I wrote this on New Year’s Eve when I was remembering a watchnight worship service in Philadelphia. It started at 10pm and ended after midnight. We reviewed the old year, confessed our failings, and prepared for the new year, seeking Jesus’ blessing and renewing our covenant to follow Him.
We began with Psalm 141:1-2—“I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; the lifting up of my hands like the evening sacrifice.” Then our service followed the A-C-T-S model of prayer, devoting time to: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.
I often use A-C-T-S myself. The Lord does not require us to approach Him according to a rigid formula or a “canned” method. Jesus’ model prayer for us (The Lord’s Prayer) includes Adoration, Confession, and Supplication. And the rest of the Scriptures are full of Thanksgiving. The A-C-T-S pattern can keep us from “gimme, gimme” prayers that are selfish and focus only on our wants.
The primary object of prayer is to know God better;
we and our needs should come second.
(Missionary Florence Allshorn, 1887-1950)
Recent counselees were not familiar with the A-C-T-S model so I explained it to them. Maybe this article will help you or others you know. If so, please pass it on.
Adoration means worship, so I usually begin my prayer time by praising God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) for all He is to us and all He has done for us. I want to admire, exalt, and glorify the Lord and stand before Him with awe and wonder. All the Bible points to Christ. So I praise God especially for Jesus’ sinless life as our substitute, His atoning death on the cross, and His victorious resurrection. Christ’s resurrection brings us newness of life here and now, and guarantees Jesus’ certain return to consummate our salvation and our future resurrection.
The Lord deserves and delights in our adoration, so we rejoice in Him and praise His love to us (see Song of Songs 1:4). Some form of the word “praise” is used 152 times in Psalms and it is a major theme of that book. 44 times “praise” appears with singing or song, so I often mix singing with my praying. Praising God is the greatest activity we can engage in. It will occupy Christ’s people in eternity too. A voice from the throne, said: “Praise our God, all you His servants, you who fear Him, both small and great!” (Rev 19:5)
Confession means agreeing with the Lord about the bad we have done and the good we have left undone. We express our grief for grieving Him with our wrong thoughts, words, and deeds. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-10) We also ask the Lord to help us throw off our old sinful ways, which are corrupted by wrong desires and deception. We ask Him to renew our hearts, minds, and lives, putting on our new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy (Eph 4:22-24).
God didn’t save us to go back to our own selfish ways, but to mold us into Christ-likeness, so that we show the family resemblance (Rom 8:29). Ezra chapter 9, Nehemiah chapter 9, and Daniel chapter 9 all contain prayers of confession that I use to guide my prayers to our Heavenly Father. Seven Psalms are Psalms of Confession (6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142) and have been used by Christians since apostolic times. Confession keeps us honest as we come into God’s presence and we need that. Jesus will never disown His true followers, but we must confess and renounce our sin to restore our fellowship with Him (Prov 28:13).
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow (the hopeless sorrow of non-Christians), which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
To be continued. You can read Knowing God Through Prayer (A-C-T-S)(Part 2)