How are we supposed to pray? Knowing how to pray and what to say can be overwhelming. We know that prayer is important, we are talking to God after all, but we struggle with how to pray correctly. The big question that many struggle with is what are we supposed to say?
Origins of the ACTS Prayer
Jesus gives us a model of what to say in the Lord’s Prayer. Inspired by his prayer, many Christians noted that his prayer included four different parts: adoration, thanksgiving, and supplication, and confession.
In the Principles of Christian Philosophy, written in 1836 by John Burns, makes this statement about prayer: “Generally speaking, prayer may be arranged under the heads of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.”
Perhaps the first time the ACTS Prayer acronym first appeared in print was 1883: “ACTS’ formed an excellent epitomical guide in the composition of the principal prayer offered in public worship. This should begin with Adoration, proceed to Confession, rise into Thanksgiving and close with Supplication.’”
The A.C.T.S. model for prayer is a time tested prayer model for believers to use to make sure that we are bringing a healthy balance to our time of prayer. It is easy for us to seek God only when we are in need or in trouble. The balance of the ACTS prayer encourages us to put our hearts in the proper place as we go to God.
A.C.T.S. Prayer: Adoration
What is Adoration?
Adoration is the act of adoring. Adoration is devotion, loving admiration, honor, or worship. It is from a Latin word meaning worship. Synonyms for adoration include revere, reverence, and venerate. When we pray in a spirit of adoration, we are worshipping God. Worship belongs to God and God alone.
Why do we need to pray adoration?
Adoration is an opportunity to remind ourselves who God is. We are recounting all of the attributes of God’s character. When we are worried and anxious, we need to be reminded that God is all-powerful, and we need to be reminded that he is a good, good father. We need to be reminded to protect the weak and the vulnerable. We need to remember that the steadfast goodness of the Lord. We need to remember that God is kind and merciful.
When the powers of this world seem too powerful, we need to remember that our God is the creator of the world and everything in it.
How do we pray during adoration?
It is wise to begin prayer with adoration. Starting with adoration puts our hearts and minds in the right orientation about the awesome power and character of our God. Worship is our primary calling as God’s children.
During adoration, we focus on naming the character of God. We also spend time focusing on the truth of who God is. Praise of God for all that he has done will come later during Thanksgiving. Remember, God does not love us for what we have done, but for who we are. Similarly, we are not to love God for the gifts He gives us but for who God is.
“O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ, the Lord.” – John Francis Wade
A.C.T.S. Prayer: Confession
What is Confession?
When we confess something, we are telling the truth. We can confess Jesus by proclaiming that He is the Christ. We can also confess sin by telling the truth about something that we have done or thought. Often, we are confessing something that we would prefer to remain hidden.
Why is confession at an essential part of prayer?
We know that we are sinners and that Christ died on the cross to save us from our sinners. As Christians, we are called to confess our sins so that we can be healed of them. Sin has consequences both on earth and in heaven. Sin separates us from God. Even though confession is the second part of the ACTS Prayer, it is not less important than the other parts. In prayer, we are drawing closer to God and need to remove any barrier between God and us.
Confession Bible Verses: The Promise of Confession for Healing and Powerful Prayers
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
How do we use confession in an ACTS prayer?
Jesus showed us how to use confession when he prayed in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Luke 11:4
In the Old Testament, Nehemiah was burdened with a desire to rebuild Jerusalem and God’s Temple. In his prayer to God, Nehemiah confesses the sins of the Jewish people and his own personal sin: “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned again you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statues, and the rules that you have commanded your servant Moses.” Nehemiah 1:6
Confession is an opportunity to be reconciled to God. Ultimately prayer is not about a magical incantation to get what we want, but rather a conversation where God speaks to us about his plans and purposes. When we confess, we are humbly opening ourselves up to God’s leadership and acknowledging that His ways are better than our ways.
A.C.T.S. Prayer: Thanksgiving
What is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks. Sometimes we call this giving praise. Praise can be given to people and God. Many times thanksgiving is given for the things that someone has done. (That is why we focus on who God is during the Adoration section.) Thanksgiving is our time to express gratitude for all that God has done.
Why do we need to engage in a Thanksgiving Prayer?
Gratitude changes our hearts. Our hearts are not inclined to be grateful. Our natural inclination is to be selfish and to focus on our pleasures in the moment. The act of thanksgiving forces us to remember all that God has done for us.
Thanksgiving draws us out of our present troubles and allows us to recall all of the times that God has been faithful to us and faithful in the Bible. Philippians 4:16 addresses the thanksgiving antidote to worry and anxiety: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Thanksgiving is an opportunity to confront the sinful lies that God does not love us with the truth of the Bible, and the testimony of God’s past saving acts in our lives.
