Foundations of Prayer: Developing a Life of Prayer
I have been learning a lot about prayer over the past semester, through both my seminary class Life of Prayer and through my personal devotions and prayer life. In this four part series, I will be sharing some of the insights and strategies that I have learned about developing a life that is centered in prayer.
To begin, let’s consider a few things that prayer is not:
Prayer is all about developing a relationship with God. Prayer, at its most simple level, is communicating with God. It is bringing ourselves before God just as we are and opening our hearts to Him. We are like children coloring a picture for daddy with crayons: there is no such thing as a bad picture drawn by a toddler; it is all good and brings joy to the parent. Likewise, there is no bad prayer to God. Even if our prayers are full of pride, selfishness, and vain conceit, that’s okay! We are imperfect humans, so of course our prayers will never be perfect. We pray by the grace that is given to us by God, and as we grow in our spiritual life through communication and relationship with God, so will our prayers.
Prayer is ordinary. It is not radical, extraordinary, or something saved for a special blessing over Thanksgiving dinner. It is common. God wants a common relationship with us, a friendship that is consistent and growing day to day, and to be involved in the littlest and most plain things in life. There is no such thing as a prayer that is too small. Everything from praying for world peace to praying to find the lost television remote control is a good prayer, simply and precisely because it is a means of focusing our lives on God. Through prayer, we center our lives on not just ourselves, but on God, and then again on others as we pray for them.
Prayer is a way of partnering with God to be used for His will, to develop deep roots in Him, and to be empowered for ministry. Through a life of prayer, we first open our hearts up and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us; we call this sanctification, the process of being made more holy. Another way of looking at this is that the more time we spend with God, the more His personality will rub off on us. Consider your relationship with your best friend and imagine how their personality, interests, language, and motives have influenced you over the years. It is the same with God – spend more time with Him and he will have that same influence on you.
Through a life of prayer, we move into a deeper relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We develop an intimacy with God that gives us access to His thoughts and feelings, His love and His will, His power and His glory. Again, consider your relationship with that same best friend. You could ask them for nearly anything – to borrow their car for a few days, to crash at their place for a week, to bail you out of jail… I hope not! They will do it not simply because you asked, but because your friendship is important and your relationship has been developed with trust. The same goes with God – when we have a deep relationship with God, He will share His heart with us, He will bless us and sustain us, He may even reveal His glory and majesty and show us what those mean.
Finally, through a life of prayer, we move outward and are empowered to minister to others. Our relationship with God is not just for ourselves, but for God to shine His light through us unto the world, “shining like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15). We are blessed to be a blessing for others, and our intimacy with God is given by His grace so that we may reflect His goodness to others, that they might see Christ in us and drawn to Him through us. Further, we do not believe in a distant, immutable God, but in our Father who listens, hears the cries of His children, and responds. So we pray for others with an expectation that God will listen and respond.
ACTS Prayer Guide
Let’s look at this simple guided model for prayer that can be quite helpful to keep in mind, especially for those new to prayer. It is called the ACTS model, and is an anagram for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Concentrating on these four areas in prayer is a great way to start building a life of prayer with Jesus.
In Adoration, we exalt the name of God, praise Him for who He is, and give Him all glory and honor. The Lord’s prayer even begins this way: “Our Father in heaven, holy is your name!”
In Confession, we enter into a time of self reflection and examination. We ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and bring to mind any areas of sin and brokenness that are present in our lives and hindering our relationship with God. Then we confess those sins to God, expressing the knowledge of our failures and the desire to turn from those behaviors and live holy lives. Then we lift them up to God and move forward with a clear conscience.
In Thanksgiving, we thank God for all He has done for us, for His blessings, and for His provision. We thank God for our families and friends, the necessities of life we have been given, and all the things that bring us joy. We tell God how much we love Him and are grateful for Jesus, and we thank Him for always being with us.
Finally, in Supplication, we ask God for what we need. Not only do we ask God to provide for our own needs, but also for the needs and interests of others. This is where we pray for our families and friends, our churches, our leaders, our jobs, our government, and our own desires and needs. There is nothing too big or too small to petition to God; He hears and wants to know our hearts, even if there is something selfish or proud or even plainly wrong with our requests. He wants us. He wants you. And He does listen and does respond.
Take the next 5-10 minutes and pray to God using the ACTS method, starting with Adoration and closing with Supplication. Take 1-2 minutes on each area before moving to the next. This is a simple and powerful model to begin developing a life of prayer.
As you may notice, this method of prayer deals mostly with speaking to God. In the next posts, we will look at developing an awareness of God and His presence, and then listening to God and praying with Him.
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
I didn't support either candidate, but I am shocked that Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States of America. I certainly thought Hillary Clinton would win and I'd be serving as a peacemaker to disgruntled conservatives considering rebellion. But perhaps even moreso, I am absolutely shocked and appalled at how Christians... continue
It has been one year since our adoption journey began! Nicole and I made this video to share an update about what God has been doing with us. Please share this message of life, love, and hope! #attemptsomethingbig And if you are considering abortion, or know someone considering abortion, we would... continue
We've all been witnesses to the catastrophic nightmare we call a presidential election this year. I've had and observed several conversations about religion and politics over the past couple months. I've noticed a growing cynicism toward government and politics, especially among Millennials and Christians, who literally feel stuck with this year's... continue