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prayer

March 21, 2010

Scotty Smith recently moved his blog to the Gospel Coalition web site. I’ve long regarded his site as a bit of a hidden treasure but I suppose it’s now less so having moved to a more public location. Nevertheless, his most recent prayer caught my eye as, through it, he reflects on a simple question. This is a worthwhile prayer for any of us, I think.

Dear Lord Jesus, driving into my home state recently, I came upon a billboard that pushed some buttons before it raised my palms. Just through the mountains of North Carolina, there is was, bold and in big red letters, Are You Saved? I’ll be honest, my first response was, “What an un-cool, cost-ineffective, out-of-date, impersonal way to do evangelism.” Then I ruminated, “People that put up highway signs like that are clueless about the gospel. They’re usually legalists and moralists, and have no idea about a theology of imputed righteousness. They’re culturally out-of-touch and don’t realize what a turn-off that kind of signage is.”

But after my momentary-arrogance and billboard-pontification, your Spirit gently disrupted my “cool” with this thought, “You completely avoided the question, Are You Saved?

I continued driving, but that’s when one palm went up anyway, for indeed, I am saved, Jesus, unabashedly and unashamedly so. And there’s only one reason and there’s only one basis… I have come to God through you. You are the permanent priest who offered the perfect sacrifice for me, once and for all. You completed your work on the cross and you will complete your work in me. You live forever and you forever live to thoroughly save me, and your whole pan-national trans-generational Bride. You were my substitute by your life and your death, and now you’re my righteousness and intercessor before the Father. Am I saved? Most definitely and most delightfully!

I don’t have to like highway billboards, but may I never ever tire of responding to the question, Are You Saved?, for there’s no question more humbling to me and honoring of you. So very Amen, I pray, Jesus, in your merciful and mighty-to-save name.

March 14, 2010

This morning I came across a prayer by Pastor Scotty Smith, one he wrote just recently that focuses on his life in light of the words of Psalm 27. “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). Here is what he prays on that basis:

Dear Lord Jesus, if you would say “Yes!” to just one of my prayers… if you would fulfill a single desire and intense longing of my heart, how could I possibly choose wiser than King David? Though I were to assemble a catalogue of commendable requests and redemptive petitions, there is nothing more to be desired than to gaze upon your unmitigated, unfiltered, unabridged beauty.

For on that Day all will be made right. Indeed, Lord Jesus, when you are finally and fully in sight, everything will be made right. Every prayer I’ve ever offered in concert with the heartbeat of heaven will be answered. Every quest and question will either be dissolved or resolved. All wrestling with providence and interceding over circumstance will be done with.

I will shout on that Day what I sometimes only half-heartedly whisper in this day, “My God has done all things well!” There will be no more praying in part… no more knowing in part… no more hoping in part. We shall see you as you are, Jesus, and we shall be like you. (1 John 3:2)

Until that Day, Jesus, please show us… show me, more and more of your beauty. Reveal as much of your beauty to me as I can entertain. For by the light of your beauty my sin becomes much more reprehensible… the gospel becomes much more commendable… your kingdom becomes much more visible… but above all, you become so much more desirable.

Jesus, no matter what I oftentimes think, feel, pout, demand or say… it is you I want more than anything or anyone else. Keep me restless until my heart more fully rests in you. So very Amen, I pray, in the beauty and bounty of your great name.

 

January 10, 2010

Every now and again I like to post a prayer here. This one is drawn from Pastor Scotty Smith. He titles it “A Prayer About Heart Care.” It seems an appropriate prayer for the beginning of a new year.

*****

Heavenly Father,

The YMCA’s, health clubs and fitness centers are presently burgeoning with post-holiday-feasting traffic. We’re ready to leave the sugar/butter/carbohydrate binge of the past six weeks for the purge of cardio-care and sweat. Indeed, the beginning of a new year usually brings all kinds of resolutions including ones related to getting into shape and taking care of our “ticker.” Certainly, this is a good thing, for stewardship of our hearts and health does bring you glory.

