We are currently in a 21 Day Prayer Challenge at my church, where we are asking folks to pray for at least 5 minutes a day for 21 days, encouraging them to use the A.C.T.S. model.
A.C.T.S is Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
Or, in other words,
acknowledging how awesome God is,
confessing any sin that He brings to mind,
thanking Him for His blessings and then
seeking His heart and hand in specific areas in our lives.
Preparing for this and participating in it has led to all kinds of thoughts, ideas and “ahas!”, even though the official campaign is only three days old. So here are some of the meanderings of my brain over the past few weeks:
- There is no such thing as the perfect prayer because there is no such thing as the perfect pray-er. But there is such a thing as a perfect God who perfectly understands my heart and sees the whole picture. The Holy Spirit graciously fills in the blanks that this imperfect girl leaves and then intercedes on my behalf to the Father. (Romans 8:26-27) In other words, I never pray alone!
- Although Jesus taught us to pray to the Father in His model prayer (AKA, The Lord’s Prayer), I fear that often I am saying, “Father God” but what I mean is “Mighty Vending Machine In the Sky”. I treat prayer like some sort of magic formula where, if I say the right words, God will do “the right thing”. But that is not how I have conversations with my earthly Dad or any other person I love. I safely pour out my heart. And, in the case of God, I pour out my heart knowing He has the power to truly do what is right in every situation. His version. Not mine.
- I have journaled my prayers for years now. I decided for this campaign to “draw” them instead. I use colorful pens and blank paper to write words, phrases or doodles that express my heart. Sometimes it is a list. Sometimes it is what us teachers like to call a “bubble map”. Each letter of A.C.T.S. gets a page. And can I tell you, it has been fun! But my greatest joy thus far has been the confession page. I haven’t loved recording all the ways I mess up each day. But I have LOVED writing over the entire page in red ink, “FORGIVEN” or “PAID IN FULL”. It has been a great visual reminder of the Truth – that ALL of my sins were paid for on the cross. ALL of them. Even the ones I find myself repeating day after day after day.
- And that led me to this random thought: Jeremiah said that God’s “mercies are new every morning”. Jeremiah didn’t realize this very fun Truth, but God knew when He inspired him to write those words: It is always morning somewhere!!!! God’s mercies are constantly there, constantly renewed, an inexhaustible well! What a Savior! What grace! What freedom!
- In prepping the prayer guides we passed out at church, I was looking for different verses for us to pray back to God each day. It was super easy to find 21 verses (or sets of verses) that talk about God’s character and His heart for us for the Adoration portion of each day. It was harder to find 21 verses of confession. Not that they aren’t there and not that we don’t need to confess – because we do! But I love that the emphasis in the Bible is on the mercy of God and who He is – not our depravity and who we are not. That is there – in every story on every page, our depravity is apparent. But it is always met by abundant mercy, unstoppable grace, unbelievable kindness – even when the people reject it and there are consequences. But over and over again, God reaches out in kindness before He executes judgment. Because, as Paul said to the Romans, it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance! (Romans 2)
- And, finally, the more I study prayer and the more I pray, I always come to two conclusions:
- I have no idea how prayer “works”. It is a mystery in many, many ways. Why would the God of the Universe choose to listen to my feeble prayers? And how in the world could what I pray impact Him in any way? He is God, I am not. He is Creator, the Master Potter, the Glue that holds the whole world together. And I am the creature. The flawed, broken, sinful creature. And yet, He commands us to pray! And He tells us that, when we are in right standing with Him, our prayers are “powerful and effective”. Amazing! And incomprehensible, really.
- But then there is number 2. I don’t understand all the “hows” and “whys” of prayer. I know God is not a vending machine. I know His thoughts and ways are higher – and better – than mine. I know He is all-powerful. And I know that He is a good, good Father. Which means that sometimes He says, “No” to my requests. But this I also know – prayer changes things. Yes, it changes me. But it also changes hearts. Nations. Hopeless situations. “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” according to James 5. So, even though I do not fully understand God or prayer, I pray. And what a difference it He makes when I we do!
Will you pray with us?