This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
Chances are that if I asked what the area of your spiritual life you’d most like to improve is, a lot of people would say their prayer life. It’s an area that we all know is of paramount spiritual importance, but yet it’s an area that we all so easily neglect. How many times do your prayers feel empty, like you’re just going through the motions? How many times do you find yourself saying the same thing you said the day before – and the day before that. If you’re honest, how many days do you not say anything at all? Last night, we talked about the topic of prayer, and looked at a helpful model to focus us on what the Bible has to say about prayer in the hopes that it will help us jump start our own prayer lives.
The model is a familiar one to many – ACTS, an acrostic that serves as a reminder of several aspects of a healthy prayer life. When we think of prayer, usually the first thing to come to mind is praying for someone or for some situation in our lives. Requests have become nearly synonymous with prayer. Indeed, Jesus calls us to cast our cares and concerns upon him and to pray for those around us. However, if that is all that our prayer lives consist of, then we are missing the boat. ACTS is a way to remind us of that. The A stands for adoration – praising God for who he is. Look throughout the Psalms, which largely function as prayers, and you’ll see this type of prayer everywhere. The character and nature of God should be enough to move us to worship, and we should express that worship to God through the way that we pray. A great way to gauge how we’re doing on this front is to ask ourselves the question, “When I pray, which word is more prevalent – ‘I’ or ‘you?’” Look at Psalm 145 – notice the constant focus on God and his glory. This is a great way to open our prayers, as it causes us to meditate on the greatness of God – the one on whom we depend for every single breath, and who is able to supply any needs we have.
The C stands for confession – seeking forgiveness of our sins. Having established the greatness of God, we then recognize our own fallenness, and our dependency on God’s grace. Psalm 51 is a great place to look here, as David’s brokenness as a result of his sin is in full view. The Bible commands us to bring our sins before God with the confidence that we will find forgiveness. Why can we have confidence? Because God is all the things that we’ve declared him to be in our prayers of adoration. That’s another great thing about the ACTS structure – each part lends increased faith and confidence to the following parts. The T stands for thanksgiving, which can be easy to confuse with adoration at times. The best way to differentiate the two is this – if adoration is praising God for who he is, thanksgiving is praising God for what he’s done, for his action in our lives and in the world. Psalm 105 provides a cool example as the psalmist spends verse after verse recounting God’s covenant faithfulness to his people. The net result? An increased confidence in his faithfulness in the future. All of us can be thankful for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and for God’s regenerating work in our hearts, and we’ve all had instances in our lives where we’ve seen God’s faithfulness displayed. Thank God for these areas, and thank God also for the people he’s placed in your life, like Paul does in many places (Philippians 1:3-4 being a prime example).
Finally, the S stands for supplication – bringing our requests before God. If the word supplication is a new term for you, remember it by thinking of the word “supply” – we’re asking God to supply our needs, and the needs of others. Even in this area, we need to broaden the spectrum of who we’re praying for. Our prayers should include brothers and sisters in Christ (Acts 12:1-5), and ourselves (Psalm 70), but also people we’ve never met (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and people who hate and mistreat us (Matthew 5:43-44). It’s no coincidence, either, that supplication comes last in the list. Think of the benefit of having spent time contemplating the greatness of God, his grace in our sin, and his faithfulness to us through time before we bring our concerns to him. What a boost in confidence! As you go through your life this week, take time to be intentional about prayer, and seek to expand the scope of your prayer life. You’ll find that it helps you to be more God-focused in your attention and your affections.