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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A Prayer of Lament in Response to the Terror Attack in Paris

Nov 14, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. Psalm 37:7-11 (ESV)

   Dear heavenly Father, another day of terror-making darkness, evil-doing madness, and life-taking sadness. How long, O Lord, how Lord before you send Jesus back to eradicate all evil? How long before the wicked will be no more? How much longer is “just a little while”?

     It’s hard not to fret. It’s hard not to feel fearful and angry when women and children, the young and old are mercilessly slaughtered in the city of Paris; when restaurants, concert halls, and sports areas become the venue for the perversion of religion and the murder of your image bearers.

     Father, we offer our prayer, not in self-righteous judgment, but as your weary children—longing for the Day when the knowledge of your glory will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14)—when perfect peace will replace every expression of evil.

     Until that Day, free us from all bitterness and a lust for revenge. Vengeance belongs to you, not to us. Make us warriors of peace and agents of hope. Our labors in the Lord are never in vain. The gospel of the kingdom will prevail. Defeated evil will be eradicated evil. The devil is filled with fury for he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Make it much shorter, Father, much shorter.

     Grant us wisdom to know what loving mercy, doing justice, and walking humbly with you looks like in Paris, and in our own communities. Replace our frets and fears with faith and trust, and our rage and wrath with patience and courage. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and grace-full name.

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A Prayer for Resting in the Sure Hope and Great Riches of the Gospel

Nov 14, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  Eph. 1:13-14

     Dear heavenly Father, reading Paul’s letters is like standing in front of a gushing fire hydrant, or standing under a mighty waterfall. It’s hard to stand up to the rush of so much glory and grace, peace and love, encouragement and hope. It’s simply overwhelming.

     Reading through Ephesians, alone, we discover that we’ve been loved before the foundation of the world; chosen in Christ and called in life; justified by faith and declared righteous in your sight; adopted by Abba, Father and betrothed to Jesus, our Savior; sealed, indwelt and gifted by the Holy Spirit. What a generous God you are!

     In Christ, you’ve given us a completely forgiven past, a present standing in grace, and a future of unimaginable wonder. But what really encourages me today is knowing that all of this heavenly goodness is guaranteed. You’ve “sealed the deal” by the Holy Spirit. You’ve guaranteed our inheritance in Christ. You’ve given us the down payment, firstfruits, and promise of a future beyond our wildest dreams and asking.

     There’s no possibility of “bait and switch” or “revoking the warranty.” There’ll be no rejecting and disinheriting your children. Nothing will deter, distract, or sabotage your bringing to completion of the good work you’ve begun in us, and in your entire cosmos. This floods our hearts with peace and joy, and worship and adoration of you.

     Father, continue to rip and grip our hearts with the gospel of your grace. Let us be a people who live to the praise of your glory and fame of your name. What else is worthy of our affection and adoration, than the gospel? What else could we possibly want to do with the rest of our lives, and throughout eternity? So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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A Prayer for Living As Encouragers Today

Nov 13, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another on to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb. 10:23-25

     Dear Lord Jesus, as I ponder the wonderful list of gospel admonitions in this text, a few things jump out at me. I see the how vital it is for us to get a firm and regular grasp on the hope you’ve won for us—a living hope, an anchor of hope, a glorious hope. Our hope is certain, and we ignore it to the peril of our hearts.

     I’m so thankful that we don’t hope in hope; we hope in you. It’s not about crossing our fingers, but seeing your cross and everything you’ve already accomplished for us. It’s about seeing our future nestled down into your merciful and mighty palms, for you’ve made promises you alone can keep, and will keep. It’s about abandoning ourselves to the advancing of your kingdom, not turning inward and guarding our little fiefdoms. You are faithful, and you are loving, Lord Jesus, and that’s all we really need to remember. Because of who you are, not hoping is not an option.

     This Scripture also convicts me about the importance of being a lot more intentional and regular in bringing encouragement to friends, family members, and those you put in my way. As the great Day of your return approaches—the Day the when all hoping in part will give way to the fullness of hope, give me words of life and healing, for those who need them the most.

     Make me as a conduit of your mercy and grace, in very tangible and timely ways. To whom would you send me today? Put names and faces before me who need the encouragement you generously give, Jesus. So very Amen I pray, in your loving and faithful name.


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A Prayer for Honoring Our Longings for Heaven

Nov 12, 2015 | Scotty Smith

I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. Phil. 1:23 (NLT)

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. Rom. 8:18-19 (NIV)

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. 2 Cor. 4:17 (ESV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, the peace and joy we get from pondering our eternal future with you is beyond measure and without comparison. Our deepest desires you’ve written into our DNA, our most intense longings for relationships and intimacy, the insatiable thirst carry for a perfect world and perfect everything—all these things they will find their fulfillment in the life to come. Jesus, thank you for earning heaven for us, and for keeping us for heaven.

     We agree with the Apostle Paul, it would be better by far to depart and be with you right now, Jesus; for you make heaven “heavenly”. It’s not about streets of gold, angels dancing around singing, or even being freed from all brokenness and pain (as awesome as that will be). Heaven is primarily about being with you, the Father, and the Spirit. Oh, how we crave the unbroken, unfettered, and uninhibited fellowship we will enjoy with you forever.

     Jesus, we are quintessentially foolish to think anyone or anything else can fill the void, ease the ache, or satisfy this longing we have for you. Bring us back to gospel-sanity quickly, when our “light momentary affliction” feels eternal and heavier than a pack of elephants. Rescue us the very nanosecond our math fails us, and we no longer consider the glory to be revealed in us to be greater than the difficulty our present sufferings in this world.

     Don’t ever, ever, ever let us settle for a “quick fix,” when you’ve promised eternal wonder. Never let our pain out weigh your praise. Never let us outlive our love for you, Jesus. So very Amen we pray, in your beautiful and bountiful name. 

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