Certain basic elements should be included in prayer. These can be easily remembered by the word "ACTS," an acronym for the following words:
However, "ACTS" is merely a guideline and not a rigid sequence which you must follow in your prayers.
Let's consider each of these words.
To adore God is to worship and praise Him, to honor and exalt Him in your heart and mind and with your lips. Prayer is often misunderstood as a vague, mystical element in one's relationship to a holy, awesome God. But the Word of God does not teach this. Rather, it teaches that God, our Father, desires the fellowship of His children.
Your relationship to your heavenly Father should be one of complete trust, faith and obedience. Likewise, your prayer should express your complete trust in Him and reflect your confidence that He hears you. As a result, you approach Him in adoration and praise, with reverence and awe, with love and gratitude.
Reading aloud psalms of praise and other similar portions of Scripture can greatly enrich your prayer time. A cold, ungrateful heart will soon be warmed, and praising God will come easily.
Personally, I cringe at such references to God as "the Man upstairs," for the God whom I worship is one whom I also honor and reverence. He is the omnipotent, holy God, creator of all things. Yet, I feel perfectly free to open my heart to Him -- to share my deepest heartfelt needs, knowing that He is not only the omnipotent, holy God, but He is also my loving heavenly Father. He loves me more, understands me better, and believes in me more than anyone else in all the world.
I happen to pray in just about every conceivable posture: with my eyes open or my eyes closed, while I am walking, while I am lying in bed, audibly and silently. But my favorite posture is on my knees. The first thing I do when I awaken in the morning is to kneel and acknowledge that the Lord Jesus is in control of my life and thank Him that He loves me and is living His life in and through me in all of His resurrection power and presence. I invite Him to continue His ministry of "seeking and saving the lost" through me, to use me in whatever way is pleasing to Him.
The Christian who needs to be restored to fellowship with Christ should begin with confession. Isaiah declares:
Listen now! The Lord isn't too weak to save you. And He isn't getting deaf! He can hear you when you call! But the trouble is that your sins have cut you off from God. Because for sin He has turned his face away from you and will not listen anymore.
If your discipline of prayer begins with worshipful adoration of God, the Holy Spirit will reveal any sin in your life that needs to be confessed. By seeing God in His purity, His holiness and His love, you become aware of your own sin and unworthiness. As the Holy Spirit makes you aware of sin, you will want to confess it.
Always be totally transparent with God. Don't wear a facade or put on an act. He already knows everything about you. So tell Him exactly how you feel at all times. If you do not feel spiritual, tell Him so. If your heart is cold, confess it. If you have been disobedient, confess it and receive His forgiveness and cleansing which will restore you to fellowship with Him.
Nothing pleases God more than your consistent expression of faith. And there's no better way to demonstrate your faith than to say, "Thank You."
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that without faith it is impossible to please God. God's Word commands, "Give thanks in all circumstances," because "this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." To fail to give thanks is to disobey God.
If you are filled with God's Holy Spirit and recognize that He controls all things, you can thank God not only for the many blessings of each day, but also for the problems and adversities. James says, "Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow." The apostle Paul records, "we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us -- they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady."
May I suggest that you meditate quietly on all of your daily blessings, such as your salvation through knowing Christ, assurance of sins forgiven, the opportunity to serve Christ, the chance to go to school, your good health, family of loved ones, a good job, food and clothing? Thank God for each one of them.
Then make a list of each problem, disappointment, heartache or adversity which concerns you, and thank God in spite of each one of them as you are commanded to do. Giving thanks demonstrates that you really do trust God. Expressing your faith pleases God and enables Him to make Himself strong in your behalf; whereas a critical, unbelieving spirit displeases God and hinders His efforts to bless and enrich your life and to use you for His glory.
For many Christians, prayer is like window shopping -- they spend much time looking but never buy anything. Supplication includes petition for you own needs and intercession for others. You are to pray for everything and in specific terms. Paul admonishes:
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.
As you talk to God, pray that your inner person may be renewed and quickened -- be made alert and alive, vital, refreshed, always sensitive to and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Pray about your problems, pray for wisdom and guidance, pray for strength to resist temptation, pray for comfort in time of sorrow -- pray for everything. There is nothing too small or too great to bring before the Lord.
