As we arrive at the last phase of the ACTS prayer structure, we discover that our prayers are at their normal starting point. The upside-down nature of the ACTS framework becomes most apparent when the pray-er arrives at a time of petition. Only after observing our proper position before God, rehearsing our fallen state and giving thanks for his manifold blessings do we lift our concerns and requests to our Father. The benefit of approaching the throne in this manner is most directly realized now; after the preparatory steps, the nature of our petitions develops a new gravity.
…in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
When the mind is conformed to the holiness of God and recognition of our position at the foot of the throne, we are more likely to consider our requests more carefully. Blessings that we might have once breezily demanded are already seen in our life. Wisdom in forming petitions is requested (James 1:5) as we search for the proper words to express a desire to conform to God’s will rather than striking out on our own. In all things, the emphasis that we have placed on God—as opposed to self—provides a better than average chance that will we be looking for His will in our lives rather than asking Him to align with ours.
Prayer does not require an outline or a structure of any sort to be effective. On the other hand, considering an ordered approach to many prayers has the beneficial effect of framing the relationship and dialog with an appropriate perspective. Adoration and confession that precede the remainder of ones prayer reminds us that we are the created and not the creator. We approach the throne recognizing God as the Almighty and our fallen nature. We partake of the promise of righteousness-restoration (1 John 1:9) as we confess sin and receive forgiveness. Building upon this foundation we turn our thoughts to giving thanks.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We will often whisper a thanks to God when we avoid disaster or receive a windfall, but so many of the blessings that rain down upon us go unnoted. Giving thanks as a part of our prayer life furthers the foundation lain by adoration and confession by drawing our minds upward and outward. We are forced to recognize answers to prayer, large and small, as well as those which have been lifted but not yet resolved. An attitude of thanksgiving also carries over to the burdens we are called to bear. As our attitude shifts, burdens that we once prayed to be removed are now realized as blessings. In giving thanks for trouble, discipline and infirmities our perspective is enlarged, seeing these things as the testimony that they are. An enlarged perspective sees the larger expanding picture of how God is working in the world. We may see how our struggles play a role in the bigger mission and turn from complaint to gratefulness.
Grace and peace to your spirit…
Countless prayers will be lifted heavenward this hour that stream from the hearts and consciousness of God’s people. The Father does not demand liturgical precision in our petitions, but He does expect them to arise from a right heart and a proper attitude. The ACTS organizational device prompts us to humble the heart, profess our thankfulness and verbalize our manifest sins. As Christ taught His disciples [then and now], approaching the altar is not to be done casually.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:8-9
The C in ACTS stands for confession. In many churches we are taught to bundle our sin into a nameless group, offering them with a repentant heart. While not technically wrong, this approach is a tool that enables us to avoid the raw details of our broken hearts. One of the things that the sacrificial system of the Old Testament raised was the specifics of one’s sin. It was necessary that the sacrifice offered match the sin, and so it was required that one enumerate in detail their failings.
Confession brings humility which brings the proper heart before the altar. Know that our sins are forgiven, better yet, forgotten (Psalm 103:12), frees us from the bondage in which we continually entangle ourselves. The burden on your conscience is lifted and the realization that you are being honest with God enables a new boldness in your prayers. To know that He continues to listen and respond to our repentance encourages us to return to our knees.
Grace and peace to you.
image lawrence OP
The ACTS prayer structure is a useful organizing device, bringing you to the throne of God through a series of attitudes that prompt reflection on your spiritual condition. Each letter in the acronym reminds you of the sequence of steps that guide the content of your prayer so you are properly addressing the Father. Why a structure? Our most common failure in prayer is come to the throne unprepared spiritually. We do not recognize God for who He nor do we pay proper attention to our own condition of sinfulness. Prayer must be brought properly (Proverbs 1:28-29) in order to be heard. We must recognizes God’s priorities of right relationship before asking that he address ours.
The A in ACTS stands for adoration. This is the attitude of giving recognition to God for who He is. We approach the throne of prayer in repose, face down before the God of all, treading on Holy Ground and suddenly aware of our less-than-holy condition before the One of Perfect Holiness. This Holiness gave Him the sole right to redeem us from our sinful condition, conferring righteousness upon us and giving us an entrance to His presence. The only proper way to enter this presence is with an awful adoration for who God is and what He has done.
A good way to begin praying in this fashion is to pray God’s word back to Him. Any number of scriptures praise the Father and beginning your prayer by lovingly reciting one of them puts your heart in the proper place. Try one of these:
- Psalm 8
- Psalm 19
- The Magnificat – Luke 1:46-55
- Ephesians 1:3-14
Experience in the Scriptures will train your mind and heart to praise God in your own words. Reflect on His attributes and His character. Praise His love that saved you. Adore His omnipresence, knowing that He is with you now on your knees as well later in car, stuck in traffic.
Approaching God in this manner adjusts the priorities of our prayer. What we felt was so important that it needed prayer is suddenly consoled at the memory of His greatness and the ways in which He has handled things for us in the past. A petition that seemed so critical is diminished by the realization that our needs have not aligned with God’s plan. The tone for the rest of our prayer is set.
Grace and peace in the Spirit to you.