Prayer is talking with God. It is an important part of God's provision for your growth in Christ. In fact, J.C. Ryle, a nineteenth century pastor described prayer as "the very life-breath of true Christianity."
But not all prayer is effective prayer. The Bible points out that many prayers are wasted because we do not follow the conditions that God sets forth in His Word (James 4:3; John 14:13-14). In order to pray effectively, we need to listen to what God has to say about it.
The following guide is designed to help you learn the key elements of effective prayer. Specifically, we are going to look at an acrostic that many have found to be a useful pattern for prayer: "ACTS."
Let’s take a closer look at each of these key elements...
Adoration pleases God. Heartfelt praise to God is the N.T. equivalent of an O.T. sacrifice. In other words, it is a significant act of worship! (Hebrews 13:15).In fact, one of the main reasons why God saves people is so that they will praise, adore, and worship Him! (Psalm 22:22-23). Adoration will be a major part of our service to God throughout eternity (Revelation 5:13)! Adoration is simply praising God for who He is and what He has done. We already do this with people, don't we?
The key to adoring God is getting to know Him! The more you learn about God and what He has done for you, the more natural it becomes to praise Him! God has given us His Word to help us appreciate Him more so that we can please Him with our lives and praise Him with our lips!
The Psalms are excellent for helping you to learn about God’s awesomeness—and how to express yourself when you want to adore Him. For an example, read Psalm 103.
Adoration naturally leads to...
Confession is the acknowledgment to God of your sin. It is what God wants you to do instead of making excuses or blame shifting (because of the sins of others against you--Proverbs 28:13). It is the mark of a growing Christian (1 John 1:8-9).
A growing understanding of the seriousness of sin (Psalm 5:4; Habakkuk 1:13a).
A growing sensitivity toward your own sinfulness and your continual dependence on Christ's righteousness as the basis of your acceptance with God (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
Daily acknowledging your sin to God (1 John 1:9). The verb tense in this verse indicate a continuous, regular action.
As you experience God's forgiveness, you can't help but be filled with an attitude of…
You have so much for which to be thankful (Psalm 103)!
God's forgiveness of all your sin!! (v. 3)
God's great compassion toward you (v.13).
God's provision for your needs and even many of your desires! (v. 5)
God is worthy of your thanksgiving.
Finally, you need to bring to God your...
Supplication (Praying for your needs and the needs of others)
Pray specifically (Avoid praying in generalities like "God bless so and so.” It would be difficult to see that sort of pray answered in a clear way). Get to know people in Christ’s body! Pray expectfully (Matthew 7:7-11). Pray submissively (Realize that God ultimately knows what is best - Matthew 26:39).
Now Let's Put This Into Practice! (James 1:22)
As you evaluate your own prayer life, what key elements of prayer (ACTS) are a regular part of your prayers? What parts are not there?
Study the prayer of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20.
What sort of problems was he up against?
How did he begin his prayer?
How did the beginning of his prayer affect the "supplication" part of his prayer?
How did it affect those who heard the prayer?
How might this kind of praying affect your prayer life?
Ask God this week to help you ACTivate your prayer life--then go for it! Set simple, realistic goals:
Try taking a day or two and spending a few minutes in praise. Don't forget to get help from God's inspired praise book--the Psalms, i.e. Psalm 150).Get into the habit of confessing sin to God and others when you need to--a.s.a.p.!And remember to thank God for all his benefits--you can do this anytime! You might even try to do this occasionally at the dinner table. A good jump start would be to imagine what life would be like minus some of the things we daily take for granted--like electricity, food, car, clothes, house (not to mention eternal life, forgiveness of sins) etc.
It is helpful to make lists. Make one list of things for which to praise and thank God. Make a second list of people and things for which to ask God's help.
Do not bite off more than you can chew. If you can only think of one request, that is enough to start. As you grow in your faith in Christ, your list will get longer!
The apostle Paul models how to pray for other believers in Colossians 1:9-14:
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Note: The material for this guideline was adapted from the book, Effective Prayer, by R.C. Sproul (Chapter 4, "The Practice Of Prayer", pp. 43-61).