Then pray for others. Christians often do not realize the importance of intercession. The apostle Paul continually prayed for his converts. He also asked them to pray for him. You should pray for other Christians and encourage them to pray for you.
Let me illustrate the importance of this. In 1960 the Mau Mau uprising gripped Kenya in terror. During that time, missionaries Matt and Lora Higgens had to drive through the heart of Mau Mau territory on their way to Nairobi. They were well aware that both Kenyans and missionaries had met violent death at the hands of Mau Mau terrorists in that very area.
After dark, about 17 miles from Nairobi, their Land Rover stalled. Matt tried in vain to repair the vehicle in the darkness. Fearfully, the couple locked themselves in the car and tried to sleep. Together, they prayed Psalm 4:8 aloud, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."
When they awoke, Matt repaired the Rover, and they were soon in Nairobi. The following week, a local pastor told the missionaries what had happened while they slept. Three terrorists had crept up to their car, intending to kill them. But when the Mau Mau saw 16 men surrounding the Rover, they fled in fear!
Matt and Lora were thrilled -- and puzzled. "What 16 men?" they wondered.
Weeks later, back in America, the rest of the story came to light when a friend asked them, "Have you been in any danger lately?"
Matt told Him about the Mau Mau, the stalled car and the 16 men. The friend nodded excitedly. "On March 23rd," He said, "God burned my heart for you. I called the men at our church, and sixteen of us met together for emergency prayer on your behalf!"
No doubt heaven will reveal endless accounts of how God has used intercessory prayer to protect His people and to advance His kingdom.
Always pray daily for your husband or wife, for your children and for your parents. Then pray for your neighbors and friends.
Pray for various other Christians to whom God has given special responsibility. Pray for presidents and kings and for all those in authority over you.
Pray especially for the salvation of souls, for a daily opportunity to introduce others to Christ and to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and for the fulfillment of the Great Commission in our generation. Begin with your campus or your community. Pray for and seek to find one or more Christian friends with whom you can establish prayer partnerships.
Don't underestimate the power of intercessory prayer for the salvation of souls. My mother and father were married for 35 years before he received Christ. Their love for each other was strong, but dad's indifference to the Lord must have caused my mother to experience much heartache and shed many tears. Nevertheless, she kept praying -- for him, and for my brothers and sisters and me -- until finally she began to see results, and our entire family had received the Lord.
I prayed for several years for my fiancée, Vonette Zachary, to receive Christ. When we became engaged, I just knew she was God's choice for me. She had been very active in the church from her youth, and I assumed she was a Christian. As time passed, however, I began to realize that Vonette was a church member but probably not a Christian. There was very little evidence that she had given her life to Christ. So I prayed earnestly for her salvation. Since I had surrendered my life to the Lord before I proposed to Vonette, I dared not marry an unbeliever. Doubts grew and I began to wonder if it was really God's will for me to marry this wonderful and beautiful young woman to whom God was not a reality, even though I loved her dearly.
Then one summer day at a Christian retreat to which I invited her, Vonette surrendered her life to Jesus. My prayers were answered; we were married soon afterward, and we have since spent more than four God-blessed decades together in a wonderful, Christ-centered marriage.
So I can identify with you if you have been praying for a son, daughter, spouse or friend and have not yet seen results. And I encourage you to trust in God's timing. Although I wanted Vonette to receive Christ right away, God chose to wait 3 years -- a different time table -- one that brought greater glory to Himself. He is sovereign and will answer your prayer in His special way, at His special time.
I encourage you to receive this special word of assurance from God: He desires the soul of your loved one, friend or neighbor even more than you do.
God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Just claim the promise of 1 John 5:14, 15, "We are sure of this, that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with His will. And if we really know He is listening when we talk to Him and make our requests, then we can be sure that He will answer us." Then pray for your loved ones and friends with confidence that He will hear you and answer your prayers as He promised.
The ACTS pattern -- Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication -- has helped many Christians to develop a more well-rounded prayer life in communication with their loving God and Father.
Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Love By Faith How You Can Pray with Confidence, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Cru. All rights reserved.
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