Yet I’ve never been more aware that spiritual formation based on the “binge and purge” cycle simply will not do. My heart needs to be strengthened by the grace of the gospel all year long. I cannot afford periods of “cruise control” when I leave the banquet of your love for the buffet of wanna-be “comfort foods”. Just like the physical heart you’ve given me, the muscle of my “spiritual” heart will atrophy if I do not steward it well.

Here’s my thanksgiving. I praise you for the “means of grace”—the good gifts you’ve freely given us to help us grow in grace. Thank you for the Bible, your very Word, through which you reveal yourself. Thank you for prayer, meditation and corporate worship, by which you meet with us and commune with us. Thank you for the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, these tangible expressions of your covenant love. I praise you that I do not need to take out any kind of membership or join a club to take advantage of these and other wonderful “means of grace.”

Here’s my prayer. Because you love me, let me feel like the moron I am when I avoid the means of grace—when I simply do not take advantage of the primary ways my heart can be strengthened by your grace. By the convicting work of your Holy Spirit, let me far be more concerned about a flabby graceless-heart than bigger love handles. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

December 13, 2009

You know that every now and again I like to post a prayer here. Sometimes it is a prayer from long ago, sometimes it is a prayer that is much more recent. This week I was looking at pastor Scotty Smith’s blog and came across a great prayer—one I could fully identify with and one I so badly needed to pray, too. Smith based it on this passage: “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:16-19).

Here is his prayer:

*****

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m very much convicted by and drawn to Mary’s response, early in her journey of nursing you and knowing you—the very God who created all things, sustains all things and makes all things new. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still… and letting you tell me about yourself.

It’s always been easier for me to talk than to listen, to stay busy than to relax, to be “productive” than to be meditative… I confess this as sin, Lord Jesus. This isn’t okay. It can be explained, but not justified. For knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart.

To know you IS eternal life, and I DO want to know you, Lord Jesus, so much better than I already do. Lead me in the way of treasuring you in my heart and pondering who you are… and pondering everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you’ll be about forever in the new heaven and new earth, as the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride. There’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder…

It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering, for I treasure and ponder a whole lot of things, Lord Jesus—things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit and an impoverished heart.

May the gospel slow me, settle me and center me that I might be able to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).” So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

November 15, 2009

Last week I posted a prayer by pastor Scotty Smith. Today it seemed like it would be good to post another one. This one stood out to me as one I needed to pray—a prayer about impossibilities. It is based on these words: “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.’” (Luke 18:27)

*****

Merciful and mighty, Lord Jesus, how I need to wrestle with this hope this day. First of all, I want to thank you for the freedom the Scriptures give me to be honest about situations which are impossible to me. It’s so good to know that the gospel calls us to hope, not to hype… to believe, not to make believe… to intercession, not to presumption.

The disciples were vexed over a camel making it through the eye of a needle with greater ease than a rich man making it through the door into your kingdom. Sarah laughed at the thought of having a baby in her nineties. Mary was shocked at the thought of giving birth to you, as a virgin, and understandably so.

But because you did come to us, Jesus, in a most improbable, impossible-to-mere-man way, I am more inclined to say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant… may it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). And because you did overcome death and evil through your resurrection, I am more ready to say with Paul, “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). And because “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18-19), I will flee today to take hold of the hope offered to me in the gospel—a firm and secure anchor for my soul, which is floating on a sea of seeming impossibilities.

Lord Jesus, I’m asking you to breathe new life into the hearts of some of my friends who are in the paralyzing lockdown of shame, guilt, contempt and utter despair. Bring your resurrection power to marriages of friends that are, at best on life support, and others that are about to be rolled into the morgue.

For my friends who have spent everything they have on a multitude of doctors and cures, but are not better at all, have mercy Jesus, have mercy, I ask. For me, Jesus, please give me the assurance that you really are at work in my life—freeing me from the idols of my heart for the passions of your heart and kingdom. Whatever is impossible with me, is more than possible with you. So very Amen, I pray, in your anchor-for-my-soul, Name.

November 08, 2009

For some time now pastor Scotty Smith has been posting prayers at his blog. This one, in particular, caught my attention as a prayer that could come from the heart of any believer.

