The Paper Pulpit
The primary reason many churches and individual Christians lack power is that not enough time and attention is given to prayer. This, for me, is both an observation and a personal testimony. There are so many things to do, and so little time to do them, that we do not take the time or give the kind of effort needed for genuine prayer to God.
If you would like to have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God through prayer, let me share with you a tool I discovered several years ago that improved my prayer life. It involves the word ACTS — not the New Testament book of Acts, but the acronym ACTS. If you will use this tool it will transform you into a more effective vessel in serving the Lord. Here is the prayer acronym ACTS:
Adoration is worshiping God for His attributes — holy, merciful, just, loving, etc. By adoring God we honor Him for who He is, not for what He does on our behalf. Reading the Psalms is a wonderful exercise in adoration. Concentrate on God’s attributes and express genuine adoration and praise. Prayer should always begin by focusing on who God is.
Confession clears your mind and heart by confessing those attitudes and actions in your own life that have built a wall between you and God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confession reminds us that we should come before Him in humility, ready to hear what He has to say to us.
Thanksgiving gives us the right perspective: God has already given us everything we need. In response to His goodness, we need to listen and discover how He wants to use us today to be a channel of His mercy and grace. In other words, “Count your blessings; name them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
Supplication gives you the opportunity to bring your requests before God’s throne. After you have adored Him, confessed your sins, and called to mind all of the things for which you have legitimate reason to be thankful, you are ready to intercede for others. Pray for your mate, your children, your neighbors, a co-worker or classmate, your pastor and church staff, your church, and missionaries who serve God in distant and difficult places around the globe.
Christ intends that prayer be the channel through which power is provided to the church so it can accomplish its divinely assigned mission. The ability of your church — any church — to bless others and glorify God rests on intercession — asking, and receiving heavenly gifts to carry to others. Prayer links the King of Kings on His throne with His church as it shares the good news of God’s love with those who need it.
Good things happen when we pray. The forces of darkness are driven back and the angelic hosts spring into action. We pray for a neighbor, and a still, small voice prompts us to meet a particular need he or she has. We pray for the members of our church staff, and God prompts us to write a note of encouragement to them. We pray for someone who is not a Christian and the Holy Spirit prompts us to visit that person and share our faith with him.
I read some years ago of the man who thought he didn’t have much time to pray, so he made a prayer list and taped it to the wall above his bed. Each night as he retired, he pointed at the list and said, “Lord, those are my sentiments.” Then he quickly turned out the light and went to sleep. It is not an effective way to pray.
Remember, God is always ready to hear every prayer. And never forget that prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue. Share your thoughts and needs with God, but also take time to listen to what He has to say to you.
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.