For years I struggled with praying to God in a heartfelt, meaningful and appropriate way. I say appropriate because after all, I was coming to the Lord and Creator of everything, who is also my heavenly Father. My heart yearned to communicate with God sincerely, yet I usually ended up feeling frustrated, feeling I was falling short. Though I had read the Psalms and other prayers in the Bible, I hadn’t picked up on elements of approaching God in prayer which were within those portions of scripture.
I remember when I was introduced to a simple way of approaching God, easy to remember, one that was rooted in the scriptures, called the ACTS of prayer (prayercentral.net) . You could use four fingers on one hand to remind yourself of the acrostic, which stand for the following:
A is for Adoration. Approach God in humility, reverence and awe and worship Him for who He is. We learn about Him as we read and study the Bible. He is Holy and we must approach Him as such (Luke 11: 2).
C is for Confession. Sin acts as a wall between us and God, effectively blocking our prayers (Isaiah 59:2). We need to be sensitive to God’s Spirit on a daily basis, as He speaks conviction to us, and confess and repent of all known sin as soon as we are aware of it (I John 1: 8, 9). That way, communication with God remains open.
T is for Thanksgiving. The greatest acceptable sacrifice we can make to God, along with laying our lives at His feet as a living sacrifice, is that of thanksgiving and praise (Hebrews 13: 15). Our prayers are to be seasoned with them.
S is for Supplication. This is the part we normally think of as prayer: asking God for something (Luke 11: 9, 10). Our requests must be couched in the reverence and worship due God, seeking first His will in the matter, purged of known sin through confession and repentance, wrapped in trust and infused with thanksgiving.
The disciples of Jesus apparently had feelings and experiences with prayer similar to mine for they asked Him to teach them to pray:
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’
So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Luke 11:1-4, NKJV)
In this prayer we can see quite well the elements of the ACTS of prayer: Adoration, Confession, and Supplication. Though Thanksgiving is not obvious in this prayer, thankfulness is clearly taught throughout the Bible in such passages as:
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4, NKJV)
“[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7, ESV)
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15, NKJV)
The scriptures are full of psalms and prayers and from them we can learn the proper manner in which to come to God, and what to pray for. We need to look for and carefully study them as we read our Bibles.
Practice coming to God in a way similar to prayers in the Bible, psalms and the way the simple ACTS acrostic teaches us. This is not formulaic prayer, it is prayer learned from God’s word itself. This type of approach to God is what I am trying to learn and do. It has been working for me, guiding me into the presence of God in a manner worthy of Him. There are other similar, biblical approaches to prayer. Find one which resonates and use it. They are only means to an end: Prayer— just do it!