A Prayer for Preparing Our Hearts for the Season of Advent

Nov 30, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 1 Peter 1:10-12 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, the season of Advent has just begun, and we pray it will be filled with more hush, and less rush. If we’re going to be busy with anything, may it be with quieting our hearts, focusing our gaze, and setting our affection on things above—especially on you, the Author and Perfecter of our faith; the Source and Lord of our salvation; the Fountain and Fullness of all Grace.

     Grant us the same intensity and care the prophets invested in searching out the promises of your coming. May old Scriptures come alive in profoundly new ways during this Advent season. Jesus, show us more of yourself, throughout the Bible. Humble and gladden our hearts with the realization that the prophets were serving us, when they spoke of your coming, your sufferings, and the glories that would follow.

     And if angels were on “tiptoes with joy,” as they pondered your coming, renew our awe and joy as well. Thank you for the messengers you sent proclaiming the gospel to us, by the power of the Spirit. Thank you for showing us the bottomless depth of our need and the immeasurable heights of your grace. Thank you for granting us the new birth, forever freeing us from our old life. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

     O, come, O come Immanuel, and bring even greater freedom to our hearts, and glory to yourself, in the coming weeks. So very Amen we pray, in the wonders of your love and the trustworthiness of your name.

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A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent

Nov 29, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isa. 40:9-11 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, on this first Sunday of Advent, we praise, bless and adore, for the privilege of celebrating your great faithfulness and your immeasurable generosity. You sent Jesus to us, and have given him for us. Every promise you have made finds its emphatic “Yes!” in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20).

     Fuel our wonder and enflame our hearts, Father. Help us engage again, with the story of Jesus’ birth, with childlike wonder and renewed hope. Bring familiar Scriptures alive in fresh and transforming ways. We don’t trust in a season, but in our Savior.

     I love how Isaiah describes the Messiah coming to gather us up in his “Advent arms.” To be tended as a helpless lamb, to be held close to your heart, to be gently led—what more could we possibly need or desire? We believe; help our unbelief.

     And in Jesus, you come near to us as the Sovereign Lord, with your sleeves rolled up as the great ruler. Your arm rules over all history and every heartache, over all kings and every crises. Nothing and no one can alter, subvert, or change the story you are telling, and the kingdom you are advancing, through Jesus. Thankfully, these aren’t mere metaphors, Father; for metaphors can’t save us, only inspire us. You really are this involved in our lives, and your really are this merciful and mighty.

     Indeed, the coming of Jesus puts all nations on notice: There is only one true King, and he is Jesus. And the coming of Jesus puts us—your people, face down in adoring love. Over the next several weeks, show us, yet again, how Jesus is a most wonderful and grace-full Savior—Immanuel, the God who is very much with us and totally for us. So very Amen we pray, with Advent longings, in Jesus’ matchless and merciful name.

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A Prayer for Placing Ourselves at Jesus’ Feet

Nov 28, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”  Luke 7:44-47 (NLT)

     Dear Lord Jesus, this passage is so weekly, actually, so daily; because nothing is more daily that the call to forgive; nothing is more scandalous than the way you forgive; and nothing is more important than the way that I love.

     Jesus, I show up in this story in so many places. I’m Simon the self-righteous Pharisee. I often see people through the lens of criticism and judgment—especially if their actions have hurt or inconvenienced me, or if their sins are different than mine. I am so sorry, Jesus, forgive me of my arrogance and hair-trigger self-righteousness.

     Jesus, I’m also this broken woman at your feet. My sins are just as ugly and numerous as hers, just not as public or notorious. I believe this, but by your Holy Spirit, convince me even more that it is true. My creed is that you’ve forgiven ALL of my sins—past, present, and future. Thank you, thank you, thank you. But I’m desperate for my heart and conduct to match my creed and profession. Jesus, help me; change me and free me.

     I truly want to forgive others as you have forgiven me. I want to love you much because you love me more than I can possibly imagine—as much as the Father loves you. May the tears of gratitude I offer at your feet become the water of mercy with which I wash the feet of fellow sinners. Grant me big grace, Jesus, especially for the people who have caused me the biggest hurt, shame, and pain. So very Amen I pray, in your kind and powerful name.


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A Prayer for “Black Friday”

Nov 27, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1 Tim. 6:8 (ESV)

     So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matt. 6:31-33 (NIV)

     You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way. 2 Cor. 9:11 (ESV)

     Dear Jesus, they should have called it Black Thursday this year, or Black Week, because before we even had our Thanksgiving coffee, the stores were opening and beckoning shoppers with tantalizing markdowns on all kinds of stuff. And I awoke today with more cyber deals in my email inbox than I can possibly shake a credit card at.     

