A Prayer for Avoiding the Deadly Toxins of Bitterness and Resentment

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Heb. 12:15 (NLT)

Resentment kills a fool. Job. 5:2 (NIV)   

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph. 4:31-32 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, these Scriptures cut to the chase and bring conviction to our hearts. We are your beloved daughters and sons, but today we are also your “busted” daughters and sons; for resentment comes to us as quickly as someone steals our parking place, or eats the saran-wrapped piece of cake we hid in the “frig,” or fails to include us in some social event. It’s amazing how quickly a little slight can launch us into a big spite. Have mercy on us, Lord, and grant us fresh grace, thicker skin and bigger hearts.

     But Father, being slighted is one thing, but being assaulted by the betrayals and failures, deceit and lies, attacks and abuse of others, is an altogether different matter. These aren’t things to shake off, but deep wounds, broken hearts, and incredible pain to bring to your throne of grace. You’re not calling us to denial, but to yourself. Have mercy on us, Lord, have big mercy; and grant us wisdom, strength and tons of grace.

     Father—through …

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A Prayer for Esteeming Jesus

     Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:1-3 (ESV)

Do you love me? John 21:16 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, Isaiah’s words rip at my heart this morning. I am freshly in awe of the love you have lavished on rebels, fools, and idolaters, like me. You, who never sinned, became sin for us, that in you, we might freely receive the very righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). By your crushing, we are now cherished; by your exile on the cross, we have citizenship in God’s heart; by your consummate wounding, we are becoming completely healthy; by your cruel death, we live forevermore.

     It’s precisely because of your great love for us that I feel deeply convicted this morning. I can’t get away from Isaiah’s words, “and we esteemed him not”—and I don’t want to move on quickly. Because of your grace, I grieve. The truth is, every time I sin, I esteem me more than I esteem you; and when I put …

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A Prayer for Re-salting the De-salted

     You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matt. 5:13-16

     Dear Lord Jesus, at times I fantasize about running off to Switzerland to live in a community of chalets, inhabited by non-codependent Christians, with few emotional needs and plenty of discretionary cash. We’d enjoy good music, food and conversation, without any of the crazy-making of an ingrown church, or the voices of political pundits, or the traffic of a big city, or the taxes of a wasteful government. That’s actually a confession of sin, not a prayer request.

     For starters, I know I couldn’t afford to pay for such a selfish fantasy. More importantly, I realize this isn’t the lifestyle for which you’ve redeemed us. The church belongs to you, Jesus; she’s your beloved Bride—as broken as she is. Yet, as with everything else, we often take the church into the idol factory of our hearts and …

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A Prayer for God to Be at Work in Things I CAN Imagine

     Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  Eph. 3:20-21

     Dear heavenly Father, I love Paul’s beautiful and bold affirmation of your omnipotence. Indeed, you can do exceedingly beyond and immeasurable more than all we can ask or imagine. But today, I have no need to test either the limits of my imagination, nor the measure of your ability. There are plenty of things I CAN imagine that I’m bringing to the throne of grace. Bring glory to yourself as you work in these stories and hearts.

     Father, continue to reveal more and more of Jesus to each member of my family, and extended family. I can imagine that, and greatly long for it. May none of us be satisfied with our current experience of the gospel; and for who have yet to experience the only Love that is better than life, grant the gift of new life in Christ. Open the eyes of our hearts to see just how worthy Jesus is of our affection, adoration and allegiance.

     Father, I can imagine a mighty movement of your Spirit among many broken relationships in my larger community. Having lived in the Nashville area for 35 years now, I’ve seen too many church split, marriages disintegrate, and good friends get disconnected—even becoming …

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A Prayer for the Refreshing and Renewing of Our Hearts

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

     Dear Lord Jesus, it’s amazing what one really good rain can do to transform my dry, browning yard into a garden of fresh, green life. I begin this day grateful for the showers of the last couple of days. I can run my sprinkler endlessly, but there’s just something about the water that falls from the sky that brings refreshment and renewal like nothing else.

     Jesus, our hearts are no different. When we get dry on the inside—when our rejoicing in you is displaced with complaining about you (and others and anything); when our delighting in you fades into detachment from you (and from others, and eventually from our own heart); when our love for you wilts into fading memories of you (and then into all kinds of distorted thoughts about you)—we are powerless to change, and are shut up to your provision. There’s no hose, fire hydrant, or reservoir of our own making that can even begin to make a dry heart “green”.

     So we cry out with the Sons of Korah, “show us your unfailing love, O Lord, grant us your salvation.” Jesus, just as it was your unfailing love that first brought life to our deadness; likewise, your unfailing love will bring refreshment to our dryness. You have promised to “satisfy our needs in …

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A Prayer for Times of Refreshing through Grace-generated Repentance

     Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.  Acts 3:19-21

     Dear heavenly Father, whether in our own lives, or in the lives of those we love, few things are as beautiful as Spirit wrought conviction, generating grace-laced-humility, leading to times of gospel-saturated refreshing. That’s always a win-win for everyone—for our families, the church, the community, our culture, and us.

