No idea where to start when you’re trying to pray? This ACTS prayer walkthrough is a valuable starting point to help focus your thoughts…
Do you ever struggle when you try to pray?
Like all types of communication, prayer isn’t always easy. Things can get in the way or distract you or make you feel like you don’t have time or you’re too tired to even try.
But God loves to communicate with you. He invites you to approach His throne and pour out your heart. Your needs, your fears, your sins, your gratitude – all of it.
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Sometimes the problem isn’t really knowing what to pray, but knowing where to start. And that’s where the ACTS prayer method comes in.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in holy array.
Now, before we take a closer look at the ACTS prayer model, I have to remind you: Prayer, in its simplest definition, is you talking to God. Communicating with your Heavenly Father. That’s all.
No method, framework, structure or sample prayer is more effective than you pouring out your thoughts, feelings, regrets and needs in submissive honesty to God.
So keep that in mind: This ACTS prayer isn’t designed to be a magic fix that will make God more likely to answer your prayers. No way!
It’s a starting point to make you think about who He is, who you are, what He’s done and what you need. So let’s explore it…
The ACTS Prayer Framework
ACTS is an acronym for the following 4 words: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
What do those mean?
- A = Adoration
Where you say to the Lord, “I love You”
- C = Confession
Where you say to the Lord, “I’m sorry”
- T = Thanksgiving
Where you say to the Lord, “Thank You”
- S = Supplication
Where you say to the Lord, “Please”
This is a really easy way to remember some of the different aspects of prayer and worship! Keep reading for a closer look at each step, and a free printable worksheet to help you put it into practice…
Did you know…?
The word ‘worship’ actually comes from “worth-ship”, i.e. ascribing great worth to something or someone. As you pray through the ACTS prayer, ascribe your worship to God, as Psalm 29 encourages. He alone is worthy.
Plus, you can use this format anytime – in your private quiet time, praying with friends, or praying in church, prayer groups or Bible study groups.
Let’s take a closer look at each letter in the ACTS prayer acronym.
ACTS Prayer: A is Adoration (I Love You)
O LORD, there is none like you, neither is there any God beside you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
(1 Chronicles 17:20)
The dictionary’s definition of adoration is “to love and respect someone deeply”.
When you think of loving someone, you tend to either think in terms of romantic or family relationships, but no matter how precious those other people are to you, you must truly love God above everyone (and everything) else.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
No one else is like Him. No one else can even come close to comparing to Him. And, He is the only one who will never, ever disappoint you, let you down or hurt you.
He is the Creator of the universe and all the wonders within it. He is the King of all the ages. And He is the Redeemer who provided atonement through the sacrificial obedient love of Jesus.
How majestic and awesome and wonderful He is… the only One worthy of your worship. The only One who is love itself.
Your worship of Him, following the ACTS prayer framework, begins with Adoration.
In other words? Saying ‘I love You’ to God.
Adoration is such a beautiful word, which paints an even more beautiful picture of a heart pouring out love like an ocean wave. It resonates an unquenchable fascination and admiration that eclipses everything else.
Put me like a seal over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the Lord.
(Song of Solomon 8:6)
But love isn’t just about feelings. Ultimately, love is about sacrifice and submission.
Submission requires obedience. Two words that a lot of Christians seem to shy away from talking about these days… But two words of great importance in relation to your love for God.
How often do you really obey God’s Word, no matter how inconvenient it is to you and no matter how unpopular it may be in the world’s eyes?
Jesus asked a sobering question:
Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)
If you truly adore God, you’ll genuinely want to obey and serve Him.
Two main reasons for this are:
- It’s what His Word tells us to do.
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
- It will prove that we really do love Him.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
After all, who else is worthy of such adoration?
“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
ACTS Prayer: C is Confession (I’m Sorry)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9)
As a Christian, you still mess up… (<—- Understatement of the century, am I right?!)
Confession is simply saying, “I did ______. I’m sorry”.
But not just saying it without meaning it, because God knows your heart. He knows when you’re being truthful and when you’re being insincere.
And it’s only a truly repentant heart that will be met with His mercy and forgiveness.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
You may have heard this phrase before: It is wise to keep short accounts with God.
In other words, it is wise to stay close to Him, and speak often to Him, admitting your sins daily and seeking His grace.
The closer you are to Him, the sooner you’ll realise when you’ve gone wrong, and the more readily you’ll regret and repent of your stumbles, instead of allowing them to drive a deep divide between you and God.
As you meditate on His Word, and on the cross – in all its brutal reality, the raw suffering, the selfless sacrifice – you gain a more accurate picture of your own inability to justify yourself.
And you’ll be humbled as you see the severity of your sins against the purity of a holy, perfect God.
