How Should I Pray?
Have you ever asked the question, “how should I pray?”
The disciples did, and Jesus answered them with an outline for prayer including specific words to say. Christians often refer to this as “The Lord’s Prayer” and I have addressed it in my book already. However, regarding structure for a moment, I would like to address another basic model for prayer. Commuting to and from work has allowed me extended time each morning to engage in prayer, and this specific framework has benefited me greatly.
At the beginning of the commute, I wrestled for a few days determining the structure and model of my prayer time. Christians are notorious for knowing what to do, but following through with our knowledge, that is a different blog. I struggled with putting flesh and bones on the coveted “secret place” that is now my car. Nathaniel had a fig tree (John 1:48), I have a cherry red Chevy Cobalt. He had figs and shade. I have walnuts and air conditioning. In my first few days of quiet time, doubts and questions abounded.
- Am I doing this right, God?
- What do I say?
- How long do I pray?
- Did I spend enough time in prayer?
- Should I close my eyes while driving (kidding)?
How did I solve this dilemma? I must first acknowledge no originality on my part. Someone, somewhere, invented an acronym and for that I am grateful. Praise God for acronyms and their creators. The solution to my praying, solving my lack of framing, was the acronym ACTS. No, I am not referring to Luke’s follow-up to his gospel. The acronym stands for the following words (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication), and I work through each letter during my prayer time.
A stands for Adoration. This Latin word emerged during the Reformation era and speaks of paying homage or respect to someone. When you consider the reality of prayer, communicating with the creator of all things, homage is better described as worship. My encouragement to you, spend the beginning of your prayer time worshipping God for who He is.
Here is what I do:
I begin the drive by listening to God’s Word (through any good Bible app), at least one chapter a day. I choose this instead of music because one of the highest forms of worship is simply listening to our God! If your spouse speaks to you, and you listen to them, you show great respect. If our God speaks to us through the Scriptures, and yet we don’t listen to or read them, we show utter disrespect in our lack of worship. My suggestion, pick a book and read/listen to it one chapter a day, or more (as time and concentration allow). As you read and/or listen to the Bible, repeat each section that you struggle to grasp in the moment. Shoot for understanding and comprehension versus goal completion (five chapters a day for a year to read through the whole Bible). Goals are great, but remember that this time is about a dialogue and conversation with God (showing great respect and worship). If your goals begin to supersede your worship for God, placing the focus on you, are you honestly paying worship to God?
The next portion of ACTS is Confession. This term seems foreign to many Protestants. It is true that we do not believe in the necessity of confessing sins to a priest and seeking veneration for those sins through his authority. However, God repeatedly calls Christians to a continual confession of sin. Where the Catholic church prescribes the antidote to those sins through penance, the Scriptures prescribe Jesus Christ as the once for all sacrifice (Hebrews 10). However, if Christ died for my sins, and the beautiful doctrine of justification declares (from God’s mouth) that my faith in Christ as Lord and Savior is the guarantee of my salvation, why then do we confess our sins?
Confession is being honest with God and yourself about your sins. It is not so much telling God what He doesn’t know because God knows all things (1 John 3:20), but it is agreeing with God about the evil of your actions and the goodness of salvation in Christ. Confession admits the sin, and humbles the sinner, reminding them of their need for God’s mercy. Proverbs 28:13 reads, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” The object of our confession is both one another and God. The book of James reminds us to confess to each other and pray for one another (James 5:16), and 1 John points us in the direction of God (1:9). It is this confession of sin to a God who is faithful and just, forgiving our sins (not continually, but once-for-all through Christ) that reminds us of our continual need, longing, and humble submission to the beautiful grace of God.
Listen to the words of David, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).
It is important to remember that we confess our sins, and He promises that we are forgiven through Christ.
Thanksgiving comes next. This often overlooked biblical command abounds with rich spiritual food benefits. The Scriptures tell us to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We are to give thanks because the love of God endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34). Our salvation is a gift from God and should prompt thankfulness (Ephesians 2:8-9). The kingdom we are receiving is unshakable, and we are thankful, prompting praise and worship of God (Hebrews 12:28). Genesis declares God created humankind, and your very existence (and ability to read this blog post) is a gift from God. The abundance of blessings that God bestows on us is too long to count or blog, but take a minute (right now) and during your prayer time to thank God.
Here is what I do:
- I thank God for my salvation. It has to start here because if I was not a new creation in Christ, I would have no desire or ability to even speak with my heavenly Father.
- I thank God for my Family (immediate), my wife and child.
- I thank God for my Family (extended), including my parents, in-laws, brothers, and sisters.
- I thank God for my life, job, health, car, checking account, goals, dreams, food, and shelter.
These are simple suggestions, but I encourage you to specify and articulate the mundane and the major blessings you have. In fact, do a little research. Are you not very thankful for your 60k/year paycheck? The average worker in Indonesia will make 60k in eighty years. Think construction is bad on the interstate? Consider driving through Kenya, Jamaica, or Mexico (like I have) and experience a different state of “off-roading” on their “public” roads. Be thankful, for the oxygen you inhaled, the coffee you sipped, the electricity keeping your phone or laptop charged, and the comfortable sweatpants you lounge in with a coffee stain on them.
The conclusion of my prayer time ends in supplication. We find mention of supplication in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Notice thanksgiving is mentioned with supplication. We should be thankful initially that our heavenly Father even hears our prayers. Then, our supplication, or asking earnestly from God for answers to our prayers is the final component of the ACTS model. This is the time to bring your requests to God.
Here are some suggestions:
- Pray for your needs, the needs of others, and the needs of your community.
- Pray for family members, saved and unsaved.
- Pray for wisdom and guidance from God, and pray the same for your pastor, church, and government.
- Pray for persecuted Christians around the world, and pray for continual faith in the face of future persecution.
Paul writes in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Be constant in prayer, or just pray. Adoration (A), Confession (C), Thanksgiving (T), Supplication (S). ACTS. Paul says be constant in the act of ACTS. As Christians, we need to just pray. We often talk about prayer, read about prayer, study about prayer, but we just don’t pray. The apostle humbly reminds us to just pray. Even Jesus used the words, “when you pray, pray like this” implying his disciples would pray. So, with that said, here is a model for prayer but you really just need to pray. Find a quiet place for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. I am shutting the computer off now, and opening my Bible to John 18 (picking up where I left off). I’ll start there, and maybe I’ll meet up with you at Supplication. I am praying for you today. I hope you are praying for me as well.