Have you heard about praying the ACTS way but never really knew what it meant or how to do it?
If you’ve ever found your mind wandering during prayer, you know that praying involves more than just sitting down with an intention to pray. You need a plan. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my favorite ways to organize my prayer time, inspired by this #prayertips scope I shared. You may be really familiar with some methods, while others are unique to me and my journey of faith.
Either way, I hope you find inspiration to help you go deeper in your prayer time with the Lord.
Today, we begin with the well-known acronym: ACTS.
If you’ve hung out in church long enough, you’ve probably heard of this acronym for prayer. In many circles, it’s considered the best way to pray. I wouldn’t necessarily label it that way (after all, it’s not the method Jesus taught His disciples), but I appreciate how it helps me exchange my concerns for God’s perspective, balancing my personal needs with a healthy dose of worship and thanksgiving. I know I often need the reminder that prayer isn’t all about me. More on that later.
In ACTS, each letter represents a different focus in prayer. Here’s a simple breakdown:
Begin by worshipping God for who He is. Focus on His character and His attributes.
For example, “God, thank You for being trustworthy and kind. You have never broken a promise, and everything You say will happen. I praise You for being all-knowing. You’re seated above the heavens and You oversee the galaxies, but not one detail escapes You. In fact, You take care of the sparrows and You count every hair on my head. You know everything about me, and yet You love me anyway…”
If you’re running short of things to praise God for, try using the A-Z Worship experience to get your creative juices flowing. Once you start, you just won’t want to stop! 🙂
It’s important to begin our prayer time with our eyes and hearts focused on God, because we were created to glorify God (Psalm 96).
Our entire world gains clarity when we are reminded who God is. Personally, I’ve found this time or worship to reinvigorate my desire for prayer; when I remind myself that God is strong and loving, I am eager to pour out my heart to Him. He is both capable of taking care of us and He desires to care for us. That alone should compel us to prayer.
Next, confess your sins to God. List everything that comes to mind, and when you’ve exhausted that, ask God to search your heart and reveal any hidden sin that you’ve overlooked (Psalm 139:23-24).
Too often, we allow sins to accumulate in our lives, and we ignore them because, “Well, God already forgave them on the cross.”
But Scripture tells us it’s important to confess our sins to God, to name them, acknowledge them, and ask His forgiveness for them. And once we have done so, we can rest assured that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). But just because the outcome is secure doesn’t mean we don’t need to practice confession. In fact, the assurance of forgiveness should move us toward confession.
In this confession, you may also realize that you need to make restitution to someone or ask someone’s forgiveness whom you’ve wronged. Don’t delay. As Jesus says, if you’re in the middle of worship and you remember that someone has a bone to pick with you, rush over and seek reconciliation. Then come back and continue your worship (Matthew 5:23-24). Confession is essential to the spiritual health of every believer.
After you’ve received forgiveness, it’s time to give thanks for the many gifts God has blessed you with.
Whereas adoration is about who God is, thanksgiving is about what God has done.
Thank Him for the basics, like food, clothing, shelter, family, friends. Thank Him for the big things like salvation, forgiveness, an eternal home, fellowship with brothers and sisters, spiritual giftings. Thank Him for the little things that speak of His care, like the tulips budding in your yard, the gorgeous sunrise that greeted you this morning, and even the unexpected sale on that kitchen staple you always run out of.
If you have a hard time focusing, try writing down your list of things to be thankful for. Many of my friends keep a running list in their home of the many gifts God has given them, big and small, and they’ll review that list whenever they’re feeling grumpy or want to complain.
Scripture clearly tells us to “give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes 5:18). So begin this daily habit of giving thanks. If you don’t know what to give thanks for, these daily prompts from Ann Voskamp will help you think creatively and recognize God’s gifts in the smallest of places. And that pleases the Lord.
Notice how we left our requests for the end? That’s intentional. After going through Adoration, Confession, and Thanksgiving, I’ve often found that everything, even my prayer requests, change. My selfish requests that were all about me are replaced with a God-given perspective on what to ask for.
This is the time to cast your cares on God. Whatever you’re worried about, pour out your heart to Him, and ask Him to move in a mighty way. Ask confidently and boldly, but not demanding. God is not a genie in a bottle but rather a loving Father who gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). Ask, and then trust that He will do as He sees best.
There you have it: the ACTS way to pray. It’s an easy acronym to remember, and you can spend as much or as little time with each section of prayer. This is also a great way to teach our children how to pray, instilling in them the truth that prayer is more about letting God change us than us telling God what to do.
What about you? Do you pray the ACTS way or use another method? Or do you just pray whatever comes to mind?