It is so easy to get out of balance in one direction or another. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual matters. For example, we are commanded to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Normally, that would be a great pursuit. However, some people get so caught up with loving God that they lose sight of the second half of Jesus command to love our neighbor. Other people are so focused on loving their neighbor that they forget their first love and leave God out of their lives.
On one hand, prayer is so simple even the youngest child can pray.
On the other hand, we can overcomplicate things so much that we get confused, intimidated, bored, or distracted. Prayer can be particularly challenging to balance. We can get so focused on our laundry list of prayer requests that we forget to thank God for the blessings he’s already provided. We can get so focused on praising or thanking God that we never get around to asking for forgiveness for our sins.
There are many prayer methods, systems, and tools. The ACTS pattern has been a tremendous help for me. This pattern is also scalable in that if I have sixty seconds or sixty minutes, the following four categories can help me stay on track.
ADORATION: Begin your prayer time praising God for who He is—not just for what He has done for us (that will come later). This helps us focus on God himself. (Psalms 19, 29, 146-150)
CONFESSION: After a time of focusing on the goodness and character of God, we can’t help but see ourselves a little differently. Ask God to reveal the areas of your life that need attention—including wrong things we’ve done or good things we failed to do. (Psalms 51, 32, 139)
THANKSGIVING: Now is the time to thank God for what he has done and for the many blessings that we enjoy. Sometimes, this comes easily. Sometimes, we need to make ourselves intentionally focus on what God has already done. (Psalm 50:1; 92:1; 35:18; Philippians 4:6)
SUPPLICATION: Now is the time to bring our requests to God. Supplication is not a word most of us use every day, but it’s a good word to use in this context. It has the idea of urgency or earnestness (seriousness). We bring to God those items that have troubled or burdened our hearts and we bring those requests to God. (1 Peter 5:7, Philippians 4:6-7)
ACTS is the classic order of this prayer pattern. However, occasionally, a different order might be more appropriate. For example, you might be bursting with appreciation because you just received a great blessing. Or, you may be overwhelmed with concern about a recent temptation that got the best of you. In those times, there is no need to slavishly follow a formula of prayer. This system should serve you—not restrain you.
(Portions originally appeared in Time with God: Develop Confidence & Consistency In Your Personal Prayer Life by Kevin T. Cunningham now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle readers and apps.).