haters. “I though you said Jesus was enough. Where’s your mighty and merciful God now? Didn’t you tell me God wouldn’t give you too much?” Father, we don’t want the voices of darkness to prevail. We don’t want our suffering to sabotage our trust in your sovereignty. Come, Lord.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

      Meet us in this hard, difficult place. It’s not our pride, but your praise that we care about the most. As much as our bodies and hearts may hurt, the gloating of your enemies hurts even more. For the sake of your name, bring the power of your hand.    

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

     Father, this we know for sure: Your steadfast love for us in the gospel is unquestionable and inexhaustible. Though our rejoicing and singing may presently be reduced to a still, small voice, we bless you for dealing bountifully with us through finished work of Jesus. This pain, heartache, and season soon will pass. May soon be sooner. Until then, we unabashedly and unhesitatingly proclaim, we are your beloved children and you are our grace-full God. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

 

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Taking Responsibility for the Way We Speak to Each Other: Praying through Various Scriptures about Our Words

Jul 25, 2015 | Scotty Smith

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45 (NLT)

     Dear Lord Jesus, this Scripture is the bottom line, the “skinny,” the chase to which we must always cut, when it comes to stewardship of our words. The main issue isn’t tongue control, but heart fullness. Whatever I treasure in my heart will be reflected in the stream of my words.

     This is why I must preach the gospel to myself every day—before any other storyline or crisis, disappointment or aggravating person, “fool’s gold” or personal agenda grabs the attention and affection of my heart.

The tongue has the power of life and death. Prov. 18:21 (NIV)

     How important is the issue of my words? Jesus, may this one little verse stay ever before me. I am capable of bringing destruction and resurrection with my words—great harm and eternal good. I want to bring life today, Jesus. Help me with my instinct is to choose the opposite.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Eph. 4:29 (NLT)

     Jesus, you never command anything you don’t resource, so when you tell me no foul or abusive language, you’ve not exaggerating. That’s not the law of performance, but the way of freedom and encouragement. You forgive me when I fail, but you also give me grace to speak like a man of grace. Never let me get used to hurting people with my words, never.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Prov. 16:24 (ESV)

     Jesus, no words are sweeter and more health-generating that the words you speak. So grant us listening hearts as you sing to us today in the gospel, and may the quickest, surest overflow be seen in the way we speak to one another. So very Amen we pray, in your tender and triumphant name.

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How Our Relationship with Jesus Is to Impact All Our Relationships: Praying through Philippians 2:1-4

Jul 24, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,

     Dear Lord Jesus, do I have any encouragement from being in union with you? What a blessed rhetorical question! Umm, let me see, because I’m united to you, all of my sins are forgiven; your righteousness has been declared to be mine; I’ll never be condemned for my sin again and God delight’s in me as much as he delights in you. Let’s start there.

if any comfort from his love,

     Do I receive any comfort from your love? More than I can measure. Only your love is better than life and will never let go of me. Only your love satisfies the longings of my soul, heals the brokenness of my story, and breaks the chains of my foolishness.

if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,

     Does the Holy Spirit mediate your tenderness and compassion to me? Every hour of every day—even when I ignore it, deny it, or fail to take advantage of such graces. It’s your tenderness and kindness that lead me to repentance, and your compassion that frees me to own my weakness before you, time and again.  

2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

     Here’s where the power of your resurrection must come into play, Jesus. Loving others with the love you lavish on me is easy toward some, difficult toward others, and seemingly impossible with some people, whose names I don’t even like to bring to mind. Help me Jesus. You never said loving well is less than demanding and messy.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.

     Do nothing from the motivations of selfishness and vanity?  Really? Jesus, one Day I’ll do this perfectly, but right now, I’ll just concentrate on this one present day. Grant me this kind of other-centered grace for today, Jesus. Then we’ll deal with tomorrow in the morning.

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

     Jesus, only because you humbled yourself in death can I even think about humbling myself toward others in life. Only because you put our interests before your glory dare I think about dying to my self-preoccupation and serve others today. Only because the gospel is true, do I have any hope that I can actually live and love this way at all. So very Amen I pray, in your glorious and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Those Days You Wish God Would Do Things Differently

Jul 23, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     ”Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, even your “Woe’s” are gifts of grace, for they warn me of the foolishness of my reasoning, the limitations of my perspective, and the self-centeredness of my musings.

     Sometimes, I “think” I’d like to be you for fifteen minutes. That’d give me a chance to fix people that need fixing; fund ministries which serve you the best, but struggle with finances the most; bring judgment upon those who’ve got it coming; alleviate the sufferings of friends whose pain is overwhelming; get even with people who’ve hurt me the deepest and betrayed me the most; put an end to human trafficking; rid the world of annoying politicians, fear-brokers, and “liberal” pundits; and, heal broken marriages of friends.

