Prayer is the “chief Means of Grace.” Prayer is the foundation of a disciple’s life. Prayer is the foundation of congregational life in the church. In scripture, the primary purpose of prayer is to enable us to live in intimate relationship with God so that we become the agents of God’s saving purpose in the world. Prayer IS NOT a magic trick whereby we manipulate God into giving us what we want done.
Like every human relationship, the dynamics of our relationship with God change as we grow, but there are four essential building blocks that are expressed by the acronym ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
Adoration is the way we remind ourselves of the character of the God to which we pray. Adoration is where Jesus began when he taught the disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” The character of God to whom we pray makes a difference in the way we pray and the way we live. God is great but also good. God is gracious, loving and always ready to forgive, therefore God is merciful.
Confession is the way we face the hard truths about who we are and where we are in our discipleship. Confession is the way we name the stuff that clutters our souls and gets in the way of a vibrant relationship with God. God already knows where we fall short, but we acknowledge our shortcomings in confession to open the door for God’s cleansing light to flood in.
Thanksgiving is our joyful response to the way God is at work for good in our lives. Instead of reciting a litany of all the anxieties, fears, burdens, frustrations and failures in our lives we go to God and thank God for blessings. In times when we are surrounded by cynicism, fear, anger and just plain old meanness, praying with an attitude of joyful thanksgiving makes a big difference.
Supplication is another word for intercession. Intercession is more than lifting up a shopping list of prayer requests and asking God to do something about them. Intercession is the way we draw the very real concerns of our lives into the presence of God and invite God to be at work in them through us.
There is a caution I’d invite and encourage you to consider as you develop a commitment to the discipline of prayer. Not every kind of praying will carry us along the path that leads from a self-centered life to a Jesus-centered life. Not every expression of spirituality will enable us to love God and others. Not every form of religious practice will energize us to share God’s transforming love with others. However, if our vision is to be the best disciples and discipleship congregation we can be, our lives together must be shaped by our commitment to and practice of prayer.
…best of all, God is with us…