What Is Prayer?
One of the most astonishing activities in the Christian spiritual life is prayer. The simplest definition of prayer, for example, is communicating with God.
Unfortunately, many Christians are not taught either its importance or how to do it. Thankfully, a mnemonic memory device can guide us in our talking with God (A.C.T.S.). This mnemonic stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (see below).
But why should we pray?
Above all, we pray because God commands it (Matt. 7:7), and it glorifies him. In addition, it blesses those who are praying.
For example, we can pray individually, in small groups, or in large congregations.
But should we pray to God the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?
The answer is all three since each of them is God.
- Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, we have direct access to God and his will (John 16:24)
- Moreover, as his beloved children, we can address God the Father as our own “Father” (Rom. 8:14-15; Gal. 4:6).
- Therefore, we pray to the Father in the name of Jesus (Eph. 5:20), by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jude 20)
Most importantly, we want to bring a humble attitude (Ps. 95:6), as well as a dependent and reverent (Heb. 12:28-29) heart into prayer.
Praying in 4 ACTS
A: Adoration in Prayer
Firstly is adoration which means to worship and acknowledge God’s greatness. Above all, he is the most magnificent Being, and he alone deserves our highest respect. In other words, with the angels, we cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3).
In other words, when we adore someone, we focus all our attention on them. As a result, adoration for God focuses our minds on worshipping him alone. Therefore an excellent place to start is meditating on his attributes. For example, we praise him as:
- Creator (Neh. 9:6)
- Lord over all (Ps. 148; 150)
- All-powerful (Matt. 19:26)
- All-knowing (1 John 3:20)
- Everywhere present (Ps. 139:6-12; Acts 17:24)
- Entirely in control (Eph. 1:11)
- Perfectly holy (Exod. 15:11)
- And merciful (Exod. 34:6-7)
Take time to meditate on just one of those attributes and tell God, “I praise you, God, that you are (fill in the attribute)."
Similarly, consider spending time remembering the ways God has blessed you. And then praise him for his faithfulness (Ps. 143:1), mercy (Ps. 51:1), love, and compassion (Ps. 103:1-18) shown to you through these things.
Additionally, reflect on God’s glory (Ps. 19:1-6), majesty (Ps. 8:1), kingship (Ps. 93:1), justice, and righteousness (Ps. 97:2).
Thus if you want adoration to enrich your prayer life, read passages of God’s attributes!
C: Confession in Prayer
Secondly is confession. As a result of reflecting on who God is and adoring him, we end up comparing ourselves with God’s perfections. And consequently, the more we understand God’s holiness, the more we see our sinfulness.
For example, the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, we cry out:
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5).
Thus, as we become more aware of our sinfulness, the gospel affects our daily life. In other words, God promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9) when we confess and repent of our sins (2 Chron. 7:14; Neh. 1:4, 7).
Therefore, after confessing our sins, we can remind ourselves of God’s forgiveness. And above all, ask him for his power to move forward in victory.
T: Thanksgiving in Prayer
Thirdly, we should be thankful to God for everything and in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:16–18).
For instance, we can thank God for his sovereignty in redemption history:
- His unchanging love to his people (Ps. 138:2)
- Sending Christ for us (2 Cor. 9:14–15)
- Delivering us from sin (Rom. 6:17–18) and death’s power (1 Cor 15:53-57)
- Giving the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom 8:26-27)
Furthermore, we can thank God for his specific work in our lives:
- Answering our prayers (Ps. 30:2; 34:4)
- Providing for our material needs (Matt. 15:36)
- Helping us in times of trouble (Ps. 34:1-4)
- Bringing others into our lives to encourage us (Phil. 1:3-6)
On the other hand, it can be challenging to thank God when we suffer through trials.
However, remembering his promises to use these trials for our good (James 1:2-4; Rom. 8:28-29), we can (and should) still give him thanks (1 Thess. 5:18).
And to clarify, that doesn’t mean we can’t also ask for his help.
S: Supplication in Prayer
Fourthly, when most people think of prayer, they think of “supplication.” That is to say; supplication means asking God to intervene and provide something for us or others.
Consequently, there is nothing wrong with asking God for things! In fact, Jesus told us to bring requests to him in prayer, whether big or small (John 16:24).
However, our requests should be sincere, genuine, and personal. To clarify, they should arise from our firm belief that God rewards those who diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6).
And above all, when we ask anything of God, we must remember that we are dependent on God.
- Do not think of God is not a cosmic grandpa who dispenses gifts willy-nilly
- Instead, in humility, we accept that he may say “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait.”
- Ultimately God chooses how he responds.
- But our response must be to believe that whatever his answer, he is providing what he knows is best for us.
For instance, whether for ourselves or others, we may ask God for:
- Forgiveness of our sins (1 John 1:8-9)
- Spiritual blessings (Matt. 6:33)
- Wisdom (Dan. 9:20–27)
- Joy (John 16:23–24)
- Peace (Phil. 4:6–8)
- Guidance (Judges 1:1-2)
- Help in time of need (Heb. 4:16)
- Healing (Isa. 38:1-10)
- Provision of temporal needs (Matt. 6:11).
Overcoming Our Enemies Through Prayer
Certainly, we are under continual assault. Our enemies are Satan, our surrounding culture, and our sinful desires. And we can, for instance, ask God for deliverance from:
- Temptation (Matt. 26:41)
- Enemies (Ps. 17:8-9; 2 Chron. 14:11)
- Harm (Joel 2:32)
- Suffering (James 5:13)
- Anxiety (Phil. 4:6, 7)
- Fear (Ps. 118:5–6)
In addition, praying for others (called “interceding”) makes a difference in their lives. So, for example, remember to pray for:
- Your pastor
- Other Christians (Eph. 6:18)
- Friends (Job 42:10),
- Government leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2)
- Even your enemies (Matt. 5:4)
Sometimes, for example, you may be at a loss for words in how you should pray. But Paul gives us several examples of prayer for Christians in various churches (Eph. 1:18–19; 3:16–19; Col. 1:9–12; 2 Thess. 3:5-13; Phil. 1:9–11).
Prayer is the Best Thing We Can Do
Most importantly, prayer is the highest activity of the human spirit because it is communion with God. That is to say, praying is a form of worship when we adore, confess, thank, and make our supplication to God. And above all, the more we engage in worship through prayer, the closer we draw to God.
Origen, On Prayer, 23.1