One of the New Year Resolutions I had made for 2014 was to pray better.
For one, I get distracted easily. I suddenly remember something I had forgotten, or need to do, and break off to write it down in my schedule. Or my brain is seething with the pressure of all the things on today's to-do list, screaming for urgent attention, and it becomes so hard to focus on praying that the words seem fake and forced even to me. Let's not even dwell on the occasional falling asleep.
We tend to neglect giving God the basic respect we give to another human being over the phone.
How, then, to pray better?
Coming across R.C Sproul's acrostic for prayer again (I had heard it once before, but hadn't taken it to heart) was immensely helpful. It's been a reminder to me to examine how I pray and what I pray for.
Each letter of ACTS stands for one element that should be present in our prayer--
--as well as the priority we should give to each.
I realized at once that my prayer had all along been SSSSSSSSS-t-c-a.
Adoration. We need to remember that the original purpose of our relationship with God was the enjoying of His goodness forever, adoration. Though sin has ruined this, it's not lost. Christ has enabled us to the restoration of this. We have sinned, yes; the world around us, as a sinful world, is so full of heartbreaking needs. But let's not be so overwhelmed we forget the goodness of God, which through Christ was given to us to enjoy forever. He is a good God. The clearer we see the beauty, goodness, and glory of God, the better we know Him, the better we serve Him.
Confession. Let this not be the last thing on our list--or worse, something we (conveniently) push under the rug mentally while we focus on the more 'urgent' prayer requests. The truth is that we are constantly falling into sin, and the more aware we are of this, the better equipped we are to resist it. Confessing our sins, no matter how small, and asking God for forgiveness sets us into the right frame of mind for the rest of our prayer as well as the rest of our day. We are humbled by remembering how unworthy we are. We don't lay our requests before God prosaically as entitlements we expect Him to fulfill. And at least for me, we are reminded how precious Christ's sacrifice for us is, how it is the one thing which has transformed and empowered us to where we stand today in God's eyes. This one small thing--daily confession of sin and asking for forgiveness--has helped me to love Christ better, and to be more appreciative of the great sacrifice He made for me.
Thanksgiving. The simple order of this coming first BEFORE supplication makes such a huge difference. I always rushed into supplication and then, after feeling vaguely discouraged and dissatisfied by the avalanche of needs, tried to remember something to thank God for.
Of course, it always came out somehow insincere and hollow, as much as I tried to truly feel the gratitude I acknowledged I owed. 'Ah. Er.Thank You for my family....my church....hmm let's see...oh yeah, and my salvation...' You ask with a different heart if you have thanked first.
And then supplication. Though this one has never been a problem for me, supplication should also be an important part of our prayer....simply because though Christian contentment and faith should characterize us, we should also be alive to the many needs of the world and people around us--and recognize our own areas of need. So many sins we need to let go of, so many virtues we need to grasp. We should be content. But we should not be complacent.
Prayer is one of the pillars of the Christian's life.
Life, both in the physical sense--as in an important part of your daily routine--and in a spiritual sense, as in your sensitivity to God's goodness/the state of your relationship with Him.
We are deceiving ourselves if we pretend that it's okay, we can focus on other good things instead of seriously examining how we pray. Serving God is one thing. But don't let it take the place of knowing Him, of growing in love for Him (which is natural and simple if we truly are knowing Him better.)
And there is no way we can know Him better unless we talk to Him. Quality, quantity--perhaps it's one or the other--or both--which is the challenge for you.
Talk to Him. It is never hard to talk to someone we truly love--even if it may take us a while to get used to it. Human relationships mirror this truth. We can love and care for someone, but find it awkward and difficult to talk to them if it's been a while since we last did. But if we persevere, the barrier fades, and the relationship deepens. Anyone who has met up with an old friend, or had a loved one go overseas for a long period of time, will remember the initial and inevitable awkwardness.
Talk to Him.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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