Many people have asked about how they can pray effectively. There are many ways to pray. What the Lord desires when we pray is for us to approach Him with reverence, a humble spirit, and a heart that believes in His unfailing love, His supreme power, and in His desire to have an intimate relationship with us. Below is an order of coming before God in prayer that many people have used and have found to be very helpful called ACTS. It is an acronym for Adoration; Confession; Thanksgiving and Supplication.
ADORATION: This area of prayer focuses upon worshipping God for Who He is; it is offering prayers that focus upon His nature and the attributes that make Him God. Prayers of adorations can be as simple as telling Him that you worship (adore) Him for being Holy; or Redeemer; or Creator; or any one of His other countless attributes or names. When we begin our prayers with adoration we honor Him and show our reverence for Him. When we fix our eyes upon God, we see more clearly—for we see everything in light of Who He is. One of the benefits is that we will realize that, “our momentary and light afflictions are NOTHING compared to His surpassing glory!” (2nd Corinthians 4:17) When we focus our eyes upon God instead of upon our circumstances, we will realize anew that nothing is too difficult for Him and that we can fully trust Him Who is Sovereign and Whose very nature is love, mercy and compassion. And, when we focus on Him we also will see how totally insufficient and sinful we are apart from Him and how all sufficient and perfect He is. This step prepares us for the next part of our prayer.
CONFESSION: The Lord desires truth in our innermost parts, which includes an honest appraisal of our sin before Him (Psalm 51:6). King David, known as “a man after God’s own heart”, states in Psalm 51:17, that the sacrifice that the Lord desires is a “broken and contrite heart (or spirit)”. Before we can confess our sins before God, we first must humble ourselves and admit that there is indeed sin in our lives. When we do sincerely confess our sins before the Lord, we will find that He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1st John 1:9). It is only when we humble ourselves, that we put ourselves in the position where God can exalt us. (James 4:6, 10: “God gives grace to the humble’; and “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up”). Once we have confessed our sin(s) and have received assurance of His forgiveness of our sin, we may boldly enter into His Presence. Psalm 24: 3-4 states: “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”
THANKSGIVING: There are many references in the Bible regarding thanking and praising the Lord—the Psalms especially are replete with verses of thanksgiving. One of the best known perhaps is Psalm 100:4, which tells us to, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
After focusing upon God and His glory, and then confessing our sins, it is virtually impossible not to be thankful to God for the forgiveness of sin that we have in Him and for the mercy and grace that He has extended and continually extends to us.
SUPPLICATION: Other words that you may have heard for supplication are petition, request, or intercession. Supplication is when we ask the Lord for something for ourselves or for others. This is the area of prayer where most people spend most—if not all—of their time. However, when we pray in the order of ACTS, it helps ensure that our faith in God and in His ability and willingness to hear and answer our prayers will have been strengthened by the time we get to our prayers of supplication.
We have a God who desires for us to make our requests known to Him. In fact, He commands us in Matthew 7:7 to, “Ask and it will be given you.” We are told in James 4:2-3, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.“ However, we are to make sure that when we ask we do so with right motives. James 4:3 states, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”. This verse gives us another reason to have our prayer of supplications at the end of our prayer time because by then we likely will have our focus not just on getting what we want, but our petitions will have been filtered through the lens of God’s perspective after our prayers of Adoration, Confession and Thanksgiving..
In Philippians 4:6, we are reminded that we are not to have anxiety—or fear— when we pray, and that we are to present our prayers with thanksgiving. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” We know from scripture that “perfect love casts out all fear” (1st John 4:18) and since God is Love (1st John 4:8), when we start our prayer time with our focus on the One Who is Love, we should be full of faith rather than fear by the time we get to our prayers of supplication.
For whom should we pray? You may wish to pray for yourself; not for things that will perish, but for eternal things such as increased faith in God; for greater love for God and for greater love for others. You may want to pray those same kind of blessings for your family and loved ones. The apostle Paul gives us these wise instructions regarding prayer in 1st Timothy 2:1-3, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.”
Learning to ask the Holy Spirit to put on your heart what it is that He would desire that you pray— and for whom— will revolutionize your prayer life and your relationship with the Lord. It requires spending time listening to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to His spirit within you, and letting Him guide your praying. The more frequently we come to God and pour our hearts out before Him in prayer and ask Him to share with us what is on His heart, the greater our intimacy will be with Him. The greatest blessing of an ongoing, deep prayer life is not getting things from God, but getting to know Him — the greatest Gift of all!
Click the book title below for an additional resource we recommend that will help you in your adoration of who God is.
Knowing God by Name: Names of God That Bring Hope and Healing by David R. Wilkerson