     Alas, Father, I am such a mix of good desires and broken agendas. I look at my list and realize how much I need the gospel—every day and every hour. Of course, you the Potter have hands—big, loving, mighty ones. And not only that, you have a heart bigger than the universe; wisdom beyond all imaginings; and a timetable that makes Swiss precision seem like laissez-faire laziness.

     There is a Day coming when you will put all things right and make all things new. Give me patience; increase my gentleness; supersize my mercy; deepen my trust; fill me to overflowing with your grace and hope. And grant me quick repentances when I whine about the way you do your job. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ mighty and merciful name. 

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A Prayer for Getting Still before God, and Living that Way

Jul 22, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m staring at a big stack of unopened mail, a ton of yet-to-be-answered pone calls and emails, and a gotta-get-done list much longer than my idol of control will generally tolerate. By your Spirit, settle, center, and free me to trust you. I want to enter this day, and live it, at the pace of grace.

     So I begin by acknowledging, yet again, that you are God, and I am not. I don’t want my main goal, these next few days, just to be getting a bunch of stuff done. I want my faith in Jesus to express itself in love, to everybody involved. I’ve asked it before, and I’ll ask again, Father, keep my to-love list more important to me than my to-do list. You, who will be honored by every nation and throughout the world, be honored in my heart, home, and responsibilities.

     If I throw my heart into “cruise-control,” I know I’m quite capable of becoming short and rigid, impatient and pushy, controlling and obsessive. So I’m not going to put my heart into “cruise-control.” With palms up, I surrender to your peace and presence right now. Father, by the power of the gospel, I’m getting still before you, and I want to stay still, even as I take care of many responsibilities.  

     What gets done today gets done, and what doesn’t isn’t of eternal significance. I cannot hour an hour to my life by worrying, but I can surely rob a lot of people with my frenzied spirit. There’s no panic in heaven—so hurrying or scurrying. Bring heaven to my heart today. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ reigning and loving name.

        

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A Prayer for Focusing on God’s Steadfast, Ceaseless Love

Jul 21, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lam. 3:19-24 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, another day and another delightful deposit of your fresh mercies greet us. You are so grace-full and generous toward us, so we join Jeremiah in calling to mind your great love and your great faithfulness. In fact, we can “call to mind” much more of your love and faithfulness than Jeremiah. Our place in the history of redemption is to be much preferred over his.

     Jeremiah lived looking forward to the coming of Jesus and the fulfillment of the promises of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). But we live on this side of those blessed events. How much quicker should we be to praise you and how much greater should our hope be!

     Lord Jesus, you are the reason we aren’t consumed with guilt and paralyzed with fear, stuck in our shame and drowning in doubt; for you took the judgment we deserved on the cross, and exhausted it. Because of you, God has forgiven all our wickedness and will never remember our sins against us (Jer. 31:34). You became sin for us, and in you, we have been declared presently and eternally righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).

     Father, it’s because of this gospel, this good news, that we also join Jeremiah in lamenting our wanderings. With humility we still sing, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” We need the gospel every day and every hour. Don’t let us wander far. When we lose sight of Jesus, make the gall more galling; make the bitterness bitterer; make downcast feel even more downcast. We don’t want to ever get used to feeling disconnected from the gospel.

     In view of your steadfast love and never-failing compassions, we proclaim, “The Lord is our portion” (Lam. 3:24 NIV). So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ beautiful and bountiful name.

 

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Rejoicing in the Big, Beautiful Covenant Family God Has Given Us: Praying through Psalm 95:1-7

Jul 20, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

     Dear heavenly Father, my heart is filled with “joyful noise” and deep gratitude for the brothers and sisters in Jesus you have given me, and in particular, for those in Northern Ireland with whom we’ve lived and laughed, worshipped and wept, prayed and praised, dined on great food and feasted on an even greater gospel. What an utter joy, privilege, and honor these two weeks have been—a palpable foretaste of our coming life in the new heaven and new earth.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

     Indeed, Lord, you are a great God, whose goodness is immeasurable, whose generosity is incomparable, and whose grace is inexhaustible. I’m convinced of this afresh, being with my beloved Irish brethren. And you are a great King—constantly at work in all things for your glory and our good; raising up and sitting down kings; giving and taking away, according to the purposes of your heart; welcoming us in our weakness, beautifying us in our brokenness. How can we keep from singing your praise?

In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

     The countryside and coastal region of Northern Ireland have fueled childlike wonder and intense longings in my heart, for the Day your knowledge will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Father, we bless you for our big family and your beautiful world. It’s all yours and we are yours, hallelujah, many times over!

