How to Pray

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father” – Matthew 6:6

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Why, you may ask, should this be any different for me than, say, National Poinsettia Day or National Public Lands Day or National Feral Cat Day or even the National Day of Reason?

We set aside days for lots of things – for cleaning out the garage, for getting caught up on laundry, to study for finals, to take a vacation. The point is, we make that thing a focus for us for the day – to make sure our head and our hearts are where they are supposed to be to get the job done, or to understand what we’re studying. Setting aside time for prayer shouldn’t really be that different.

Besides, we as Christians are supposed to do the prayer thing. So… how’s it going for you?

Let’s talk about how prayer can be a powerful force in your life – not as something you have to do, but as something you get to do. If you’ve heard people get up front at church and deliver long flowery prayers, you might think that’s how all prayers are supposed to be. Not so. Sure, it’s nice when someone says pretty prayers, I guess, but I don’t think God cares that much about it. In fact, Jesus wasn’t at all impressed by people who got up to say fancy prayers just to impress others. (Read the whole section about prayer in Matthew 6:5-15)

For Jesus, it was all about a friendship with God. Jesus prayed a lot, sometimes in front of others, sometimes by himself. Prayer for him was having a conversation… a conversation with God. What a privilege! You get to talk to the almighty, powerful creator of the universe. And God’s jazzed to talk to you, too.

So praying by yourself might be a good way to focus on the talking with God part instead of sounding good to other people, at least until you get comfortable with it. But if you struggle with what you should say, use this common acronym, ACTS, as a guide.

A: Adoration. This is about adoring God – admitting we realize how great, how awesome, how wonderful, and how amazing God is. Sure, you’re talking to God as a friend, but not just any friend. This friend is the supreme ruler of everything!

C: Confession. This means you tell God what you’ve done wrong and ask for forgiveness. If you think of people you need to forgive during this time, ask God for help to do that, too.

T: Thanksgiving. Next “give thanks” to God for the blessings you have. Without God you wouldn’t have anything, so thank God for all he gives you.

S: Supplication. This big word means asking God for your needs. It’s important to do this last, because sometimes the only time we talk to God is to ask for stuff. God wants us to ask to meet our needs, but that’s not the only part of praying.

And finally, even though it’s not part of ACTS, make sure you listen to God. It’s not just a one-way conversation. Open your heart to see what God gives to you. Be still and quiet and focus only on God.

Have fun talking with God. God is very willing to talk to you.

Adapted from the 2006 Group Workcamps Mission Handbook

About Eric Scott 15 Articles
a software developer, weekend home project worker, backyard athlete and father of five. He is a serving elder at his church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, where he also works with the youth group.