*****

Heavenly Father, how I long for the Day when I will no longer be tempt-able, deceive-able, or even capable of worshipping any other “god” but you. I so look forward to an eternity of giving you the adoration, affection, attention and allegiance of which you alone are worthy. No one cares like you. No one understands like you. No one redeems like you. No one loves like you. No one restores like you. There is no God but you.

In Jesus, you have already given me a new heart and have placed your Spirit in me. In Jesus, you have already turned my heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27). In Jesus, you have already given me a heart to know and love you (Jeremiah 24:7). In Jesus you have already written your law upon my heart (Jeremiah 31:33). In Jesus, you have already given me a perfectly forgiven heart.

YET, it is not a fully perfected heart. The battle for my heart’s daily worship continues, and will continue until the Day Jesus returns to finish making all things new. Thus, the warning to keep myself from idols has never had more meaning, Father. Help me discern which “idols of the heart” (Ezekiel 14:4) I am most susceptible to trusting in, rather than you. When I don’t think you are “enough,” where do I take the worship you deserve—where do I go for life, deliverance and salvation?

Sometimes the collaboration and conspiracy of the duplicity within me… the world around me… and the devil, invisible to me, is overwhelming… I need the gospel every minute of every hour.

I praise you for the assurance that I am already one of your “beloved children.” You cannot love me more than you already do, and you will never love me less, for you love all of your children just as much as you love your beloved Son, Jesus. Surely the gospel, this gospel, will win the day, my heart and the entire cosmos. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

October 18, 2009

The prayer immediately before a sermon is one where the congregation is prone to drift off. This prayer is usually a minister’s plea for God to grant him words to speak and for God to grant the ability to hear and understand for those who listen to the sermon. I’ve noticed, though, that when I am the one who is to preach immediately afterward, this prayer takes on a new dimension of desperation. The one standing in the pulpit (hopefully) has a real sense of his unworthiness, his unsuitableness, his inability to do in his own power the task he is called to do. This morning I will be preaching at a church nearby and already I feel that sense of inability and already I’m turning to God to grant me strength. This prayer from The Valley of Vision has given me words to speak to God to ask for his help.

*****

Unchangeable Jehovah,
When I am discouraged in my ministry and full of doubts of my self,
fasten me upon the rock of thy eternal election,
then my hands will not hang down,
and I shall have hope for myself and others.
Thou dost know thy people by name,
and wilt at the appointed season lead them out of a natural to a gracious state by thy effectual calling.
This is the ground of my salvation,
the object of my desire,
the motive of my ministry.
Keep me from high thoughts of myself or my work,
for I am nothing but sin and weakness;
in me no good dwells,
and my best works are but sin.
Humble me to the dust before thee.
Root and tear out the poisonous weed of self-righteousness,
and show me my utter nothingness;
Keep me sensible of my sinnership;
Sink me deeper into penitence and self-abhorence;
Break the Dagon of pride in pieces before the ark of thy presence;
Demolish the Babel of self-opinion, and scatter it to the wind;
Level to the ground my Jericho walls of a rebel heart;
Then grace, grace, will be my experience and cry.
I am a poor, feeble creature when faith is not in exercise,
like an eagle with pinioned wings;
Grant me to rest on thy power and faithfulness,
and to know that there are two things worth living for:
to further thy cause in the world,
and to do good to the souls and bodies of men;
This is my ministry, my life, my prayer, my end.
Grant me grace that I shall not fail.

October 04, 2009

This is one of my favorite prayers in The Valley of Vision. It is a prayer for family, asking God not only for grace in raising a family in a way that brings him glory but also asking God for grace in the lives of other family members. I think it is notable that a prayer for family first begins with soul-searching prayer about self. In fact it moves seamlessly from adoration of God to confession of sin to petition that God will grant grace to overcome sin (and especially sin related to ones ability to effectively relate to family) and finally to prayer for those family members. It is a beautiful, powerful prayer.

