24 Apr Help for Prayer
My personal prayer time has always been a struggle for me. I want to pray; I need to pray. I grew up going to a Bible-believing church right from an infant, so for as long as I can remember, I have been taught to “read your Bible, pray every day” (those of you who grew up in my era can hear that Sunday School jingle in your head now). It’s so easy to get legalistic with this – making it a box you have to check each day, or something you have to “do” to be acceptable to God. I think this can often be a struggle for people, and I know it has been for me.
When I have gone through hard times, those times when I am at the end of myself – I have cried out to God. This has been some of my most sincere prayer time – those prayers of desperation and reliance on God. My mom would often say to me that God will bring things into your life to bring you to your knees, and I am thankful for that.
But when life is just sort of cruising along, the days are normal, there’s no big issue or anything like that, my prayer life has struggled. I think there’s many reasons for this – partly my own pride in relying on myself when things are going well, and not seeing myself accurately in light of who God is. My mind also wanders while I am praying. I kneel to pray, start out, then – oops – I’m thinking about my tasks or something I need to do that day. I give my head a shake, tell myself to focus, and start again. Usually less than a minute later, there I am again – thinking about something else. Another problem I often have is falling asleep while I am praying. I have tried journaling my prayers, either typing or writing by hand. I have found this to help, but there are still so many times that I feel I’m just following the routine and praying to get it done, rather than out of a right heart attitude and dependence on God.
About a year ago, when I was getting some biblical counselling, I was challenged with the ACTS method of prayer. I had heard of it before, but never really put it into practice, in a way that would help grow my abiding in Christ and my prayer life. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the ACTS method, it stands for:
A – Adoration – praise God for who He is (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8)
C – Confession – confess any known sin (1 John 1:9)
T – Thankfulness – tell God what you are thankful for (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
S – Supplication – ask God, for the desires of your heart (Philippians 4:6)
I started praying through the ACTS method in my prayer time. I found that it really helped, through a natural progression, to get my heart right before God, before getting to the supplication. When I start with praising God for who He is – His creation, His sovereignty, His power, His kindness, His love, His sacrifice, His gentleness, His patience, etc. then naturally, my next step is to be in awe of Him, in light of who He says I am.
I find that praising God for who He is and taking time to really do this, makes me all that much more aware of my sin. So I find the progression to the “C” – confession, to be a natural one after looking at who God is. Then I take some time to confess my sin. To really examine my heart – be honest with myself, and with God. He already knows anyway, but this confession part is telling Him – agreeing with Him – that my flesh is weak and telling Him specifically where I have sinned. Sometimes during this portion of my prayer, God also convicts me that I need to confess my sin to another – perhaps someone I have hurt because of my sin.
Once I have spent time examining my heart and confessing my sin, I am led to – wow, thank you God for dying for me! I don’t deserve anything He has given to me. I find that after reflecting on who God is, then who I am, the next natural response is the “T” – thankfulness! This thankfulness part usually starts with thanking God for saving me. Then I realize how kind He has been and continues to be toward me. I thank God for my family, my church, food on the table, creation, health, trials, etc. I find that once I start, it’s hard to stop, as He is always so kind and gracious.
Then, I start on the “S” part – supplication. After following the “A”, “C”, and “T”, my heart is in a much better place for the “S”. Instead of it being a list of telling God what I want Him to do, or passing along what others have asked me to pray for, I am wanting what God wants, His glory, and His way, and then I can make supplication for others and myself.
I have really found this ACTS method of prayer to be helpful to be personally, and, it’s biblical. If you look at the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6, where Jesus commands us how to pray, you can see the ACTS method. Just like everything else, I need to be careful that my heart doesn’t get legalistic with going through the ACTS, but I have found it to be a helpful process to get my heart right before God, and it has really helped my prayer life.
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”