A Tool for Prayer (Part 4)
Something we encounter several times a week is that people say: I don’t know how to pray.
And yes, we do get that. Where is the balance, how do you say something to a Holy God? And yet… it is not complicated, on the contrary. If you recognize yourself in that question: how do I pray? Here’s a tool for you.
There is an American mnemonic, and it is called the ACTS method.
Let’s try to clarify those 4 letters a bit:
A: Adoration / Worship
Begin your prayer and worship God for Who He is. Worship is different from thanksgiving (which comes later in this prayer) because worship is praising God for Who He is, while thanksgiving is thanking God for what He has done. The Bible says that God is worthy of our praise, no matter what He has given us or withheld from us. He is worthy simply because He is God.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.Psalm 100:5
If we look at Matthew 6:10 (the “Lord’s Prayer”), you will see that Jesus taught His followers to begin their prayers with worship.
Admit and confess your sin to God so that your prayers are not hindered. Yes, your sins get in the way of your prayer… Look at this example:
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.1 Peter 3:7
Wow! God sets rules for what we do (or shouldn’t do) and He has a good reason for it. If you go against His rules, that also has consequences for your prayer. Confession of your sins must and is therefore not without obligation.
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confessPsalm 32:1-5
my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Yes, God already knows about our sins, but in confessing them, we admit and acknowledge that our sin is offensive to God and agree with Him that we need His Son, Jesus, to cleanse us from all iniquity. And what happens when you confess those sins to God:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
The Bible is very clear that we should be thankful(!) to God, and not just for what God has given us.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:18
It doesn’t say “thanks for the good things” or “thanks for the good things in life”. It commands(!) us to be thankful in everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly….
Exercise gratitude to God in everything, thanking Him for the difficulties you face every day, for the things He has withheld for your own good, for the refining work He does in your soul, for the trials that shape you in the image of Christ, and for the way He uses all things for good to those who love Him and are called to His purpose.
I have found that when I start to thank God for everything, not just the good things, it entirely changes my perspective and makes me a much more grateful person. Thanking God in everything takes the focus away from me and from what I have been given, and the focus is returned to God, the ultimate Giver.
When people ask me, how are you? Then my answer is now:
Good under the given circumstances!
And that is a thing that we should also consider in our prayers… Sometimes the circumstances are not good, but that does not mean that God does not take care of you, and that God is not great! On the contrary. Thank God, in everything.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.Philippians 4:6
And when we do that:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:7
Sometimes we meet people who feel they are selfish when they ask God for something for themselves, so they just pray that others may be blessed. Or they think they are too sinful to ask God anything. But then this is what the bible says:
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!Matthew 7:11
In other words, please let God know what your needs are. He wants to hear it from you. And ask for it as specifically as possible. Not vaguely: “God, I’m having a bit of trouble, but would you like to make it a bit better”, but specifically: what is “trouble”, “a bit”, “better”?? Ask, seek and knock on His door. And as you do, you may find that God hears a lot more of your prayers than you ever imagined.