A Prayer for Remembering Things for Which We Are Grateful

Nov 24, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you1 Thess. 5:18

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me. Psalm 50:23

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:20

Dear heavenly Father, before we have a chance to whine today, we want to worship you; before we start counting our disappointments, we want to declare our encouragements; before we fall into fretting and blaming, we cho0se to rejoice and give thanks. You have given us ample reasons to do so.

First and foremost, we bless you, Father, for your steadfast, unwavering, and enduring love. Most of our gripes can be traced back to not believing you love us as much as you say you do. We look to people and stuff, circumstances and storylines to fill the agape-shaped hole in our hearts. It never works, and we only end up making ourselves and other people miserable. By your Holy Spirit, renew and supersize our core conviction of the utter sufficiency, and immeasurable wonder of your love for us in Jesus. Hallelujah, the gospel is true!

And Father, we also thank you (by faith) for circumstances we can’t control, people we can’t change, and regrets we can’t undo. For these things drive us to Jesus in ways we, otherwise, wouldn’t choose for ourselves. Though we’d rather be self-sufficient, you call us to be Christ-dependent; though we’d rather be the author of all stories, you’ve made us characters in your Story; though we’d rather be the in-charge potter, you’ve made us to be the malleable clay. By your Holy Spirit, give us joy in our weaknesses; trust in our weariness and gratitude in all things.

Lastly, Father, thank you for more creature comforts than we deserve; good friends with whom to share the raptures and ruptures of life; your commitment to bring your good work in us (and in the universe) to completion; and our coming life of beauty and bliss in the new heaven and new earth. These are just a few of the things for which we are grateful today. Remind us of 1000 more. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

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A Prayer in Praise of Our Father Who Loves to Encourage Us

Nov 23, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thess. 2:16-17 

     Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Rom. 15:4

     Dear heavenly Father, I praise you today for your compassion-driven, wisdom-laden, Swiss-timed commitment to encourage us. You could delegate a legion of angels or you could send a raven to feed us breakfast—either of which would be cool, but instead, you personally come to us in the Scriptures by your Spirit.

     Indeed, the Bible is such a gift to us—a treasure trove of hope, an artesian spring of refreshment, a perpetual supply of redemptive surprises, an always-working GPS for return trips to gospel sanity; for it’s the “cradle of the Christ,” not a manual for self-reform. It shows us that wisdom is a Person—the Lord Jesus, not a formula for success. It reveals the depth of our need, so we might boast in the riches of your provision—the gospel of your grace.

     Father, may the “eternal encouragement and good hope” of the gospel free us for a week of gratitude, not grumbling; blessing, not cursing; giving, not grabbing; encouraging, not criticizing—loving one another as Jesus so radically loves us.

     As this day begins (and continues), fill our hearts with your beauty, that our words will offer life-giving encouragement—no matter what we experience from others. May the overflow of our hearts reveal the wonders of your love. Give us thick skin and big hearts for whatever providence determines for this day and week.     

     Should we “leak grace” (and surely we will), refuel the joy of our salvation that we might love and serve you well until we climb, once again, into our beds. How we praise you for your steadfast commitment to our encouragement and hope. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for the Beginning of Thanksgiving Week

Nov 22, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Col. 2:6-7 

     Dear Lord Jesus, on this Lord’s Day before Thanksgiving, we declare our desire to give you the quality and quantity of thanks of which you are eternally worthy. Not like a slow drip, babbling brook, or a meandering stream, but joyfully erupting and overflowing thankfulness.

     Our motivation is manifold. From the nanosecond we trusted you as Savior and Lord, we were fully forgiven, and firmly rooted in your righteousness and love. Just as we can’t add one iota to your righteousness, we can never be separated from your love. You’ve already rescued us from the penalty of sin; you’re continually setting us free from the power of sin; and one Day you’ll deliver us from the very presence of sin.

     Jesus, we now live in you, and are being built up and strengthened by you—maturing by the same grace that saved us; being liberated for the race that you’ve set before us; loving others as you so radically love us.

