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The ACTS of Prayer

If there is one thing common to all Christians, it's talking to God, something we call 'Prayer'. Talking to God is something that the human race has done for as long as we have existed, for as long as man has possessed an intellect, logical thought. Adam walked and talked to God in the Garden of Eden, before he fell from grace, along with his every descendant. Whether walking and talking to God could be classed as prayer or not, I'm not sure. However the first mention of prayer in the ESV is in Genesis 20:7 when God instructs Abimelech to ask Abraham to pray for him. In many occasions in the Old Testament, the word pray is used in the context of saying 'please', as in “Let me swallow, I pray thee, a little water from thy pitcher;” [Genesis 24:17]. However the single most common Greek word translated as “prayer” in the New Testament is the word 'proseuche', used127 times. The word proseuche is a compound of the words 'pros' and 'euche', 'pros' means 'toward' or indicates 'closeness', and 'euche' is an old Greek word that describes 'a wish', or 'desire'. So the word ' proseuche' means a wish/desire toward someone who is close, God.

There are many types of prayer, personal prayer, intersession, prayer of tongues, warfare prayer, corporate prayer and so on. When we render all the types of prayer, we come down to four basic categories, we call these 'ACTS'. ACTS is an acronym for A=Adoration, C=Confession, T=Thanksgiving, and S=Supplication, we will take each of these in turn and see what the Bible says about each one. ACTS together gives us a good proforma of how we should pray.


Any prayer, must be about worship, this is what God made us for, we were created to worship God [Revelation 4:11], the whole duty to God is to fear Him and obey His laws [Ecclesiastes 12:13]. In John 4:24 we are told to worship in “Spirit and truth,” which is what the Father ordained the Sabbath for. Worship of God has always been a feature of from the very early days, the first actual mention of worship in Genesis 22:5. Worship makes the Father happy, it blesses Him [Genesis 22:5] just as corporate worship blesses Him [1 Chronicles 29:20]. So sincere worshipping of God pleases Him, if you like to look at it that way. 'puts Him in a good mood' [Nehemiah 8:6].


Then again we come back to confession, which we always seem to be returning to in our studies recently, it seems that the Spirit keeps wanting to drum this into our heads. The Lord's prayer says “and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” [Luke 11:4]. When Jesus was teaching His disciples how to pray He included the principle of confession in that lesson, so it is one that we need to take on-board when we pray, and if we are to pray effectively. Effective prayer is prayer that actually gets through to our God, which will then be answered; yes, no, not yet. For our God to hear us we must get an connection, we cannot telephone someone if we are not connected, if the lines are down or there is no signal for our cell-phone. The one thing that cuts us off from God is our sin, but to make that connection again all we need to do is dispose of our sin, we do that by confessing our sins and repenting in Jesus name. Jesus then took our sin onto Himself, clearing the way to the Father, reconnecting with the Creator. God told David that if we humble ourselves, pray and look to God and turn away from our sin, he will hear us and forgive us [2 Chron 7:14]. Isn't that what we want when we pray, to be heard in heaven? Daniel 9:4 tell us that he prayed to the Lord and confessed his sin. John says that if we say we have no sin we lie to ourselves, but that if we confess our sin God will forgive our sin [1 John 1:8-9]. This is the importance of confession, we cannot approach God or even contact Him unless our sin is forgiven by Him – no confession, no connection.


God also loves to be praised, many Christians think that worship and praise is the same thing, or at least get them muddled. God set feasts and holidays for one thing, to remind us of the great things He had done for us [Numbers 10:10]. After the Passover God told Moses that the Passover feast, the Seder should be observed 'forever' through all generations, it was to be a 'memorial'[Exodus 12:14]. A memorial is a way of remembering something, just as a war memorial reminds us of people who lost their lives for a cause, or a stone on the grave of a loved one. So the Father likes us to remember the great things He has done for us, the greatest of which was sending His Son to be our Passover Lamb and saving us from the slavery to sin, just as He saved His people from slavery to the Egyptians. So we must thank Him for all that He has done when we talk to Him in prayer, thank Him for something He has done in our lives, a prayer answered, a heart's desire granted or just for Jesus. A good example is Paul's prayer of thanksgiving for the believers in Philippi in Philipippians 1:3-5, he prays:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

God has done so much for us I often feel embarrassed by His goodness and mercy to me, it must be an easy thing to praise Him for something, some event. Other examples are: Psalms 100:4, 107:1, 118:21, Matthew 14:19 and Ephesians 1:15.


