MY PRAYER: Father,
Now that I have spelled out
The exact nature of my behavior,
And have written it down,
I feel naked and completely vulnerable.
Reviewing it gives me a feeling of relief,
But it also makes me feel insecure and ashamed.
Now that I have brought to light
My deepest, most intimate secrets,
I fear the ridicule, condemnation, and rejection of others.
Perhaps I will even be mocked by my confidant—
The person I have chosen to be my confessor—
Just like I have been betrayed by so many others.
I know this is not a realistic fear,
But the thought of it creates anxiety in my heart.
I know You have forgiven my self-defeating behavior,
But humans are rarely as gracious as You are.
Please prepare the heart of my friend—
The one I have chosen to reveal my past to.
When I expose myself completely, hiding nothing,
I pray that Your love and acceptance will be
What I experience and not the reprimands
Of a person who has become self-righteous—
Someone who cannot or will not
Understand and accept me, exactly the way I am.
Father, I have worked diligently and come so far.
Help me continue to be vulnerable and forthright,
Which I know is Your will for my life.
Stand with me, Lord, so that I can
Boldly state the exact nature of my misconduct,
With humility, casting aside my fear of being censured.
Heal me in all of my broken places and relieve
The burden of guilt I have carried for so many years.
Free me to walk into the future unencumbered.
Free me to become the person You have created me to be,
Jack Watts

MY PRAYER: Father,
The darkness has lifted—
Darkness permitted by You
To refine my character,
Purging each of my childish ways
And making me more like
The man I’m supposed to be—
The man I’ve always wanted to be.
In the midst of my despair,
When at night I longed for the day,
And in the daytime desired it to be evening,
When sorrows made it difficult to breathe,
You were always there beside me,
Even when I was certain You were not.
As fear relentlessly rattled every fiber of my being,
You continued transforming me from the inside out—
Ever mindful of my frailties and weaknesses.
You purged, pruned and cleansed me from within,
Making me into a far better version of myself
Than I have ever been.
Then, one day, as I waited for my debilitating gloom
To return, which had become my daily routine,
It was gone—vanished like it had never been present—
Leaving me stronger, more resilient, and far wiser.
My purpose also returned to me, along with my smile.
I embraced life with renewed enthusiasm—
No longer chained to my heartache—
No longer imprisoned by my distress.
Now, having been elevated to a higher plateau,
I can thank You for making me a new person—
With estimable character qualities I considered beyond reach,
Jack Watts

For those who wait patiently for You,
For those who come to You for guidance,
Rather than taking matters into their own hands,
You promise they will mount up with wings like eagles—
That they will run and not grow weary—
That they will walk and never faint.
In the depth of my despair, in my intense heartache,
Your promises seemed to be ethereal and remote.
They also seemed so obscure and unattainable,
That I was certain they were beyond my grasp.
I didn’t consider them to be real or tangible.
They felt like nothing more than sappy, poetic platitudes.
In my pain and heartache, which at times was so intense,
All I wanted was relief from suffering I thought was endless.
I begged You to answer my insistent demands,
Which You never did, adding to my distress.
I felt so unloved and abandoned—even by You—
That it magnified my pain tenfold, perhaps twenty.
Now, I realize You did answer me. You simply said, “No.”
You loved me enough to prevent me from suffering
Negative consequences that were not in my best interest.
In my disquietude and short-sightedness,
I couldn’t understand or discern Your will, but now I can.
Because I chose Your path, instead of my willful
Self-destructive vices to ease my pain and discomfort,
You have brought me to a higher plateau—
To a place where I am now capable
Of mounting up with wings like an eagle—
Just as You promised in Your Word.
Because You restore the years the locust have eaten away,
I feel refreshed and invigorated, with a determined resolve
That has increased my energy dramatically.
As my strength and faith continue to abound,
I feel empowered to run and not grow weary.
Thank You for refusing to honor my foolish demands,
Which would have caused me more needless heartache, Amen.
Jack Watts

