When we look to the Bible, we see that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray. Since He is our example, we certainly should also make time to pray. Sometimes praying might flow effortlessly from our hearts, but other times it might be hard to know how we should pray or what we should pray about. Hopefully this post will offer some helpful insights.
We don’t know a lot about what Jesus actually prayed, but we do have the example He gave the disciples when they asked Him how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is a model. It teaches us to pray for God to be honored, God’s Kingdom to advance, His will to be done, our needs to be met, and our sins to be forgiven. So we can use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide for our prayers, but I would also like to suggest another tool that can help us in our times of prayer.
Another way we can approach different aspects of prayer is by using the acrostic ACTS. The four letters in ACTS each stand for a word that can remind us to pray in the following ways:
Adoration means praising God for who He is. We should worship God in prayer for who He is and not just for what He has done for us. I recently created a book -mark which has an alphabetical list of names of God on one side and attributes of God on the other side. I use it as a tool to help me focus on the nature and character of God during my prayer time. You can find names of God, along with characteristics of God, throughout the Bible. Consider making yourself a list of them to aid in your adoration prayer time.
Confession means acknowledging our sin before God. Sin can be things we’ve done that we shouldn’t have done or things we should have done but have failed to do. We need to agree with God about our sin, repent of it, and ask for His forgiveness. Repentance, which means turning away from sin, must coincide with confession. The promise from I John 1:9 is that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Praise God! We should regularly confess our sins before God and then rest in the assurance of His forgiveness.
Thanksgiving simply means giving thanks. Giving thanks to God is different than adoring God for who He is. Thanksgiving involves thanking God for what He has done in our lives. After confessing our sins, we should certainly thank God for His forgiveness and cleansing. We should also take time to express our gratitude for all of God’s daily blessings. I have a wooden plaque in my kitchen with the saying, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” It is a reminder to me that I should be intentional to think of God’s blessings in my life and thank Him for them. How would I feel if those blessings were gone? Every day there are countless things for which I can express thanks: my family, my health, my church, my job, and my relationship with the Lord. We also should remember to thank God for prayers He as already answered. Sometimes we pray with fervency but then forget to thank God with the same earnestness.
Supplication means asking God to supply our needs. Supplication might not be a word we use regularly, but it literally means asking for something earnestly or humbly. With the ACTS model of praying, we first come before God in adoration, confession, and thanksgiving, before we make our requests. When we do petition God, we should come with an attitude of humility and a willingness to submit to His will. Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to ask for our daily bread – our needs, so it is not wrong for us to ask of God. We should, however, consider whether or not what we are asking for could be in God’s will. Asking for our needs to be met certainly aligns with what Jesus taught the disciples in the Lord’s Prayer. Furthermore, we can ask God to be working in our lives and in the lives of others we know to grow us in Christlikeness. In fact, there are many prayers throughout the Bible that we can use as prayers for ourselves and for others. Two example are Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1 where he prays for the followers of Christ to have wisdom, insight, and hope, and his prayer in Colossians 1 where he prays for strength, endurance, patience, and joy. Many other prayers can be found throughout the New Testament letters, which can be a helpful guide for how to pray for others.
Living like Jesus certainly involves praying, since Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16). So, spend time daily in prayer, adoring, confessing, giving thanks, and asking God to meet your needs. And consider using the ACTS acrostic to help you think through these different aspects of prayer.