Help For My Prayer Life

Praying Together 2021
July 1, 2021
Greg Scheideman

It is really strange, when you think about it, that prayer is so hard! Prayer allows us to come up close for an intimate conversation with our closest companion and friend – but, it is something almost all of us struggle with. Whether we can’t think of things to pray about, find ourselves falling into boring patterns, or shrink away from opportunities to encourage or lead others by praying out loud – some simple tools can go a long way to help us develop this rewarding discipline in our spiritual walk.

One tool that I was thankful for when I was saved many years ago and still find myself using almost daily when I pray is the acronym “A-C-T-S."  I have used this acronym for short or long prayers, private or public, when using scripture or not – it has been a great tool for many different occasions!  I still use it almost every time I exercise – dividing my run, bike, ride or walk into ¼’s and covering one letter at a time. The pattern for ACTS is based loosely on the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, and nearly all of the prayers in scripture can be categorized by one of the four letters in the acronym. I really find that following the order in the acronym works too because when I am most tempted to just jump to “Supplication” (presenting my requests to God), I find that once I have adored, confessed to, and thanked Him – what would have been a selfish request is now more God-honoring and kingdom-minded.

As a refresher, or as an introduction, here are the four types or things that can be included in a well-rounded prayer:

A prayer of adoration is a prayer that praises God’s goodness and majesty. In the Bible, we find prayers of adoration in the Psalms, which are often called psalms of praise.
For instance, Psalm 111:1-4:
“Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has caused His wonders to be remembered;
The Lord is gracious and compassionate.”
A prayer of confession is a searching prayer of the heart. When we confess, we bare our souls before God about our sins and shortcomings. Confession to God is also a model for the kind of mutual confession that believers in the body of Christ are called upon to make to one another (see James 5:16). But ultimately, since all sin is sin against God, we are called to confess our sins to God. A key part of the good news of Jesus is that repentance can bring forgiveness and new life. Indeed, the Bible assures us that sincere confession before God will be met with forgiveness. We see this in 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So prayers of confession ought to be a regular part of our spiritual lives, as we become transformed into the people God would have us be.

A prayer of thanksgiving is a prayer that recognizes the good things God gives us and offers thanks for them: our lives, our health, our families, and our faith. The apostle Paul told us, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16–18 NASB). A part of what it means to live faithfully is to live out of a deep sense of gratitude for all that God has done for us. Prayers of thanksgiving help us to do that. They give proper thanks to God and also shape us into thankful people at our core.

A prayer of supplication is a prayer that lifts up requests before God. Supplications are often divided between those requests we make for ourselves (petitions) and those requests we make on behalf of other people (intercessions). We can turn again to the apostle Paul, who told us in Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (v. 4:6 NRSV). It is natural for us to ask God for the desires of our hearts, and we can be assured that God will answer our prayers. We also feel the need to pray on behalf of others--our family and friends--as well as those we do not know personally. God does answer prayer, even if we need to be mindful that God’s answers to prayer are not always the answers we want God to give!

If you have never used this pattern, or haven’t since you were first taught to pray, this could be just the jumpstart your prayer life could use this week!