After you tell Him your sins and ask Him to cleanse you from them, ask Him to help you always see yourself rightly and see Him reverently, knowing that He is faithful to forgive you and that He is willing and able to keep you from falling.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
ACTS Prayer: T is Thanksgiving (Thank You)
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
The third key component of your ACTS prayer, after declaring your adoration for your wonderful Creator and confessing your sins to Him, is thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is simply saying, “Thank You” with a sincere and grateful heart.
Much is spoken of in Scripture regarding thankfulness and praising God for His goodness.
And when you meditate on just how vast His love is for you, despite how wicked and vile your hearts truly is, how can you not be thankful for His mercy and grace?
Even in difficult times, if you look deep enough, you will always find something to be thankful for.
And remember – His love for you drove Him to the cross. Whatever may happen, there is nothing you have to be more thankful for than the gift of salvation He gives when you repent and believe.
…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Another phrase I’ve heard a lot is ‘cultivating an attitude of gratitude’.
One way I’m working on this is by keeping a gratitude journal. (I use this pretty one by Crystal Paine…)
Every day, make a point of writing down one thing you are grateful for. It could be something that happened that day, or years ago. It could be something small or something huge. It could be a promise in Scripture, something encouraging that someone said to you, a surprise visit from friends or family, a gift you received, an opportunity you had to bless someone, or even something beautiful you noticed in God’s amazing creation…
Over time, you’ll find it easier and easier to tune in and recognise the sometimes-taken-for-granted blessings that God lavishes upon you every day. And you’ll have an extensive list of gratitude prompts to include in your prayers.
Today, my gratitude journal entry is this:
I am thankful for God’s infallible Word, inexhaustible grace and indwelling Spirit.
And for the sunshine that’s illuminating the beauty of the works of His hands.
ACTS Prayer: S is Supplication (Please)
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints
The final key component of your ACTS prayer (after adoration, confession and thanksgiving) is supplication.
It sounds like an old-fashioned word, but it is simply saying, “Please”, with the right requests offered in the right motives.
When I first discovered the ACTS prayer, I found it so striking that the “Please” part was the last one! There’s adoration, confession and thanksgiving… then, after all that, there’s asking.
Isn’t it true that you often put the asking part first?
Or worse: how often are your prayers ONLY asking, neglecting to tell God you love Him, neglecting to repent of wrongdoings and neglecting to thank Him for the grace and mercy that He lavishes upon you minute after minute?
There are so many portions of Scripture that talk about prayer and about asking God for things that you need.
All are precious, and I encourage you to seek the treasure of His Word out for yourself, because it’s only when you get alone with God’s Word that you can fully realize the truth.
In today’s culture, we’re so quick to listen to teachers, writers, bloggers and their interpretations of Scripture that we often neglect listening to Scripture itself.
And whilst teachers, writers and bloggers do have a place and can certainly help you to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word, you need to be careful that the words of fallible humans don’t end up replacing the Word of God.
Sidenote: If you do need some biblical help in getting to grips with studying the Bible, prayer and worship, then my Quiet Time QuickStart book can help. Find out more here…
When you ask God for something when you pray, what are your motives? Is it for selfish gain, for justice or from compassion for others?
It’s important to be aware of your motives for asking, because oftentimes you can ever-so-subtly end up wanting the thing you’re asking for more than you want God.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Take a moment and let the danger and horror of that verse sink in.
You depend on God for every single breath you take, and when you pray and pray and pray for something that you ‘can’t live without’, you get it all backwards, because all that you truly need is Christ. No one can physically or spiritually live without Him.
And God sent Him to redeem you. He is your life – in fact, your real life is hidden in Him:
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
So when you ask Him for something, make sure you are asking with right motives. Not with greed or lust to gain an idol for yourself, but with wisdom and a sound mind to gain a closer walk with Him, so that you can pour yourself out to help others know Him.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Today, as you walk through the ACTS prayer method and remember all that Christ has done and all that He is, ask God for wisdom, courage and compassion, so that you can lay down your life and follow Him, shining His light to those who are still stumbling around in darkness.
Ask Him to help you die to self so that He can live through you.
>>> LIVING IT OUT >>>
Read: Matthew 6:9-13, where Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray.
(Some think that the ACTS prayer is actually based on the Lord’s Prayer, but R.C. Sproul points out that one of the components is “conspicuously absent”…)
Pray: That the Lord will help you to adore Him, confess your sins to Him, thank Him and ask Him to meet your needs. Pour out your heart to Him, dwell on who He is, who you are, what He has done and what He is doing.
Download: To help you get started putting the ACTS prayer into action, you can get a free ACTS Prayer Worksheet (taken from my Quiet Time QuickStart book) by entering your name and email address in the box below. Simply download, then print and use it over and over again to give you a starting point for your prayers.
And, if you want even more help to develop a daily prayer habit, I encourage you to find out more about the Devoted Prayer Kit – a printable pack that will help you pray every day with focus and consistency – even if you’re short on time. Find out more here…
→ Is finding time to pray a bigger struggle for you than knowing what to pray? Click to read: How To Have Time To Pray Every Day