That to-do list God has for you today most certainly includes prayer. And you can’t go wrong using the mnemonic device ACTS: Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication.
The word “adoration” reminds us that God is worthy of praise and his awesomeness should bring us to our knees. He’s not just more magnificent than the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, he is the Creator of those natural wonders. If we start our prayers with humble adoration to a glorious God, we’re headed in the right direction.
Confession breaks the hold of sin in our lives so we can pray from a clean slate. God already knows where we fall short of his glory, but doing our own personal inventory will surely lead to an attitude of repentance. Confessing our sins begins the process of breaking the pattern of sin. The exciting news is that when we come to God for forgiveness, he has already forgotten our sins, casting them away “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
After we acknowledge God’s grandeur and come clean before him, it’s natural to give thanks. Thanksgiving for life. Thanksgiving for supplying our needs. Thanksgiving for the good stuff and the bad, because he uses it all to make us more like him.
Then there’s the idea of supplication–praying for God to keep doing what he’s already doing. If’s actually a little silly to think we have idea of what we should be requesting as we pray. God knows exactly what we need. His plan is perfect. If it were up to us, we would be asking for stuff we think we need, but we would probably be wrong. So let’s make sure we include prayers of trust along with prayers of request.
You may have never considered this before, but ACTS is actually modeled by Jesus himself when he offered us the ideal prayer in Matthew 6:9-13:
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this
day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And do
not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the
kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen (NKJV)
Three of the letters in praying ACTS are easy to identify. Adoration: “Hallowed be Your name.” Confession:
“Forgive us our debts.” Supplications: “Your will be done…Give us this day our daily bread…Deliver us from the evil one.”
It may be odd that the Lord’s Prayer does not explicitly include any thanksgiving to God. But maybe the entire prayer is overflowing with a spirit of gratitude. We’re thankful that God is engaging us from heaven. We’re thankful he provides his guidance and protection. Even the Hebrew word translated “amen” means “so be it” or “truly.” Saying “amen” confirms our acceptance, respect, affirmation, and appreciation for what was just spoken.
Modern theologian R.C. Sproul, founder of Ligonier Ministries, endorses ACTS and offers this reminder:
I think this is a helpful acrostic for remembering both the elements and the priorities of prayer.
Unfortunately, we often spell our prayer life something like SCAT, because we start with
supplication and spend very little time, if any, on adoration, confession and thanksgiving. (sourced)
There are scores of excellent resources on praying more deeply, wisely, humbly, and so on. Prayer really is a form of surrender to God’s will for our lives. And that needs to be foundational and foremost on our to-do list.
Today and every day.
*from “What If God Wrote Your To-Do List?” by Jay Payleitner (Number 19)