     You’ve freed us from our little stories and fiefdoms of self, and have written us into your big Story of redeeming love and cosmic restoration. You’ve made us citizens of heaven, and heirs of life in the new heaven and new earth. Your generosity is off-the-charts glorious, and your gospel is beyond-all-imagining magnificent. Absolutely nothing can alter or deter your will plan for our lives and your purposes for the universe.

     Oh, how we’d love to be already done with all carping and droning, all whining and complaining, all boohoo-ing and Eeyore-ing—and with every other expression of ingratitude. But until that Day, rise up within us as a fountain of grace and artesian spring of life, for the benefit of all and the praise of your glory. So very Amen we gratefully pray, in your glorious and grace-filled name.

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A Prayer for Marinating in the “In-All-Things-Goodness” of Jesus

Nov 21, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Rom. 8:28-32

     Dear Lord Jesus, every word of the Bible, in one way or another, is ultimately about you. Every command drives me to you. Every promise is fulfilled in you. Every story “whispers your name,” points to your glory, and proffers your grace. Yet there are some Scriptures that have become “homeroom” to me—like a favorite chair, pub, walking path, or scenic view. To go there puts everything into perspective. Romans 8:28-32 is just such a place. The hopes and fears of all our years converge in these shockingly glorious words.

     Jesus, your presence and your presents are all that we need, much more than we realize, and way beyond all we could have ever hoped for or imagined. You are working in all things for your glory and for our good—in the obvious and in the not-so-obvious; in my gains and in my pains; in what I “get” and in the things which seem to contradict what I know; when I’m “feeling the love” and when I’m feeling very lonely; when the gospel makes all the sense in the world to me and when I’m tempted to say with John the Baptist, “Are you the Messiah, or should we be looking for another?”

     Absolutely nothing can separate us from your love, for we’ve been called according to the Father’s purpose—which will never fail or disappoint. He set his affection upon us before the world began, and God continue to provide everything necessary to complete the work of the gospel in our lives, and in the entire creation. You made us for yourself; and one Day we will be fully like you and with you forever.

      As this Saturday begins, and will continue, we rest in this awesome news, marinate in this glory, boast in these riches, and smile the smile grace alone can give. So very Amen we pray, in your lovely and loving name.

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A Prayer for Greater Freedom from “Me-First-Ness”

Nov 20, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be 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, how humbling—being chronicled in the Bible, by name, as someone “who loves to be first.” Yikes… I don’t know the circumstances, but Diotrephes’ story certainly invites me to look at mine. Jesus, please convict me and free me from the ways I too love and seek to be first.

     In my church family—when I take more than I give; am more likely to complain about the music than serve the members; criticize the sermons more than I pray for my pastor.

     In the general population—when I rush through the day, “to-do-list-driven,” with little eye contact, and no obvious effort to extend your welcome to others.

     In my vocation—when fellow workers experience me as more preoccupied with my success, than dedicated to caring and serving as a member of a team.

     In my marriage—when I’m more aware of the things that annoy and disappoint me than I’m committed to encouraging and serving, listening and loving my spouse.

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

     Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. You didn’t consider your equality with God something to be held onto for personal gain. You’ve never loved to be first. Rather, you emptied yourself as the quintessential Servant—serving us by your life, death, and resurrection (Phil. 2:1-11). Now, you ever live to serve us as our Advocate, Intercessor, and Bridegroom.

    Your unimaginable humility, unparalleled servanthood, and immeasurable love convict me to the core. Restore my first love for you, Jesus that my “me-first-ness” will decrease until the Day it dies. So very Amen I pray, in your merciful and matchless name.


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A Prayer for Grieving Death and Resting in the Hope of the Gospel

Nov 19, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Jesus wept. John 11:35

     Dear Lord Jesus, this is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it’s immeasurably long in terms of comfort and encouragement.  Your hot, compassionate tears, shed outside of Lazarus’s tomb, are one of the greatest showers that ever fell upon the face of the earth. You wept a waterfall of mercy and grace; a river of kindness and peace; and a torrent of tenderness and strength.