     Surely, this is what Luther had in mine when he stated that “repentance is a way of life”, for those who understand the gospel. Yet how easily we forget, you are a God who gives grace to the humble; yet, you know the proud “from afar”. We’re never freer than when we see our own sin more clearly than anyone else’s; and when we see the finished work of Jesus as our most present need, and glorious provision.

     Father, as this beautiful Saturday begins, I’m thankful you’ve already sent Jesus for me, and that you’re going to send him again, to finish the “job”. I’m grateful all of my sins have already been “wiped out,” and that you’ve clothed me with the perfect righteousness of Jesus. Now, gentle and sweeten my heart, I ask. I sincerely want to be …

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A Prayer for New Life in Dead Places

     The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley. . . I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”  Ezek. 37:1-6

     Heavenly Father, I would do well to meditate on this portion of Scripture very often; for it “calls out” my unbelief, confronts my complacency, and deconstructs every excuse I offer for giving up on difficult situations and people.

     Thankfully, it’s not Ezekiel who asks about the possibility of renewal, redemption, and restoration; it’s you, Father. It’s you! “Can these bones live?” you ask. The question is rhetorical, for you are the God of resurrection and life.

     Father, for your glory alone, I ask you to breathe on hearts, marriages, and churches desperate for fresh grace and new life. Bring a …

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A Prayer for Seasons When You’re Tired of Relational Emptiness, Conflicts, and Deadness

     We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Cor. 1:8-9

     Dear heavenly Father, I’m so glad my fellowship with you this morning is filled with a renewed heart, fresh encouragement, and grounded hope; for I’ve just seen what you can do with weary hearts, stuck marriages, and disconnected friends. I’m profoundly grateful (and certain) that your name is Redeemer.

As Paul wrote, you are “the God who raised the dead.” Not only have you raised the Lord Jesus on our behalf, but you also bring his resurrection power to bear, in the dead places of our hearts and relationships. And one Day, you will complete the grand story of resurrection by raising our bodies from the dead, and ushering in the new heaven and new earth. We praise you for a sure and living hope, than meets us in our hopeless and death-plagued places.

So Father, I boldly pray today for other friends, acquaintances, and strangers. I pray for those who are feeling under “great pressure, far beyond their ability to endure”; including those who may even be “despairing of life,” in their relationships—in marriage and parenting, extended family and friendships.

Grant, one and all, the freedom to cease …

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A Prayer When We’re Weary of Ministry

     But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.“ Jonah 4:1-3

Dear Lord Jesus, Jonah’s story stirs our hearts to pray for tired and depleted friends serving in various forms gospel ministry. To the occupied throne of grace, we bring missionaries and pastors, elders and deacons, teachers and counselors—a wide range of friends you’ve called to minister the gospel of your grace.

Some of them simply need good rest, a break and better boundaries. Many of them are on the verge of living Jonah’s story: In their heads they still know you to be a God who is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” But in their hearts they are displeased and angry, disconnected and disillusioned; and a few, like Jonah, aren’t sure they want many more days in this world. Have mercy, on them, Lord; have great mercy today.

Jesus, you know all the issues. You know what’s under the anger; what’s compounding the contempt; and what’s fueling the flight. Meet these dear servants of yours right where they …

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A Prayer on Valentine’s Day

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for meSong of Sol. 7:10

Dear Lord Jesus, it’s Valentine’s Day—the day in our culture in which red hearts, overpriced cards, dark chocolates, and cut flowers abound. For some, it’s a day of incredible kindness, sweetness, and gratitude. For others, it’s a day in which brokenness, loneliness, and emptiness are magnified. For all of us, it should be a day in which our deepest longings for intimacy and connection find their way home to you—the quintessential lover.

We each have our own stories of love gained and lost, of love being alive, and love being tested, strained and fractured. I’ve experienced seasons of incredible joy, connection and intimacy in my marriage—moments when I wondered how heaven itself could be any richer, grander or fuller.

But (thankfully, as has my spouse) I’ve also discovered time and again, that no one human being (or any number of them), no human romance story, no torrid love affair can possibly fill the vacuum in my soul that’s uniquely Jesus shaped. Even the best marriage is made of two broken people, two redeemed sinners who will ultimately not be enough for the other.

Lord Jesus, “grace” me with a deeper, richer current experience of belonging to you. You are the ultimate Spouse—the One we’ve always longed for. I believe this theologically, and I want to “know” it more experientially.

My heart is fickle and fragile—still capable of being sucker-punched by sin within, and susceptible to whisperings without. Most of the time I …

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