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Balanced Prayer

“Rejoice evermore, Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


Prayer is the flip side to “Experiencing God in His Word”. If you read through that section you noticed that God gave us His Word as the primary means of communicating with us. It is by spending time with God reading His Word that we listen to God and hear what He wants to tell us. Similarly, it is through prayer that we talk to God and verbally or mentally respond to His communicating with us. Jesus teaches us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13. His example can be categorically broken down into various components. Others have made such an attempt previously and I’d like to use such an example to illustrate what a well rounded prayer life generally includes. The Biblical model of prayer can be surmised by using the acronym “ACTS”- standing for “Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.”

ACTS isn’t some legal formula we have to follow each time we pray- it’s simply intended to categorize generally the different reasons that God tells us to “pray without ceasing”. The acronym “ACTS” stands for the following:

Adoration- praise to God- giving the proper honor and glory to God that He alone deserves simply for being God. It is a lavish outpouring of love to God for all that He means to us. The Bible makes the connection between this sort of lavish outpouring toward God and experiencing joy and peace in our own lives. I can personally attest to that as being true. Some of the greatest, most fulfilling experiences I have ever had were during times of praise to God- usually corporate praise with the Body of Christ (the Church) - read Psalm 30

Confession- The Bible teaches that all who are descended from Adam (which is every human on the face of this planet) were born into sin (Romans 5:12). In other words, the bodies that we are clothed with at birth, are sinful by nature and thus our actions have a natural inclination and direction toward sin. Even after we became Christians, after this sinful nature was put to death with Christ on the cross, we still sin!! (I am sure many of you know just how frustrating this is). As long as we walk on this earth with these bodies we will sin. Right now, for those who are born of the Spirit, we have the power to walk in a relationship with God without sinning- its just unfortunate for all of us that this available power is not always in authority over our lives. Our Spirit and our flesh are therefore contending for the same position of authority over our lives. And when we aren’t consciously living by the power and will of the Holy Spirit, the flesh is eager to take over. It is for this reason that we still sin and we need to confess our sins to God. God wants us to confess our sin for numerous reasons:

  1. Because sin is personally and deeply offensive to God and is not compatible with our new Spirit-born nature.
  2. Because sin cost God the life of His very own Son. Jesus our Lord suffered horribly on the cross to pay for all our sin - even sins we may commit in the future.
  3. Because when we were literally baptized (immersed) into Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) we identified with Christ’s death and resurrection (in water baptism we acknowledge this identification). We identified with His death to the control of sin over our lives and identified with His resurrection to live a godly sinless life just as Christ lived a godly sinless life.
  4. Confession cleanses the soul and the mind of guilt and fear as we agree with God that we have done something offensive to Him and rebellious against Him and receive His provision for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Thanksgiving- The Bible tells us many times “in everything give thanks”. It is important to understand what this command is saying to us. The Bible is not telling us to be thankful FOR all things, for instance we aren’t thankful FOR the devil’s activity in the world, or FOR the abuse of children or FOR criminal activity- murder, rape, torture, etc. Rather what the Bible teaches is that AMIDST all circumstances - we are to give thanks to God. In fact the original Greek literally translates to say: “ABOVE all circumstances, give thanks to God”.

One of the most liberating truth's in the scriptures that should prompt our thanksgiving is that God defeated Satan and his hold over humanity at the cross. We are now free to live Godly lives without accusation from the devil, despite the hold he may have had over us in the past. We have the freedom in Christ to now live by His Spirit- a life of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self Control. All of God’s children have the promise of eternal life with God - basking in His infinite glory forever and ever, where sin is forever gone, pain is gone, loneliness and fear are gone. We have a great deal to enjoy now in Christ and even more to look forward to in Heaven. This is why Paul can say with great joy and certainty “In everything, give thanks.”

Supplication- I have known people who pray at one of two extremes. Some who ONLY pray when they have needs, and some who NEVER pray when they have needs.

God wants to meet our needs. The Bible teaches that nothing is too big for God. It also teaches that nothing is too small for God either. God wants to be intimately connected with every detail of our lives, including the major decisions as well as the minor ones.

Jesus says “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:8-11)

As with any other relationship, our communicating with God in prayer should be balanced. All four of these aspects should be consistently present in our prayer life. Think about what would happen if we only focused on one of these with the total exclusion of the others. Consider this in terms of your relationship with your wife (assuming you have a wife). What if all day long you followed your wife around and said nothing but praise her for her exquisite beauty and her intellect, and her hard work with the kids or job. She might be flattered at first, but it probably wouldn’t take long before she began wondering if the man she married didn’t really have much of a life.

Or what if you did nothing but beg apologies for all the things you have done wrong or could do better. Day in and day out coming to her weeping over your failure to take out the kitchen garbage or to pick up milk from the grocery store on the way home from work. How easy are you making it on your wife to show respect and appreciation to you as her husband?

Or what if you only spoke to her when you wanted her to meet some need or give permission for something? She might start thinking that you had some long-standing Freudian issues that had never been resolved.

I hope you recognize that to an extent all of these silly scenarios are actually very important components of a healthy marriage- it’s when some are entirely excluded for the sake of overemphasizing others that the relationship can become burdensome and unhealthy. While God probably wouldn’t view us the same way when our prayers fail to be well rounded, the Bible does make it clear that our prayer life should be meaningful, intentional, thoughtful, heartfelt, sincere, and with the anticipation of meeting with God to talk to Him.

When we pray, we are to avoid mindless repetition (as was common for “Heathens” in Jesus’ day - Matthew 6:7). We are also to avoid asking God to reveal a truth to us that is already revealed in His Word. For example we aren’t to pray to ask God if killing or stealing is alright- since He already tells us in His Word that it is not. This is called testing God and we are commanded against it (Deuteronomy 6:16). Pertinent to the LDS faith, we are not to pray to ask God to reveal to our hearts if a man is a prophet. God tells us in His Word that men must be tested by God’s Word to see if they are a prophet (read Deuteronomy 13:1-5, and Deuteronomy 18:21-22). To not heed God’s warning leaves our depraved hearts wide open to Spiritual deception and the deceptions of false prophets (1 John 4:1).

Freely ask God to provide for all your needs and your wants, and to give you His heart concerning these things. Then thankfully accept what He kindly and sovereignly chooses to give.

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