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A Prayer for Those Days When We Need a Little Perspective Adjustment

Apr 10, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Rom. 5:3-5 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, multiple difficulties + waiting is an equation that often results in wrong thinking and poor choices. My heart goes out today to friends whose trials seem to be increasing, in both frequency and intensity. When this happens, it’s hard not to conclude either something is wrong with us, for which it’s “cosmic payback time,” or, something is wrong with you—you’re choosing not to be merciful and mighty on our behalf.

     Thus, these words from Paul come as mind-balm and heart-salve. Just when we start heading into a downward cycle of either self-contempt or heavenward railing, you send your Word, and grant us much needed perspective. Thank you, Father, thank you. Though you don’t promise to explain the reasons for our extended seasons of problems and trials, you do promise us a hope that will not disappoint us, and a greater experience of your love.

     Father, it seems to me that it’s your love that makes this hope palpable, so I beseech you; please pour fresh and copious amounts of your love into the hearts of my friends who are tired and weary, spent and used up, vulnerable and easy targets for the lies of the enemy. By your Holy Spirit, give them a supernatural sense of your hand and heart at work. Instead of feeling abandoned, may they sense their adoption—the reality of their being your beloved children. Turn their cries of “Why me Lord?” into “Abba, Father.”

     I’m enough of a rescuer, Father, that if you gave me a magic wand, I’d simply try to relieve the pain and change their circumstances. But you’re promising something much better than relief; you have promised yourself. May it be, Lord, may it be. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus mercy-full and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Treasuring and Stewarding Our Friendships

Apr 09, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Prov. 17:17 (NIV) Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. Prov. 13:20 (NLT) A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Prov. 18:24 (ESV) As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Prov. 27:17 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, I treasure the gift of friendship more than ever—good friendship. I neither want to grow older and alone, nor older and more foolish. Thank you for the friends you’ve put into my life who love at all times: The times when I’m easy and fun to be with, and the times when I’m a “pill,” disconnected, and would otherwise choose to isolate myself.

     Thank you for friends who can just as easily horselaugh with me, as sit with me when I am overwhelmed with grief and disbelief; buddies who love to fish for men and fish for fish; a gospel posse that knows how to lash one another to the mast of your mercy and grace, when the siren of sin is tempting and seducing; colleagues in kingdom dreaming and servant loving.

     Father, by the grace and truth of Jesus, make me a better friend. I want to offer a sharpening presence in the lives of my “buds”, not a dulling one. I don’t want to make it easier for my friends to sin, but more likely that we’ll love Jesus more and more the longer we walk together. You haven’t called us to fix one another as friends; but neither have you called us to fertilize foolishness in each other’s lives. Help me to know how to call out your glory in my friends—to encourage them and all the more as we see the great Day of Jesus’ return approaching.

     Father, thank you that Jesus is a friend of sinners—the real and only friend that sticks closer than a brother. May his love, grace, and glory shape all my friendships and all my “friend-ing.” So very Amen I pray, in his tender and triumphant name.  

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A Prayer for Blasting Our Hearts with Gospel Goodness

Apr 08, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Jude 1-2 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, today, like every day, I need a fresh encounter with the wonders of your love, given so freely in the riches of the gospel. By faith, I bring my present thirst to the river of your grace—thankful for your kindness, compassion, and generosity, revealed so clearly in this passage. Jude’s words are life giving and heart-encouraging. Who are we? The called, loved, and kept.

     Father, you didn’t just invite us to become followers of Christ; you called us, with the legal power of a subpoena, and you adopted us as your beloved children. Instead of whining our way through life, we now cry, “Abba, Father”. We didn’t invite Jesus into our lives; you raised us from the dead and hid our lives in his. For your sovereign grace and irresistible power, we praise, bless and adore you.

     And now, through our union with Christ, you love us as much as you love Jesus. Father, nothing is more centering, freeing, and transforming. Today won’t be a day for finding meaning or making a name for ourselves, but for coming more fully alive to the only love that is better than life—the love that you have lavished on us in Jesus. No human being can possibly fill the relational vacuum you’ve built into our souls, for that place is reserved for you.

     And lastly, Father, thank you for establishing us as the kept ones. Nothing can pull us from your hand or tear us from your heart. The good work you began in us, you will finish for us—even until the very Day when you present us to Jesus, Bride to Bridegroom. We believe this good news; we would believe it even more. When we’re tempted today to look anywhere else for mercy, peace and love—forgive us and reel our hearts back in, one more time. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ beautiful and sufficient name. 

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A Prayer for Church Planters, Pastors, and Missionaries

Apr 07, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. 2 Cor. 1:8-11 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, these words from the Apostle Paul remind us of the importance of praying for our friends in vocational ministry. Stories of being “crushed and overwhelmed” aren’t the private domain of church planters, pastors, and missionaries; but their stresses are great, regular, and often involve intense spiritual warfare.