*****

O SOVEREIGN LORD,
Thou art the Creator-Father of all men, for thou hast made and dost support them;
Thou art the special Father of those who know, love and honour thee,
who find thy yoke easy, and thy burden light,
thy work honourable,
thy commandments glorious.
But how little thy undeserved goodness has affected me!
how imperfectly have I improved my religious privileges!
how negligent have I been in doing good to others!
I am before thee in my trespasses and sins,
have mercy on me,
and may thy goodness bring me to repentance.
Help me to hate and forsake every false way,
to be attentive to my condition and character,
to bridle my tongue,
to keep my heart with all diligence,
to watch and pray against temptation,
to mortify sin,
to be concerned for the salvation of others.
O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction of my kindred.
Let those that are united to me in tender ties
be precious in thy sight and devoted to thy glory.
Sanctify and prosper my domestic devotion,
instruction, discipline, example,
that my house may be a nursery for heaven,
my church the garden of the Lord,
enriched with trees of righteousness of thy planting,
for thy glory;
Let not those of my family who are amiable, moral, attractive,
fall short of heaven at last;
Grant that the promising appearances of a tender conscience,
soft heart, the alarms and delights of thy Word,
be not finally blotted out,
but bring forth judgment unto victory in all whom I love.

September 19, 2009

I’ll be honest. What first stood out to me about this prayer (drawn from The Valley of Vision) was the title, “A Colloquy On Rejoicing.” I immediately looked up colloquy and found that it is simply a kind of formal conversation and that the word is often used in a religious context. So it makes good sense here. This prayer represents a Christian’s conversation with himself as he reflects on his desire, his responsibility, to rejoice in all that God is and in all that God has done.

Remember, O My Soul,
It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God:
He requires it of thee for all his favours of grace.
Rejoice then in the Giver and his goodness,
Be happy in him, O my heart, and in nothing but God,
for whatever a man trusts in,
from that he expects happiness.

He who is the ground of thy faith
should be the substance of thy joy.
Whence then come heaviness and dejection,
when joy is sown in thee,
promised by the Father,
bestowed by the Son,
inwrought by the Holy Spirit,
thine by grace,
thy birthright in believing?

Art thou seeking to rejoice in thyself
from an evil motive of pride and self-reputation?
Thou hast nothing of thine own but sin,
nothing to move God to be gracious,
or to continue his grace towards thee.
If thou forget this thou wilt lose thy joy.
Art thou grieving under a sense of indwelling sin?
Let godly sorrow work repentance,
as the true spirit which the Lord blesses,
and which creates fullest joy;
Sorrow for self opens rejoicing in God,
Self-loathing draws down divine delights.
Hast thou sought joys in some creature comfort?
Look not below God for happiness;
fall not asleep in Delilah’s lap.
Let God be all in all to thee, and joy in the fountain that is always full.

September 13, 2009

Every now and again I like to post a prayer drawn from The Valley of Vision. Allow me to do so again. Recently I shared the prayer titled “A Minister’s Preaching.” This one is similar, titled “A Minister’s Bible.” It is geared toward pastors, obviously, but what I really like about it is the expression of utter dependency upon God that if a minister’s reading of Scripture and his preaching of Scripture are to have any effect upon the hearer, they must be empowered by God.

O God of truth,
I thank Thee for the holy Scriptures,
their precepts, promises, directions, light.
In them may I learn more of Christ,
be enabled to retain His truth
and have grace to follow it.
Help me to lift up the gates of my soul
that He may come in
and show me Himself when I search the Scriptures,
for I have no lines to fathom its depths,
no wings to soar to its heights.
By His aid may I be enabled to explore all its truths,
love them with all my heart,
embrace them with all my power,
engraft them into my life.
Bless to my soul all grains of truth garnered from Thy Word;
may they take deep root,
be refreshed by heavenly dew,
be ripened by heavenly rays,
be harvested to my joy and Thy praise.
Help me to gain profit by what I read,
as a treasure beyond all treasure,
a fountain which can replenish my dry heart,
its waters flowing through me as a perennial river
on-drawn by Thy Holy Spirit.
Enable me to distill from its pages faithful prayer
that grasps the arm of Thy omnipotence,
achieves wonders, obtains blessings,
and draws down streams of mercy.
From it show me how my words have often been
unfaithful to Thee,
injurious to my fellow-men,
empty of grace, full of folly,
dishonoring to my calling.
Then write Thy own words upon my heart
and inscribe them on my lips;
So shall all glory be to Thee in my reading of Thy Word!

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