     You knew that within a matter of moments, your friend would breathe again. You knew he’d walk again. You knew you’d enjoy Lazarus’ company very soon. And yet you wept full-heartedly, as you allowed yourself to feel the implications of his death. Those privileged to see your sacred fury and great sadness, offered profound commentary, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36)

     Jesus, we’re so glad you are such a tenderhearted Savior. I begin today grieving the death of a dear friend, and many of us are facing the death of a loved one. Some of us have recently buried a friend, a parent, a spouse, or most painfully, a child. Others of us are coming upon the painful anniversary of great loss. Thank you for validating the pain, the emptiness, the confusion, the great sadness we feel.

     At times, like Lazarus’ sister, we cry, “Lord, if only you’d been there”, and you don’t wince, roll your eyes or shame us. You never glibly say to us with impatience, “Get over it.” Rather you say with great understanding, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)—because no one hates death more than you. No one grieves death’s ugly violation more deeply. No one is more looking forward to the day of “no more death” (Rev. 21:4) than you. And no one has done more to put death to death, than you.

     Today we rest our sobered and saddened hearts on your shoulder, with the peace and comfort that comes from knowing you as “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). The “last enemy” will soon be a long gone enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). And because of your resurrection, we sing in advance of our resurrection, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) We praise, bless, and adore you, as we rest our heavy hearts in your loving hands. So very Amen we pray, in your grave-robbing name. 

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A Prayer for an Increase in Our Joy by a Decrease of Ourselves

Nov 18, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”  John 3:26-30

     Dear Lord Jesus, I want nothing to do with a wardrobe of camel’s hair clothing, and a diet of locusts and wild honey (Matt. 3:4), but I do want more of John the Baptist’s joy—the joy of your increase and my decrease. Even in his mother’s womb, John leapt for joy before you (Luke 1:39-41). O, to be this impacted and liberated by your promised and abiding presence.

      Jesus, I want your Spirit to increase my joy so I won’t expect, or “need,” people to make anything of me. Indeed, slay the “approval suck” beast in my life—giving people too much power over my heart, either to “pump me up” or tear me down. 

     Such joy would free me to grieve when people don’t love and honor you—more so more than when they don’t “get” and appreciate me. Such joy would free me to accept the fact that you both “give” and “take away” (Job 1:21). Indeed, both come as sovereign appointments from your throne of grace.

     Such joy would free me for a life of contentment—because it would be anchored in you, not determined by circumstances. Such joy would free me to love others as you love them, not as I want them to be. Such joy would free me to be present in the moment, and less obsessing about the next thing.  Such joy would free me to live each day for your coming kingdom, and less for my crumbling fiefdom. Joy to the world, joy to my heart, you have come and you’re coming again. So very Amen I pray, Lord Jesus, in your mercy-full and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Those in the Grip of Grace and the Valley of Fear

Nov 17, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Ps. 56:3-4

     If one part (of the Body of Christ) suffers, all the parts suffer with it. 1 Cor. 12:26

     Dear heavenly Father, as the reach of the internet keeps expanding, the world feels smaller than ever, and the stories and struggles of our family in Christ are much more real to us. We have brothers and sisters, around the world, for whom this Scripture about fear and trust is a daily reality.

When King David prayed this prayer, he was a prisoner of Philistines in Gath; as we pray, Father, here are some other fear-producing storylines, we bring to your occupied throne of grace—confident of your mercy and might.

We pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan—the five countries in the world where Christians are most likely to be singled out for daily persecution. Father, may your perfect love tame their fears and deepen their trust. As they suffer, we suffer, because we’re family.