The Rose

I AM NOT ASHAMED: When I was in graduate school at Baylor, I remember reading a book about the beliefs and values of those who fought for and supported the American Revolution. Like most, my assumption was that nearly all of the men and women involved were strong Christians, but this simply wasn’t true. In fact, just 5 percent were church members, but the commitment of this small group was so profound that they have influenced the course of American history ever since.
As I thought about it, I realized it doesn’t take a great number of people to move a nation in one direction as versus another. It just takes a small number of people who are completely committed to their cause. Those early Christians embodied this type of devotion and dedication. Then, I wondered what would be required for our generation to be just as steadfast and immovable. As implausible as it might seem, the following experience provided me with the answer.
I was at a church service, when the pastor gave the following sermon illustration. Holding up a beautiful red rose for all to see, the pastor said, “How many of you think this flower is beautiful?” Within a few seconds, nearly every hand in the congregation was held high, including mine. Continuing, he asked, “How many of you would like a rose like this?” Again, hands shot up all over the sanctuary. Stepping forward, the pastor handed the flower to someone in the audience, asking that the flower be passed around for all to take a closer look.
Returning to the pulpit, the pastor began his sermon on the necessity of maintaining moral purity. He went to great lengths to make his point. Concluding, he asked the audience, “Where is my rose? Someone bring it back to me, please.”
As people watched to see who had the rose, a teenager in the back stepped brought the rose forward, handing it to the pastor. Holding the flower high in the air a second time, the pastor thundered. “Look at what has become of this rose. After being handled by so many, it has lost its beauty, its purity, and its value. Tell me, who would ever want this rose now? If you want it, please raise your hand.”
As he looked around the room, not one hand was raised, including mine. While driving home, however, with my spirit being troubled, I thought about the message all of us internalized that morning. It focused exclusively on how we were to behave, rather than what we were to think. I thought that if Christ had been in the audience that day, He would have looked at the wilted, badly damaged flower much differently. If He had been there, Jesus might have said, “I want that rose, and I’ll pay any price for it.”
When I had that thought, the answer to my earlier question clicked into place, and I knew why we are not as impactful as we should be. There may be more Christians in our generation, but we are not nearly as strong, nor as robust, as earlier generations. It’s because we focus on ourselves, and what we are to do, rather than on the power and authority of the Holy Spirit working within us.
From that point forward, I have thought about what is necessary for us to be stronger and more courageous than we have ever been.
Jack Watts

MY PRAYER: Father,
As I thoughtfully look about,
Appraising my circumstances,
Which are not what I desired—
Not at all what I had planned—
I don’t understand where You are leading,
Nor do I understand why I must travel
This difficult path in isolation—
in solitude. I wanted my life to be so different—
To be easier and more carefree—
But this has not been my experience.
As I see the smiling faces of others—
Those who talk about You as if
They know You intimately but are shallow—
I wonder why their lives appear to be
Free from disappointment and conflict,
While mine has been so stressful and taxing.
I wonder if I will ever experience joy again?
Father, tell me, when will Your pruning hand
Be finished with my character transformation?
When will I awaken from the darkness of despair,
To a bright, sunny day, filled with hope and promise—
Free from sorrow—free from loss and pain?
When will You strengthen me in a mighty way?
When will You say to my enemies,
“This is my child—my beloved offspring—
Whom I have fortified and established.
Let all who criticize know that it is I—
The great ‘I Am’ who has done this work in him.”
Father, I know You are in charge—
That You have numbered my days—
And my future is in Your hands.
It is within Your power to change everything—
To allow my life to have more meaning than it has.
Please finish Your redemptive pruning quickly,
So that I can withstand this swirling wind,
Along with its foreboding and menacing clouds,
—Jack Watts

MY PRAYER: Father,
Sometimes, life can be so complicated.
Doing the right thing seems easy enough,
Until it comes time to do it,
When the dread of adverse consequences
Becomes an overwhelming apprehension.
My heart yearns for life to become easier,
But this certainly has not been my experience.
What makes me so special that my journey
Has to be filled with so many difficult impediments?
Why can’t things go smoothly—just for a while?
Why me, Lord? Why me? Why? Why? Why?
I don’t want to sound like I’m whining,
But I know I am. I’m complaining because
My shoes are too tight, while many go barefoot.
I know I should be more grateful, patient, and accepting,
But I want a respite from my numerous travails.
I want despair and sorrow to be removed far from me.
The “Be warmed and be filled” crowd of Christians
Smile and offer meaningless, glib platitudes,
While I nurse wounds that I fear will destroy me.
I want to serve You with gladness and joy,
But I have no sense of hope within me—
Nothing that can sustain me for more
Than a few fleeting moments at a time.
I do not want to be a disingenuous automaton,
Pretending everything is lovely and joyous,
When I know so many things are dreadfully wrong.
My days, which are numbered by You,
Are passing before me, and it all seems
Like such a terrible, meaningless waste.
Intervene, Lord, and allow me to know
Joy and gladness once again.
Fill my days with peace and purpose,
So that I can tell other of Your fidelity,
And be completely honest doing so.
Don’t leave me in this dismal, pitiful situation,
Lest my sorrows become overwhelming and destroy me, Amen.
Jack Watts

MY PRAYER: Father,
Allow me to serve others
With gladness—Never keeping score,
Always giving, never expecting to receive.
Allow me to give of myself,
Give of my talents and of my goods,
Give of my time and of my energy,
Give of my heart and of my soul.
Help me understand the needs of others,
Never criticizing,
Never demeaning,
Never scolding,
Never condemning.
You have been so gracious to me,
Always Loving,
Always forgiving,
Always restoring—
While never chastising me for my waywardness,
Even though I have been wrong
More times than I can remember.
Father, keep a critical spirit far from
My heart and further from my lips.
Allow me to serve others with gladness,
With compassion and tenderness,
Never diminishing their value as my price for caring.
Let me extend mercy to the brokenhearted,
Just as You have done so often for me,
—Jack Watts