     Father, first, and foremost, we pray that your servants will be kept fresh and renewed in the riches of your grace. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray the gospel will be powerfully at work in their hearts: Witnessing to their sonship; granting them an unprecedented awareness of your presence and kindness; revealing the beauty and love of Jesus; granting them joy, wisdom and freedom in the midst of multiple challenges and spiritual assaults.

     Father, grant them thick skin and big hearts: Thick skin—to protect them from a barrage of criticism and unrequested suggestions; and to buffer them in the emotional roller coaster of the highs and lows in ministry; Big hearts—to enjoy the various gifts of dear people, festive moments, sovereign goodness you grant them; and to prepare them when some of those same dear people disappear and move on.

     Lastly, Father, grant them enough fruit to keep them encouraged, enough laughter to keep them soft, enough refreshment to keep them sane, enough grace to keep their teams from imploding, enough money to keep them from stressing, enough courage for facing death—in all its forms, and a supernatural endowment of hope, to keep them convinced that their labors in the Lord will never be in vain. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

    

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A Prayer for the Day after Easter

Apr 06, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27 (ESV)

Dear Lord Jesus, of all your post-resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15:3-7), my favorite is your visit to forlorn friends on the road to Emmaus, for I have much in common with them (Luke 24:13-35). I too am foolish and slow of heart, in constant need of the Spirit’s ministry to free me from my unbelief. I remain deeply grateful for your tenacious tenderness, limitless patience, and steadfast love.

Jesus, continue to do for me what you did for my Emmaus Road brothers. Help me to see you everywhere in the Scriptures—the point and hero of the whole Bible. May Moses’s words—especially the Law, constantly drive me to you. For you have fulfilled the demands of the law for us, and are now fulfilling the beauty of the law in us. Keep me clear and free from all forms of me-centered spirituality. The older I get, the more I want to grow in gospel-astonishment.

And, Jesus, keep convincing me that you are the resounding “Yes!” to every promise God has made through the prophets—not just with respect to your cross, but also to your crown (2 Cor. 1:20). Things in our world are not as they appear. Having risen from the dead, you are now making all things new. You are sovereign over everything. Faith, not fear, is the order of this and every day.

Jesus, give me an incurable case of “redemptive heartburn,” like that which you ignited in the hearts of my Emmaus brothers. Keep showing me more of your glory and grace, that I might give you the adoration and allegiance of which you alone are worthy. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and transforming name.

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A Prayer for Easter Sunday

Apr 05, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice. 1 Peter 1:3-6a (NIV)

     Exalted and resurrected Jesus, we join the Apostle Peter’s bold declaration of living hope and great joy. For you have risen from the dead, and this good news changes everything.

     Because of your resurrection, we’re neither afraid to die, or to live; we’re not hapless vagabonds on earth, we’re hope-filled children of God. We’re no longer enslaved to our sins; we’re now wrapped in your righteousness. Those who’ve “gone to sleep” in you, aren’t slumbering in the void; they’re rejoicing in your presence. Hallelujah!

     Because of your resurrection, we’re less to be pitied than anybody, and more to be grateful than everybody (1 Cor. 15:14-19). You are the firstfruits and guarantee of a whole new order—the “new creation” dominion of redemption and restoration. Everything sad will come untrue, and all things broken will be made new. How we long for that Day!

     Because of your resurrection, you are already reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords. All evil dominions, wicked authorities, and malevolent powers now stand defeated, and one Day they will be fully eradicated. Hallelujah, many times over!

     Jesus, your death is the death of death, and your resurrection is the resurrection of all things. You died for our sins and have been raised for our justification. Oh, the wonder, marvel and gratitude that fills our hearts today. We are forgiven, we are beloved, and we are yours!

     In light of this living hope and compelling love, this measureless grace and eternal inheritance, free us for spending the rest of our days living and loving to your glory. So very Amen we pray, Jesus, in your resurrected and reigning name.

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A Prayer for Saturday of Holy Week

Apr 04, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” Matt. 27:62-64 (NLT)

Dear Lord Jesus, how could your family and followers have slept the night of Good Friday? I can only imagine the depth of sadness that seized their hearts. And yet, others were euphoric and relieved, that you, “the deceiver,” could no longer threaten the status quo of the religious community.

As the sun rose on Saturday, no one understood that the most undeserved death imaginable would yield the greatest return calculable. As you were nailed to the cross, the written code—God’s law, with all its regulations and requirements, lost all its condemning power over us. With your last breath, you disarmed the powers of darkness, triumphing over all authorities marshaled against the God’s kingdom (Col. 2:14-15).

No one realized that your mortal punishment would bring our eternal peace; that your fatal wounding would secure our everlasting healing; that your being crushed under God’s judgment would lead to our being cherished by the thrice-holy God (Isa. 53). Though they had the Scriptures, they had no clue.

