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So Much Encouragement, Peace, and Hope: Praying through Romans 5:1-5

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

     Dear heavenly Father, to meditate my way through this whole passage is like standing in front of a fully open fire hydrant of grace. There’s so much encouragement, peace, and hope coming at me. I praise, bless, and adore you for already declaring me to be righteous in your sight. I have peace with you, because you made your peace with me through the finished work of Jesus.

2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 

     And now, I have perpetual access into your holy and joyful, welcoming and transforming presence. I’m no longer weighted down with guilt because I’m standing in your grace. I no longer fear the future and things I cannot control; I rejoice with hope, because I know that one Day your glory will cover the earth, and that you will, at last, make me fully like Jesus. Hallelujah!

3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 

     Father, you even give me grace to rejoice in my sufferings, because in Christ, there don’t have to be any wasted sufferings. As you take me deeper into the riches of this gospel, free me more and more from my whining, complaining, and pouting, Father. Increase my endurance in storylines that …

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A Prayer for Blasting Our Hearts with Gospel Goodness

     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 …

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A Prayer for Jesus to Tear Down Walls and Bring Peace Between Us

     For he himself (Jesus) is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Eph. 2:14-18 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, we praise, bless, and adore you for making peace between God and us. Through your finished work, we haven’t “just” been reconciled to God, but have become objects of his affection and children of his delight—a people upon whom Abba’s favor rests and for whom heaven is prepared. Hallelujah, many times over!

     And we praise you, Lord Jesus, for tearing down the wall of hostility between Gentiles and Jews. It was always your plan to do so—to make enemies into friends and replace hostility with hospitality, and enmity with empathy, loathing with loving. Indeed, in you, Jesus, distinctions are no longer barriers that exclude, but bridges that unite. Diversity becomes a bouquet of beauty when the gospel is in play. Nothing is impossible for you…

     SO Lord Jesus, we earnestly ask you to do this same enmity-destroying heart-gentling peacemaking in our most broken relationships. …

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A Prayer of Lament and Longing for the End of Violence

     Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so? Matt. 26:52-54 (ESV)

     I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. Isa. 60:17-18 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, we come to you today with cries of lament and sighs of longing. How long, O Lord, until you return and put an end to all violence—whether it’s in the streets of Ferguson or the villages of Iraq? How long before there’s no more no more warring nations, or even divisive personalities—no more sexual assaults or abuses of power? When will the dawn break on the Day or no more arguments between friends, pettiness between spouses, and petulance in our churches? How long, O Lord, how long?

     We yearn for the Day when peace will be our governor and well-being our ruler—when walls won’t be built of bricks and mortar, but of grace and salvation; when gates won’t be locked, to keep others out of our homes—but open, to welcome the nations into the new earth. How long until lambs and wolves …

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A Prayer for Handing Over Our Battles to the Lord

The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. (1 Sam. 17:47) This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)

     Dear heavenly Father, I love it when you claim things I don’t really want anyway—especially ownership of our battles. Though spiritual warfare is daily, and though you give us armor to wear (Eph. 6:10-18), it’s you we must trust in as the Divine Warrior. Indeed, we don’t do life as disengaged pacifists, but fully engaged worshipers—waiting on you, and beholding your salvation.

     We’re often little David’s facing big Goliaths; but with you, we will not be afraid. But whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, our battles belong to you. Fear and discouragement, panic and hiding, are not the order of the day; faith and peace are.

     When events in world history fuel our worry (like ISIS and Ebola)—when it seems like evil and terror will triumph, let us hear the calming laughter of heaven. Let us see your already installed and reigning King—the Lord Jesus. Show us the occupied throne of heaven, and it will shut up our anxieties (Ps. 2; Rev. 4).

     When we’re under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let us see Jesus—the author and perfecter of our faith—our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 8:1). …

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A Prayer for Grace to Accept Change

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Heb. 13:8

     Dear Jesus, change is hard. I love to come home to the normal and known, predictable, and user-friendly—like one of my old, broken-in pairs of Birkenstocks. Grant me grace to accept change, because there’s so much change going on everywhere I look.