     I judge no one, Jesus, for I am as spoiled and covetous as anyone. I praise you that I’ve never had to be concerned about what I’ll eat, drink, or wear; and I’m glad that a lot of people will get some really great deals the next few days.

     But on this Black Friday, I’m especially grateful for Good Friday, and what you accomplished for us by your life, death, and resurrection. It’s only because of you, Jesus, that we know God as Abba, Father—the God who knows our every need and answers before we ask; the King who gives us all things, richly to enjoy and to freely share; the Lord who satisfies our hunger, slakes our thirst, and clothes us—not only with cotton and wool, but in your righteousness and grace. We are wealthy beyond measure and deserving.

     As we begin the season of Advent this Sunday, grant us grace for seeking your kingdom first, and our fiefdom of self, last. Rather than spending more money and worry on ourselves, where would you have us invest our time and treasures, talent and tears? Free us to love and serve others with joy, with the same generous love and sacrificial care you lavish on us. So very Amen we pray, in your grace-full and glorious name.

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A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day

Nov 26, 2015 | Scotty Smith

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Cor. 9:15

the boundless riches of Christ…” Eph. 3:8

     Dear heavenly Father, of all the many things for which we’re grateful today, none surpasses the “indescribable gift” of the gospel. You loved us so much you sent Jesus into the world to be our Savior—not principally as our moral model to imitate, but as our perfect Substitute to receive and trust.

     We proclaim with the deepest humility and the greatest joy, “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” From beginning to end, our relationship with you, today and forever, is entirely a gift of your sovereign and immeasurable grace. What we could never do for ourselves, Jesus has accomplished for us, once and for all. Hallelujah, many times over!

     We needed forgiveness for all the ways we failed (and continue to fail) to love, worship, and obey you, as you deserve and as your law decrees. And through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, you have forgiven us completely. We will never be more forgiven than we are today… never! All of our sins—past, present, and future, are completely forgiven—not just the small percentage we’re aware of, but also the vast majority of which we remain clueless. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

     We also needed righteousness—a perfect righteousness. All of our best efforts and good works, our hottest tears of repentance and our most sacrificial acts of obedience, our commitment to do more and try harder, and our resolve to sin less and be more godly availed us nothing.

     But before he died in our place on the cross as the Lamb of God, Jesus lived in our place as the second Adam—offering you his life of perfect obedience to you on our behalf. And now, through the gift of faith you’ve freely given us, to believe in Jesus and to trust him, you have declared us to be righteous in Christ. Every sinful thing we have ever done (or will do) was nailed to his Jesus’ cross, and every righteous thing Jesus accomplished in life, is now considered to be something we did! Hallelujah, many times over!

     What a glorious exchange—Jesus got our sin and we got his righteousness. What a glorious gospel we have. What a glorious God you are. What a magnificent Thanksgiving Day this is. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus wonderful and merciful name.

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A Prayer for Preparing to Love All Kinds of People This Thanksgiving

Nov 25, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:16–19

     Lord Jesus, this passage underscores our calling to love all kinds of people in all kinds of situations—including holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving. No calling exposes our need for the gospel more than the command to love well, and no calling better positions us to trust you to do way more than we can ask or imagine.

     Because of your great love for us, Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of anything—dying or living. We’re thankful we can rely and draw upon the great love you have for us in the gospel. May your perfect love continue to drive out all our fears—including the fears related to the demands and risks of love.  

     Help us love our family members in fresh and creative ways. Fill us with your kindness, compassion, patience, and forbearance. Nobody in our families is beyond the need or reach of your grace. Don’t let us forget this; don’t let us disbelieve it.

     Jesus, help us love our friends well. Forgive us when we expect friendship to be a mutual admiration society, rather than a community for groaning and groaning in grace. And grant us strength for loving the irritating people in our lives—those easy to avoid and hard to forbear. Give us wisdom for loving the foolish people in our lives—those who drain our emotional capital, as they continue to make destructive choices. It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance; our guilt-ing and shaming will lead them in the opposite direction. Give us BIG grace and heavenly wisdom.

     Lastly, this Thanksgiving week, supersize our love for the lonely and alienated, orphans and widows, “the least and the lost,” for among them we will find you. Surely, there’s more room in our hearts and at our tables, to welcome them.

     Jesus, continue to reveal to us the measureless width, length, height and depth of your love for us (Eph. 3:18-19). There’s no other way we will choose to love, or be able to love, as you command. So very Amen we pray, in your kind and powerful name.

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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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