It's the subject that no one really wants to talk about. When I became a Christian, it didn't take long for me to develop an inferiority complex. All around me, people were talking about the importance of prayer, but no one was teaching me how to pray.
It's like reading--everybody assumes that somebody previously taught you how to read. It's a dangerous assumption. And as you grow older, and you still don't know how to do it, you feel silly asking about it.
So this week, let me do the asking . . .
WHY DO WE PRAY?
One of the acronyms I've come across in my readings over and over again is ACTS. It stands for:
Adoration--worshiping God for who He is
Confession--admitting our sins of omission and commission
Thanksgiving--giving thanks for God and his grace to us
Supplication--giving up our needs to God and asking for guidance
Let's look at these one by one:
Adoration--"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing
songs of praise." --James 5:13
I love this passage from James, because it teaches us two very important lessons:
1. We often come to God in prayer when we have problems, but we should also pray when everything is wonderful too!
2. Prayer can take many forms. It can be a conversation with God, or it can be "songs of praise". God looks at the heart, not the sugar coating on the outside.
Confession--"If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." --James 5:15-16
We all mess up. We all sin. We do things we shouldn't, and we don't do things we should (commission and omission). We need to come to God regularly to "wipe the slate clean".
Thanksgiving--"Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done." --1 Chronicles 16:8
We have so much to be thankful for: our health, our friends and family, the beautiful world we live in, God's desire to be part of our life . . .even for our enemies. Remember that muscle doesn't grow unless it faces some opposition, so yes, we even give thanks for the problems in our life that make us stronger!
Supplication:"I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." --1 Timothy 2:1-4
What is supplication? Supplication involves making humble and earnest requests to the Lord. We have needs, our friends and family have needs, our enemies have needs, people we know have needs, and people we don't know have needs.
SO HOW DO WE EVEN BEGIN TO PRAY FOR THEM?
Thank God for great Sunday school teachers...The best example of how to pray for others comes from a child I talked to at church camp (Her name was Grace--how fitting!). When I asked her how she prayed, she put her two hands together, palm to palm, and showed me the meaning of the five fingers:
The Thumb: If our hands are pressed together when we pray, the thumbs are closest to us. This reminds us to pray for friends and family--those near and dear to our heart.
The Index Finger (the pointing finger): Teachers are always "pointing" things out to us. We need to listen to good teachers, whether they be school teachers, coaches, or Bible study teachers. We need to pray for them.
The Middle Finger: The middle finger is the "tallest". It reminds us of those who are our leaders--our spiritual leader (our pastor); our nation's leader (our president, prime minister, or king); our boss at work; or any who are in positions of authority. We pray that their decisions are based upon God's principles instead of worldly desire.
The Fourth Finger (the ring finger): I've been told that this is generally the weakest finger--just ask any piano teacher! Because it's our weakest link, it reminds us of those we don't really know at all, but who still need our prayers. The homeless, the helpless, the addicted, the starving, the friendless--they need our prayers.
The Pinkie: The pinkie is the skinniest and the smallest. It is us. It's a reminder that God's world is not "me, me, me". We do need to pray for ourselves, our needs, and our growth as Christians, but we do that AFTER we have considered the needs of others...and we do so in utmost humility.
So there you have it--from the mouths of babes, a simple method of prayer that helps us remember all those we need to remember in our prayers.
I pray that these words have had meaning for you and yours,