Science literally proves that God has wired us to benefit from giving thanks! People who practice gratitude are emotionally healthier, have better relationships, sleep better, and ar mentally better equipped to deal with stress and trauma.
Bible Verses about Thanksgiving –
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” Psalm 100:4 ESV
“Rejoice always, pray with ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
“Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 106:1 ESV
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30 ESV
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” Psalm 95:1-2 ESV
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” Psalm 10:16 NIV
How do we engage in Thanksgiving in an ACTS prayer?
We can express gratitude for the big things and small things. A gratitude journal is a great way to focus on and remember the blessings of God. In our busy lives, our hearts tend to forget and live in the present moment. We forget God’s faithfulness from the past. Writing down our thanksgivings and our answered prayers gives us testimony from our own hand of God’s faithfulness.
We need to give thanks to God for the big things that we tend to take for granted. We give thanks for our spouse, for our children, for our family, for our health, for our homes, for our church, and for all our life’s blessings.
We need to also give thanks for the daily blessings. Where have we seen God at work that day or the previous day? We give thanks for daily food. We give thanks for a parking spot. We give thanks for the bird which came to sing at our window. These small daily thanksgivings are a reminder that our God is not far off, but He is ever near us. Even these small signs are reminders that God knows the number of hairs on our head.
“Why, even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7
A.C.T.S. Prayer: Supplication
What is Supplication?
The Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible for supplication literally mean a request or a petition. Supplication is the act of asking or even begging for something.
Supplication is often done with an attitude of earnestness or humbleness. Supplication is making a plea to God. When we pray with supplication is not just for ourselves, but it is also for others.
What is Supplication a vital part of ACTS prayer?
Why do we need to ask God for things? Doesn’t He already know what we need? Doesn’t God already know what we want? These are the questions that we might struggle with regarding prayer.
For many, prayers of supplication are the beginning and the extent of prayer. We come to God overwhelmed by our circumstances seeking God’s protection, intervention, or deliverance. God is viewed as a magical fairy godfather to run to for help. This is not the purpose of prayer.
God knows what we want. Moreover, God knows what we need. When we petition God in prayer, we are acknowledging to ourselves what we want and what we need. In our petitions, God speaks to us about His will. In prayer, humble hearts will begin to align with the will of God. Our requests are shaped to submit to the heart and purposes of God.
Bible Verses About Supplication
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so your murder. You covet and do not obtain, so your fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:1-3 ESV
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…” 1 Timothy 2:1 ESV
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me …” Ephesians 6: 16-19 ESV
How to Petition God? What does the Supplication part of prayer look like?
First, we have to ask. You do not have because you do not ask. God wants a relationship with us. God wants to be asked. Thankfully, He loves us and wants to meet our needs. Asking builds our faith in Him and our dependence on Him.
Second, we need to ask with the right heart. Are we praying for our own pleasures? Are we asking for things that will bring glory to ourselves or to God? When we pray for things that will bring glory to God’s name, we are praying in the will of God. Humble prayer confronts our sin and teaches us to have a heart like God.
Third, supplications are to be made not just for ourselves but for others. We can get caught up in our struggles and worries and make petitions only for ourselves. One of the most valuable ways that we can serve others is to pray for them.
This may seem like foolishness to those who don’t believe in the Gospel. How can words spoken in private to God do anything they might wonder?
For those of us who believe in a loving, almighty God – going before his throne to plead on someone else’s behalf is the most powerful thing that we can do for them. Ignore the lies of the devil. Physical acts of service are valuable, but prayer is invaluable.
Fourth, we are to keep alert with perseverance. Prayer takes perseverance. God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the ways that we would like them to be answered. God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the time frame that we would like for them to be answered. Prayer can be a struggle. Keep persevering. Keep believing. Keep praying.
ACTS Prayer is about Relationship
Ultimately, prayer is about building a relationship with God. Through the parts of the ACTS prayer outline, we can have a more balanced prayer relationship with God. Instead of rushing to supplication, we first focus on God through adoration. This first step puts our hearts in the right place to focus on God’s will. Confession removes the barrier to hearing and to being heard. Thanksgiving continues to humble our hearts and to bolster our hearts when it seems that God is taking too long to answer our prayers. After these three steps, our prayers of supplication are must more likely to be answered and to be in God’s will.
There is no perfect prayer. We who pray are not perfect. We have to learn to pray, to listen, and to hear. Let us not forget the privilege we have to go to God in prayer. God wants to spend time with us. The world changes in prayer.