Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Structure in Prayer (Philippians 4:6)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God" (Phil. 4:6).

A helpful structure for personal prayer is provided by the acrostic ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Yesterday we considered adoration as the place where prayer must start. When we begin by adoring God and seeing Him in His majesty and holiness, we naturally become aware of our sins. Thus, the next step in prayer is confession of sins.

We should always pray in a spirit of confession. Psalm 66:18 says that if we harbor sins in our hearts, and do not confess them, God will not hear us. Thus, we may never enter into a conversation with God in a state of sin. Just as believers under the old covenant could only draw near to God by bringing a sacrifice, so we may not draw near without confessing our sins and approaching Him through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the final sacrifice for sins. We need to come boldly, for He has commanded us to come, but we must come contritely as well.

The third part of prayer is “supplication with thanksgiving.” We should begin with thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us and for what God has done in our lives thus far. Here again, the attitude of thanksgiving is not much found in our lives. The traditional worship service of the church is called the Eucharist, from the Greek word for thanksgiving. The whole idea of worship is thanksgiving, thanks to God for everything. We tend to forget what God has done for us, which is why God set up many memorials and rituals for Israel to remind them. We need to make the effort in our prayers to show that we have not forgotten God’s mercies to us.

Finally, we bring our petitions. The Protestant doctrine of the priesthood of all believers says that we don’t need to go to an ordained clergyman to ask him to pray for us, and we certainly don’t need to ask the dead saints to do it. We can ask any believer. But the other side of this is that just as we need to ask others to pray for us, so we need to pray for others. In our petitions, we mostly pray for ourselves, not for others. We need to reverse this emphasis and exercise our priesthood properly. We need to be priests for others, and have them be priests for us.

Use this prayer outline today and then spend time in prayer. Spend time on each section. If you find that you are stammering, keep going, and ask God to help you learn to pray better. Open the psalms and use them to help guide your prayers and your thoughts.