The Psalmist asked, “What can mere mortals man do to me?” To which we respond, “Plenty,” but in view of eternity and what really matters, very little. As these Christians live out the story of your redeeming love in Jesus, grant them the same grace and courage you gave Justin Martyr. When facing “mere mortals” who would take his life, Justin responded, “You may kill us, but you cannot harm us.” What but the gospel can provide such supernatural peace and more-than-sufficient grace?

Father, we also pray for friends in our communities—believers and neighbors, who wake up today with chronic pain and dwindling resources, and relational nightmares and very hard providences. Their pain is our pain. Bring the gospel to bear in profound, tangible, and obvious ways; and use us as answers to the very prayers we pray.

Lastly, Father, we own our fears and anger about groups who relish evil making and terrorism—and human trafficking, drug dealing, and pornography peddling. How long, O Lord, how long? How long before all things are put right—the Day of no more death and dying, the Day your tear wiping hand will do its final work? So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ glorious and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Rejoicing and Resting in God’s Sovereign Rule Over All Things

Nov 16, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, And he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” Dan. 4:34-35

     Dear heavenly Father, I need to “bookmark” this passage and return to it often, for it doesn’t just tell the conversion story of a pagan King; it’s the ongoing story of my heart. Your sovereignty is our sanity; your rule is our rest; your dominion is our delight. Navel-gazing and circumstance watching, and talk-radio-fixating and political-pundit-feasting never serve us well.

     Father, help us to understand the glorious implications of your perpetual enthronement. Your dominion is the only eternal dominion. November elections and political insurrections; temperature instability and terrorist insanity don’t affect your reign one micro-bit or one nanosecond.

     For your kingdom endures from generation to generation. There never has been, nor will there ever be, any nervous sweat, furrowed brows, or anxious pacing in heaven. There’ll never be one moment of consternation or vexation in the corridors of paradise; no need for a contingency plan to emerge from the “big boardroom in the sky.”

     Father, you do as you please with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. I praise you for marshaling the powers of heaven for the salvation of ill-deserving rebels, like us, and for securing the ultimate transformation of the cosmos.

     The only King who can say, “Behold the world I have made,” is the only King who did say, “Behold the people for whom I die.” The greatest demonstration of your sovereignty is the cross, and our greatest experience of sanity is gospel sanity.

     We choose to lift our eyes to heaven today and fix our gaze on Jesus—the author and perfecter of our faith. We cry with unfettered, unabated joy, “Hallelujah, what a Savior! Hallelujah, what a salvation!” So very Amen we pray, in the name and for the glory of the true King—Jesus.

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A Prayer for Our Corporate Worship to Be Filled with the Presence of God

Nov 15, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     The secrets of their hearts are laid bare, (and) they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” 1 Cor. 14:25

     Dear heavenly Father, what an amazing scene Paul describes in this Scripture. What more could we possibly long for in our services of worship than for your presence to be so obvious that even non-believers would be compelled to acknowledge you are powerfully at work in our midst, and in our hearts?

     There’s only one reason we’re not afraid for the secrets in our hearts to be “laid bare” today, and it’s because you open wide and laid bare your heart towards us in Jesus. You dealt with Jesus according to our sins and have rewarded us according to his righteousness. Hallelujah, many times over! Only the gospel frees us to fall down and worship you in humility, not humiliation; in gratitude, not groveling; in repentant faith, not uncertain penance; in the assurance of Christ’s righteousness, not the condemnation of our unrighteousness.

     Father, grant our church families this same freedom—especially as we gather each Lord’s Day to worship you. In a day when we seem to need more gadgets and gimmicks to create “worship experiences,” free us from needing anything more than the gospel to worship you the way you deserve and delight to be worshiped.

     Reel us back in anytime we move away from the “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Teach us how to be stewards of technology, not slaves to technology. Teach us how to be creative, not cute; faithful, not manipulative; simple, not spectacular. And let us never forget that you are not seeking “great worship” but true worshipers—those who worship you “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

     May our worship be so saturated with the truth and grace of the gospel that all of us—believers and nonbelievers alike, will be overwhelmed with your presence and captured by your love. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ most wonderful and worthy name.


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