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

     Yes, yes, yes! You alone are worthy of our worship, our bowing down and our rising up, our tears and our shouts, the rest of our days and the whole of our hearts. So very Amen we pray, in the glorious name of Jesus—our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 

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A Prayer for the Renewal of Our Joy

Jul 19, 2015 | Scotty Smith

What has happened to all your joy? Gal. 4:15 (NIV)

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation. Ps. 85:6-7 (NIV)

Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:24 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, we begin our day grateful for your pursuing heart, revealed in the questions, wooings, and pleas of the Scriptures. Today we ponder our need gospel renewal and the restoration of joy. We join the chorus of many who cry out, “Revive us again, Lord, restore to us the joy of your salvation.”

     In response to Paul’s question to the Galatians, “What has happened to all your joy?” (Gal. 4:15), there’s a wide range of possible answers, Jesus. Some of us may have fallen back into performance-based spirituality—trusting more in our ongoing feeble works than your perfect and finished work. Some of us may have allowed roots of bitterness to grow deep, infesting our renewed hearts with the toxins of unforgiveness and revenge.

     Some of us may be giving greater audience to our fears, worries, and anxieties than to your nearness, sovereignty, and grace. Some of us could very well just be exhausted from life’s challenges, bouts with illness, and the price of loving well; and we’re just flat out tired. Some of us are losing sleep and peace because of the condemning accusations of the consummate liar, robber, and joy-murderer—the devil himself.

     To every one of these scenarios, the answer is the same, more of you—a fresh sighting and heart-connection with you, Lord Jesus, as our full forgiveness and perfect righteousness, our sovereign King and most loving Bridegroom. Renew, refresh, and restore our hearts, in the wonders of your love and sufficiency of your grace.

     Jesus, since you are praying for the fullness of your joy to be in us (John 17:13), we will live with anticipation and hope, for your prayers never fail.  Fill us afresh with the inexpressible and glorious joy of the salvation you have won for us and will in us (1 Pet. 1:8-9). So very Amen we pray, in your trustworthy and triumphant name.

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A Prayer for Trusting God with Important Decisions in Front of Us

Jul 18, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5-6 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, many of us are staring big decisions in the face, and we need your help. It’s a joy to come before your throne of grace confident of your audience, grateful for your advocacy, and resting in your authority.

     Indeed, Jesus, you are an involved Shepherd, not an absentee landlord. Even as we make plans in our hearts, you are actively ordering our steps (Prov. 16:9). This brings us immeasurable peace. You open doors no one can shut (Rev. 3:8), and you shut doors no one can open. Never let us forget that our future is not tied to making the right decisions but in trusting the right Lord.

     Because of your great love for us in the gospel, we’re learning to trust you with all the stuff in our hearts—with our longings, fears, hurts, and dreams. To acknowledge you in all of our ways isn’t to make you Lord of anything, but to recognize you are Lord of everything. So in surrender to your sovereign heart and hand, we anticipate straight paths as we move ahead into these difficult decisions.

     For those of us dealing with job changes and financial stresses, health issues and relationship complexities, show yourself to be both merciful and mighty, Jesus. May your mercy keep us expectant and your might trump our impatience.

     For those of us having to make important decisions for the people we love, be huge and present, Jesus. Long-term care for aging parents, the “right” education choices for our kids, the best treatment plan for loved ones battling addictions—make the way clear, Lord. For those of us who feel restless about current life investments, and are praying fresh commitments to missions and ministry, give us clarity of mind and peace in our hearts.

     In these coming hours and days, write stories of providence that will reveal your glory, showcase your grace, and leave us reveling in your goodness and timing. So very Amen we pray, in your trustworthy and beautiful name. 

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A Prayer for Accepting Suffering As a Normal Part of Our Journey

Jul 17, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Pet. 4:12-13 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, this portion of your Word comes like a warm embrace from heaven. To know that suffering is a normal part of the Christian life actually brings us a great deal of comfort and relief. For many of us have wrongly suffered destructive consequences from bad theology—various teachings that make us feel like spiritual pygmies, waifs and orphans, for suffering any degree of sickness or weariness, lack or loss, defeat or doubt. 

     It’s not that I want to suffer more, but none of us want to suffer with a sense of being a disappointment to you, or feeling abandoned by you, or being punished by you—all three which are contradicted by the gospel. Indeed, “fiery ordeals” aren’t about punishment, but purification. They’re not a sign of a lack of faith, but the presence of your heart and hand. 

     Jesus, please help us understand how our suffering can be understood as participating in your sufferings, and how we can actually suffer with joy. Your death on the cross was a once-and-for-all suffering—perfectly securing the salvation of your people. However, you’re not a distant, disconnected, dispassionate Savior. You’re presently making all things new, and this involves showing up in the messes and madness of life. Where there is injustice, disease, brokenness, and suffering, you are present. Free us to join you there, fellowship with you there, and serve with you there (Phil. 3:10).

     The Day of no more suffering is coming (Rev. 21:1-5)—the Day when your glory will be fully revealed, and what a day of rejoicing that will be! Until then, give us all the grace and power we will need to live and love to your glory. So very Amen I pray, in your wonderful and merciful name.

 

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