Raise your hand if, somewhere along the way, you learned the ACTS prayer?
If you aren’t familiar with it, this acronym stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. (because who doesn’t call prayer requests, “supplication?” As in, “I’m supplicating for you.” I’m going to start saying this).
Whether intended or not, (and I’m sure it wasn’t), the first three felt to me like some sort of payment.
Like I didn’t have a right to ask anything unless I had duly praised God first. Throw in some confession for good measure. And just in case He wasn’t placated, I should thank Him for a few things.
Then, and only then, could I ask for something.
I always wondered if I’d done enough of the first three to warrant the fourth, or if God was looking at me with my favorite emoji face, one eyebrow flat, the other raised, “Really, Gina? You think that’s enough?”
Honestly, it discouraged me from praying. Too much work.
Along the way, I suppose I realized that’s NOT how prayer works, and I became more comfortable just asking.
But lately, I’ve been rediscovering the value of ACTS prayer.
Rediscovering ACTS prayer
It started one morning when I woke with a prayer heavy on my heart. I was tempted to dive straight into my request, but instead, I wrote in my journal, “Who is God?”
In light of this situation, who is He? How does He see it? What can He do?
I wrote, “He is good, compassionate, able. In the past, He has been faithful. He will be faithful again. None of this is unknown to Him. He plans to use all of it, not only in my life but in the lives of everyone around me. Wisdom and patience pour from Him.”
As I dwelt on these things, the weight lifted. And, I became acutely aware of the anxiety I was carrying, the ways I hoped to manipulate the situation. The most natural thing to do was confess that, something much easier to do in light of God’s goodness to me.
Buoyed by seeing Him, and being right with Him, I found myself thanking Him for the anticipated path I saw this situation taking. Gratitude for the answer I knew He would provide, even if it wasn’t what I might think I want.
When I finally got around to actually bringing my request to God, it came from such a different place. I felt full of faith and hope-such a stark contrast to how I began.
How ACTS changes us
Yes, God deserves our praise. For all He is, this should be our first and more frequent posture toward Him.
But adoration does something in us too. It reminds us of what is true: about Him, about us, about our circumstances. Worship is like dusting off the window so we can see life clearly again and move in the right direction, toward Him. We see what is most true.
And in light of who He is, I see myself rightly. I see how I have tried to be God in this situation. My soul needs to be purged of that untruth. Confession sets things right in us, lets us off the hook as savior of our worlds.
Gratitude flows from hearts that anticipate His goodness, even before we lay our requests before Him. When our lenses are filled with more of Him and less of us, it makes sense to thank Him for what He will do.
At that point, supplication (seriously, can we make this a thing?: “I’ve been supplicating for you!”) becomes almost an afterthought.
So I’ve been doing this more regularly lately. Not paying my dues, but changing my heart and mind back to where they belong. Redirecting my prayers not to earn an answer but to be confident in it. Making my focus not an outcome but a connection with Him.