Supplication is asking or requesting, which, let's face it, most of our prayers are about, whether its for ourselves or someone else, the Father wants us to bring our requests and needs to Him [Philippians 4:6]. Note this verse includes both supplication and thanksgiving. Jesus compares us to the Father as parents, he says that as evil as we are, we still know how to look after our children, and give them good things, so our Father will know so much better what is good for us when we ask Him. Of course this verse is about trust, trusting that our Father knows best, and may say 'No' when we ask for things that are not good for us [Matthew 7:11]. We know that God wants the best for us, which is expressed in Romans 5:8. Our Father has plans for us all and those plans are to prosper us, not to bring evil on us [Jeremiah 29:11]. However we must trust Him that He knows best, and will not grant prayers that are bad for us, physically or spiritually, or wants rather than needs. He will never grant selfish requests, if we need a auto-mobile, he may well grant that request if you need it, but pray for a Jaguar or Ferrari, and the answer will most likely be 'No'. To avoid this it is good to pray with other people, one, two, or more, Jesus promised that where two or three are gathered in His name, He would be there also [Matthew 18:20]. Jesus also gave us an astounding promise that where two or more agreed in prayer, it would be granted [Matthew 18:19]. This is a safeguard against selfish or unreasonable requests, I have never added my “Amen,” to a prayer I did not agree with, even those communal prayers in Church. This is why corporate prayer is so important, when the many agree on something it will be granted, as long as it fits with God's plan, or is scriptural.

Prayers for others are the least selfish prayers because they are not about ourselves, and again they are more effective when two or more agree. This prayer is often called 'intersession' because we interseed of behalf of others. Praying, not just for our friends but for those who persecute us, our enemies [Matthew 5:44] we step in-between them and the Father. When we are praying for others I believe that we should be as specific as possible. As wholly God, Jesus was entirely open to God's Spirit (who knows all things), but Jesus asked people what they wanted before He healed them. Remember the healing of Blind Bartimaeus [Mark 10:46-52] in verse 51 Jesus asked him a question to which the answer must have been obvious, “What do you want me to do for you?” and the answer was predictable, 'to see'. Jesus wanted Bartimaeus to be specific about what he wanted, and this is in line with our confession also, where if we can we should be specific.

Getting the 'Busy' signal

I have heard so many people say, 'there is no point to prayer, because nothing ever changes,' I guess we have all been in the situation where we have heard nothing for God and our prayer goes unanswered. It's so frustrating, like trying to phone someone and continually getting the busy tone, we don't know for they are there or not. Have they left the phone off the hook, or are they busy talking to someone else, or even, is there a fault on the line? God is never too busy for us, but maybe the fault is with us. Have we requested something that is not in God's plan, not scriptural or it may have a negative effect on someone or something else? Or maybe we are not listening. If prayer is a conversation, then isn't a conversation a two way event? So often we are so busy talking and asking God for things that at the end we just hng up the phone before He gets a chance to answer. We must learn to hear his voice [John 10:27], if we listen the Spirit will speak to us, and if we hear His voice, not to harden our hearts against it [Hebrews 3:7-9]. We so often hear God's voice but ignore it because it is not the answer we want. If we truly want God's answer, then Jesus says we should not give up, and Jesus told a parable about this. He said there was a widow who tried to get justice from a corrupt judge, she came back day in and day out and asked the same thing. Eventually, although the judge did not care about the widow, he granted her request, just to be free of her [Luke 18:1-8]

However a great part of prayer, if we listen and read the word, is learning about what God wants for us and how we figure in His plan. Like in our Earthly relationships, the more we talk to each other the more we learn and understand the other person. Prayer puts us in that position of talking to God, finding out what His character is and knowing some of His mind. The more we talk to God the more our minds will transform and come into line with His. Read John 15.

  "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." [Matthew 6:33]

"One thing have I asked of the Lord,that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple."

[Psalm 27:4]

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  • Brother Derek, Thank you for this particular lesson.  It makes me understand better what it is I should be doing and how to do it in Prayer Request Group.  This lesson makes much sense to me and it will help me along with group as well as in my personal life..  

  • One aspect of prayer is the structure of the prayer. I have always been taught to end a prayer with"in Jesus name" in accordance with John 14:13-14. Also,including "by the Blood of Jesus". How much is including these phrases necessary for the prayer to be heard/acted on? I don't want "vain repetitions" we are warned about elsewhere, and at times it almost seems an Obsessive-Compulsive thing when "In Jesus name" is repeated over and over in communal prayer. Brother Derek, what do you think of these verses and this?

    • It seems to me that John 14:13-14 is not a command, as such, to end a prayer with, "In Jesus' name."  It is more of a promise, when when we pray we pray through Jesus anyway.  To understand this completely we need to take the whole paragraph on board, i.e.

      "12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[e] for anything in my name, I will do it."

      So there is a restriction on what we ask for, we can't ask for a Porsche car, it is about the same sort of things that Jesus did because these three verses are in the same context, further to that it is about glorifying God the Father.  I believe that we should not just finish a prayer or request with. "In Jesus name," as a this becomes legalistic, all we need to do is direct our prayer to Jesus, which is of course the same as praying to the Father, one God.

      In our home-group a couple of years ago we had a guy who was in the UK to finish his doctorate at the local university, without revealing too much info, he was also from sub-Saharan Africa.  In our prayer time he was horrified because people didn't finish every prayer with, "In Jesus name,".   He believed that if this phrase was not included, the prayer was ineffective, even when we had started the prayer with something like, "Lord Jesus we lift x to you . . ."  He certainly was "Obsessive-Compulsive" about this.  As long as we address our prayers to Jesus/Christ/Lord, we are asking in His name, and because God knows our mind and therefore our intent and who we are praying to, and that is the key, out intent.

      John 14 (ESVUK)
      I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life - “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms…
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