We need a prayer routine to really talk to God the way we wish to speak with Him. There are a number of interesting outlines that people use when organizing their prayers, but for me the one that works best is ACTS.
ACTS is an acrostic that stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. I discovered this form of prayer while reading Bill Hybels’ little book on prayer, Too Busy Not to Pray almost twenty years ago. But, like so many things in my life I soon drifted away from using ACTS as an outline for prayer and substituted it with a jumbled mess of requests, petitions and check lists of wants. Recently, however, I have been rereading Hybels’ book and have rediscovered this useful form of prayer.
Adoration is essential for putting us in the right frame of mind for prayer. Through adoration we are reminded of the greatness of God and his bigness. When we reflect upon His omnipotence, omniscience and that He is ever omnipresent we begin to realize that prayer is a privilege where we are able to talk to the wonder and magnificence of the God of the Universe. Through adoration we express our joy at being able to bring our cares, troubles and marvels to the One who can do all things.
Hybels writes, “We can praise God for being faithful, righteous, just, merciful, gracious, willing to provide, attentive and unchanging. When the spirit of adoration takes over and we began pondering God’s attributes, we soon say from the heart, ‘I am praying to a tremendous God!’ Which only motivates us to keep on praying.” Too Busy Not to Pray, p. 66
Confession is the most difficult aspect of praying ACTS, and therefore, is the most difficult and neglected area of prayer. I will be honest with you, I throw all my sins into one big ball and pray, “God please forgive me of my sins” but that isn’t confession. Confession makes us reflect upon our specific sins and gives us the strength to bring them before God in repentance.
The problem for us is that we like a lot of our sins and we are not sure we really want to single them out and ask God to forgive and redeem us from them. It just seems so much easier to say, “forgive me my sins” and then continue on hoping God forgives the sins we want out of our life and forgets about the besetting sins that hold us captive.
Confession calls for us to be honest with God and reveal the sins we cherish and ask God’s grace in resisting temptation and God’s power in overcoming them. When we have the courage to ask God’s forgiveness for those particular sins our conscience will feel cleansed. (See Psalm 103:12) If we took confession serious we would be different people with changed hearts totally trusting in God.
Thanksgiving is simply expressing gratitude for all God has done in our lives and the lives of those we love. Psalm 103:2 states, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” We should thank God for answered prayer, spiritual blessings, material blessings and relational blessings. Much too often we don’t take the time to thank God for all the blessings he has poured out upon us, but when we do, life looks much different than how we picture it.
Supplication is the area of the prayer where we remind God of our great needs and the needs of others. James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 Notice God gives wisdom generously and that is a promise for us all. And God doesn’t fault us for our requests or think they are stupid or dumb instead He hears all our requests and when appropriate says yes to them. When they would be harmful or stand against God’s purpose for our lives He says no and on occasion He simply says wait and the matter will become clearer for us.
1 Peter 5:7 states, “cast all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you.” When we pray we are not simply telling God our problems, but we are turning them over to Him.
Prayer is not about putting God in a box and giving Him two choices. Prayer is simply saying, “God your will be done in my life. I might like things to go a certain way, but I am willing to listen to you and follow your plans for my life.” Someone might be praying about whether or not they should marry a certain person, but what they should be praying for is that God will guide them in their life and their willingness to listen to His decisions for them.
I don’t understand everything about prayer, but I know God loves to hear from us and He is worthy of our adoration, confessions and thanksgiving, ever willing to hear our supplications. God is awesome and ever present in your life so rejoice that He loves you unconditionally.
* As always, please remember to pray for the persecuted Christians in so many of the countries of this world. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/