And yet the chief priests and the Pharisees did remember your promise of resurrection. They weren’t sad about your death; they were mad with fear about the possibility of your life. Having planned to put to death a resurrected Lazarus (John 12:10), they weren’t about to indulge a resurrected Jesus.

O silly, sinful men—they’d sooner hold back the rising of the sun than the rising of the Son of God. Resurrection Sunday was coming, and there was absolutely nothing they could do about it. The sadness of Saturday would soon be shattered with the shouts of Sunday: “The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!” So very Amen we pray, in your triumphant and loving name.

 

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A Prayer for Good Friday

Apr 03, 2015 | Scotty Smith

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 NIV)

Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46 (NIV)

“It is finished.” John 19:30 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, for years I struggled calling the day of your crucifixion “good.” How presumptuous on our part. That there had to be a day when you—the eternally glorious Son of God, would be made sin for us, is not good at all. But at the same time, that you would freely and gladly give yourself for us on the cross, is never-to-be surpassed goodness—quintessential goodness.

     Oh, the wonder of it all. From the cross, and from your heart, came these two impassioned cries. “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:34) and “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). The first required the second. The second secured the first. Together, they humble our hearts and fuel our worship.

     And then there’s the third cry. “It is finished.” Nothing is left undone, concerning our salvation and for the transformation of our world. Once and for all—perfectly and fully, we have been reconciled to God. You became sin for us, that in you, we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)—the Just for the unjust, the Beautiful One for the broken ones, the Lamb of God for the rebels from God.

     Lord Jesus, a millions years into our life in the new heaven and new earth, we will still be stunned with awe, worship, and gratitude for the greatness of your sacrifice and love for us. Because you were fully forsaken, we are forever forgiven. Because you exhausted God’s judgment against our numberless sins, we now live by the gift of your perfect righteousness. Bow our heads in humility and raise our hands in praise. So very Amen we pray, in your all-glorious, all-grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Thursday of Holy Week: Maundy (Mandate) Thursday

Apr 02, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Now before Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. John 13:1 (NIV)

     “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 (NLT)

     Dear Lord Jesus, it’s the day of Holy Week we call today Maundy, or “Mandate” Thursday—a day crammed full of glory and overflowing with grace. Israel’s Passover will soon become the Lord’s Supper—your supper. The entire Old Covenant system of perpetual temple sacrifices is about to be fulfilled by the once-and-for-all sacrifice of your life, given as a ransom for us (Heb. 10:12). Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

     Having shared eternal glory with the Father, you now show measureless grace to your disciples. Having loved this beautiful bunch of broken men well—men who vied for positions of honor a few hours earlier (Mk. 10:35-45), men who would soon all scatter and leave you—having loved them so well, you now show them the full extent of your love.

     The humility you showed by disrobing to wash their feet, was a preview to your being stripped naked, publically shamed, and nailed to the cross—to wash their hearts, and ours. What wondrous love is this, indeed—how wide, long, high, and deep (Eph. 3:14-19). “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT)

     How then shall we respond to your unparalleled love for us? “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). This is the new and never-ending command you’ve given us as your disciples. The most obvious expression of our “getting” the gospel is our loving others as you have loved us. Jesus, forgive our disobedience to so central and essential a command, and free us for a new season of loving well, to your glory.  So very Amen we pray, in your holy and loving name.

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A Prayer for Wednesday of Holy Week

Apr 01, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: ”What do you think about the Messiah? Matt. 22:41-42 (NLT)

Dear Lord Jesus, we praise, bless and adore you for the unparalleled privilege of knowing you, and there’s so much more to know. That’s why the question you put to Pharisees, the day before your arrest, remains the most important question for us to answer.

What do I think about you, Jesus today? You are everlasting God, and I am a mere man. I would despair if you were less, and I am weary of pretending to be more. You are the Creator, Sustainer, and Restorer of all things. You are the Alpha and the Omega, and everything in between. Angels worship you and birds depend on you.

You are the Second Adam—our substitute in life and in death. You lived a life of perfect obedience for us, and exhausted God’s judgment against us. By you, we’ve been completely forgiven; and in you, we’re declared perfectly righteousness. You are our impassioned Bridegroom, and we are your beloved Bride. You cannot love us more, and you’ll never love us less. We believe, help our unbelief, Lord.

You are the reigning and returning King—sovereign over days and dominions, over our joys and our sufferings. Broken reeds love your appearing and demons tremble in your presence. Lord Jesus, you are all this and so much more. Eternity will be an endless revelation of your glory and grace.

But what stuns me the most, as I think about you, Jesus—what compels me to fall down before you in love and worship today, is to realize that you are always thinking about us—even me. We are in your heart and on your mind, all the time. You know us perfectly and delight in us fully—O blessed truth. There’s not a moment you’re not praying for us, singing over us, and living in us. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah! So very Amen we pray, in your holy and grace-full name.

 

 

 

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