     Another new grave of an old friend; a field of wildflowers and grazing cows, bulldozed for 400 new homes; the coffee shop which served awesome java, rich conversation, and an ambiance of welcome was razed to become a huge concrete complex. I don’t like it, Jesus. Change is disruptive. Precious things don’t become vintage things overnight.

     How thankful we are that there’s one part of our lives that will never change, and that’s you, Jesus. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. That certainly doesn’t make you predictable, and even less so manageable. But it does mean that we can trust you without any reservations whatsoever.

     You are the one who puts change into perspective. Change has no sovereignty. Only you are Lord. Nothing is random in this world. Nothing catches you off guard. The scary becomes the sacred when we’re wearing the lens of the gospel.

     The most fundamental change we need is to become like you, Jesus, and that process is the most disruptive and painful change we will ever go through—but the most important of all changes. Yet with the knowledge that one Day we’ll be as …

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A Prayer for a Fresh Dose of Gospel Sanity

     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 to 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?” . . . Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. Dan. 4:34-37

     Dear Lord Jesus, I so relate to Nebuchadnezzar’s story. Yet again, I find myself needing a fresh vision of your unassailable sovereignty and your inexhaustible goodness. There are two places of insanity, or “crazy,” I tend to fall into. Sometimes, like King Nebuchadnezzar, I arrogantly think I’m in control, and I get preoccupied with my little fiefdom of “self”. Other times I act like the consummate orphan—as though I don’t have a Father in heaven and a secure place in his family. Both of these extremes contradict the gospel I trust and the kingdom I love.

     But Lord Jesus, you’re the only King that’s really in control, and only your kingdom will endure from generation to generation. You’re a hands on, fully engaged …

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A Prayer for Wanting All of Life to Be Impacted by the Gospel

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!  1 Cor. 9:16

     Dear Lord Jesus, I know that “to woe” is to express dread, distress, and despair—an orientation toward life with which I’m quite familiar, for I’ve certainly done my share of “woe-ing.” That’s why this small portion of the Word is so convicting and refreshing. Paul turns the image of woe upside down. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

     Jesus, make us the kind of people, like Paul, who are so taken and captured with the gospel that all of life is impacted by the gospel—who you are, and what you’ve accomplished for us by your life death and resurrection.

     Teach us more and more of the lyrics of the gospel—its rich theology permeating the entire Bible. Fill our hearts with the music of the gospel—its radical sweetness, generating peace, worship, and gratitude. Release our feet for the dance of the gospel—a missional lifestyle of giving and serving.

     May our joys be defined by the incalculable riches of the gospel. May our thinking be shaped by the liberating truths of the gospel. May our dreams be fueled with the wondrous future of the gospel. May our hopes be bound up with the guaranteed advancing of the gospel. May our peace be strengthened by the resurrection power of the gospel.

     May our choices be regulated by the kingdom priorities of the gospel. May our satisfaction be intensified by the fruit-bearing …

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A Prayer for Surrendering to the Prince of Peace

      Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Col. 3:15

     Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

     Dear Lord Jesus, today, like every day, somebody or something is going to seize the passion and preoccupation of my heart. Some entity will be the “boss of me,” the ruler of the manor, the fascination of my imagination.

     It could be my bitterness, pettiness, or cowardice. It could be shame from the past or fear in the present. It could be overbearing people or aggravating co-workers; my greed to have a little more, or my “need” to be criticized less; the lusts of my flesh or the longings of my soul; old regrets or new fantasies; my pet poodle or pet peeves—any of a number of things will clamor for the best of me.

     But right now, in submission to Paul’s admonition, I choose your peace as the ruler of my heart—as the centering and focusing power for this moment and day. No one is better at giving peace than you, Lord Jesus, for you are the Prince of Peace.

     On the cross you secured God’s peace with us and our peace with God. The enmity and hostility between us have …

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A Prayer of Hope and Joy: Our Inheritance Is Guaranteed!

     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, sometimes reading Paul’s letters is like standing in front of a gushing fire hydrant. 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 have 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 …

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