Prayer can be hard work. Most Christians are probably not happy with their prayer life and know they need to improve. Here are some helps identifying problems and how to make prayer easier.
Praying Scripture Using the ACTS Model
Prayer is often seen as something we need to come up with by ourselves, often in the form of:
- Frustrations to vent
- Questions to ask
- Requests for other people’s problems
- Requests for your own problems
- And so on.
However, it is helpful to see prayer also as part of the two-way conversation between you and God. This is a concept Tim Keller talks about in his book entitled “Prayer.” The concept is simple: God speaks to you in His Word (the Bible) and you respond back to Him in prayer.
Thinking about prayer as part of a larger conversation makes it feel more relational. Sometimes when you pray, you may think you are simply talking to the sky or talking to yourself. However, when you think of God actively speaking to you through His written Word, praying about things you read there becomes more of a dialogue between you and Him.
In thinking of prayer this way, there are some important things to keep in mind (some of them we’ve covered in our article “Why Prayer is Hard and How to Make it Easier”).
God Speaks First
We must always understand that God speaks first in our relationship with Him. By this, I mean two things: (1) He speaks first in time, and (2) He speaks with authority over us. Both of these facts should impact how we speak back to Him.
At the very beginning of the Bible, we learn that God speaks everything into existence. He speaks first. All of life, and everything in the universe, owes its very existence to the speaking power of God.
How do we know about God speaking everything into existence? He tells us in the Bible. He speaks again to tell us about the things He has done and the importance of them. He tells us about who we are and what kind of relationship He wants to have with us.
Additionally, God speaks with authority. He dictates the terms of His relationship with us. We do not get to treat God any way we want and expect good results. God and you are not on equal terms. Speaking to God isn’t like speaking to a friend.
Both of these facts – that God speaks first and speaks authoritatively – should shape our speaking back to Him. Therefore, we should read the Bible to:
- Hear what He has to say to us
- Understand better who God is and what He likes and dislikes
- Know how God wants us to relate to Him
- Be aware of God’s priorities and what types of prayers are pleasing to Him and which aren’t
- Understand what God has done for us to help us know how to thank Him
How to Use the Bible as a Basis for Prayer
There are many ways to use the Bible as a basis for prayer. One way is to use what is commonly called the ACTS model of prayer. ACTS is an acronym for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
- Adoration is worshipping God. As we read the Bible, we learn more about who God is and the great things He has done. A proper response is worship or adoration. Hopefully, the more we learn about the greatness of God and His goodness the more we will value Him and worship Him.
- Confession is admitting your sin to God and asking for forgiveness. The Bible is full of lessons and teaching about human sinfulness. As you become aware of your own sinfulness, a proper response is to confess those sins to God and receive His forgiveness in faith and joy at His mercy.
- Thanksgiving is simply thanking God for who He is and what He has done for us or for others. We can thank God for any number of things we read in the Bible from His great acts of kindness like Jesus’ death for our sin or how He continually provides for our basic needs.
- Supplication is asking God for things. The Bible helps us to know what is appropriate to ask for and what not to ask for. When we ask for things that are according to God’s will and according to His character (which is what asking “in His name” means) He answers those requests.
Let’s take one short Bible passage as an example of how to pray using the ACTS model.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
– Colossians 2:6–7
These are only two verses from Paul’s letter to the Colossian church but we can use them for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
Adoration – I would focus on the words “Christ Jesus the Lord” and think about how Jesus (a name that means “Yahweh saves”) is my Savior, Messiah (what “Christ” means), and Lord (authority over me). It is amazing that Jesus is a Messiah and Lord and yet He chose to die for my sins. That kind of humility, love and kindness is worth worshiping Him for.
Confession – These verses tell us that we should “walk in Him” and abound in thanksgiving. I know that I am often not thankful and I could then confess my lack of thankfulness to the Lord. I could also confess how many times I don’t “walk in him” but choose to walk in my sinful flesh instead.
Thanksgiving – I could thank God for the forgiveness I have in Christ and that He has taught me about Jesus and how to live in a way pleasing to Him. I could thank Him for giving me the faith to receive Christ Jesus as Lord and not reject Him.
Supplication – I could ask God to help me walk in Christ and grow in my thankfulness toward Him. I could pray this same thing for other Christians in my life. I could also pray that people I know that don’t believe and follow Jesus and trust Him as Savior and Lord for the forgiveness of their sins.
That was short and quick. I didn’t take a lot of time choosing that Bible passage. I also didn’t take a lot of time finding things to pray for (lots of practice makes it go quicker).
Let’s look at one familiar Old Testament story: Daniel and the Lion’s Den.
Instead of analyzing the entire story, let’s simply skip to the end where it tells us what King Darius learned. He was the king who was tricked by some of his evil advisors into reluctantly throwing Daniel to the lions because they wanted him killed.
“Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.””
– Daniel 6:25–27
There is quite a bit to worship God for here since this statement is all about who God is and His greatness.
- Adoration – Praising God for being the living and true God who powerfully does whatever He wishes on the earth. No earthly king can ever thwart His plan or disrupt His kingdom!
- Confession – I might confess to God how little I trust Him in light of how He powerfully controls all things.
- Thanksgiving – I can thank God that by the power of Jesus Christ He has brought me into His indestructible kingdom and I no longer live in the kingdom of darkness. He has delivered me, not from lions, but from Satan who prowls like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
- Supplication – I might pray for myself that my view of God’s majesty and authority would grow greatly so I would have greater confidence in Him and His plan and worry less. I might pray for the same for wife and kids. I also might pray that unbelievers I know would see the majesty of King Jesus and take refuge in His kingdom by faith.
You Can Do This
Once you get the hang of it, praying Scripture this way can be a lot of fun. You have endless material to fuel your prayer. No matter where you are reading in the Bible, you can always turn that reading into prayer for yourself and others.
I encourage you to give Scripture prayer with the ACTS model a try for a week and see how it might grow and round out your prayer life.
If you feel like your prayer life is in a rut, let God’s very words pull you out and direct you to greater joy.
Paul Washer emphasizes the vital need for prayer for future ministers from Matthew 6:9-11. This message will benefit all Christians who desire to grow in God-centered prayer.
Joel Beeke, minister and president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, explains why prayer should be an absolutely indispensable part of the Christian’s life and ministry drawing from lessons he learned studying the Puritans.
Be encouraged – you can confess your sin and be assured of forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and current work as High Priest.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.Third-Party Content
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