I was raised in a “semi-religious” family, and by that, I mean we went to church every Sunday, prayed a prayer before our evening meals and completed each sacrament (milestone) required by the church toward religious maturity. A quarter century later, I still remember the prayers we recited at dinner, bedtime, in church, or had to memorize for baptism or confirmation. Not surprisingly, they always had the feel of a check-list item, rather than a true expression of praise, thanksgiving, confession, or appeal. I also remember praying in times of desperation while growing up and these prayers were usually a result of poor life decisions. And although those prayers were at least original and authentic, they were truly my best effort at negotiating my terms with our Creator.
My default is still reactive prayer, which is praying with others because of something they’ve shared or praying when circumstances suggest. I find that praying without a direct stimulus is a challenge...
When I was a young adult, Jesus suddenly became very real to me. In retrospect, I can see his grace and endless love in the timing of his rescue and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. As a new believer, true authentic prayer was being modeled around me, and I witnessed its effectiveness and transformative powers in day-to-day life, in worship, and in my Bible study group. However, having come from a church background of private spirituality, I found public prayer was a struggle early on. I found it embarrassing and awkward to pray out loud around others. I was often concerned about the words I would say and who I was praying with, rather than the God I was praying to and the authenticity behind my prayer. However, with time, repetition, and his providential peace, I now count it both a joy and honor to pray with others.
Jesus Christ and his saving grace have transformed my life, prayer included. Yet I still feel undeserving of his love and grace, and my prayer life is a prime example where I fall short of what our Lord deserves. My default is still reactive prayer, which is praying with others because of something they’ve shared or praying when circumstances suggest. I find that praying without a direct stimulus is a challenge – too often an afterthought and certainly a product of pride. I tend to have an, “I can handle this on my own,” mentality. For example, part of my morning ritual is reading a chapter from the Bible. One would think prayer would be an easy next step in reflecting on the Word, but too often I finish the chapter, close the book (or app) and move on without hardly a second thought. It’s in this moment that I’ve been working to improve. I’ve been using the Lord’s Prayer as my model, and specifically, the A.C.T.S. method of praying has been most helpful in improving this discipline. A.C.T.S. is an acronym that stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.
My goal with using this tool for prayer is to be more intentional in giving God the praise he deserves while maintaining a posture of gratitude and humility, yet still casting my cares on him. As this method has become more of a habit, I’m finding it easier to be authentic and conversational in prayer. It has also made me acutely aware of how truly awesome our God is and how thankful I am to be called his child. I’m also aware that if I’m not careful, this too could become another box I check or an attempt at achievement that I think might earn me favor with God on my terms. Therefore, I pray the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through me, that Jesus becomes more real than ever, and that God reveals his heart in all his people.