Today I want to suggest a method for praying that can help with your focus during your prayer time. Perhaps “method” is not the best word; it is more of a guideline or mnemonic device for those of us who struggle with what the Buddhists call the “monkey mind,” where your thoughts tend to jump all over the place. It has been written about many times before, yet countless people have never heard of it.
The mnemonic device is a simple acronym: ACTS. It’s easy to remember not only because it’s short, but because it happens to be the name of a book of the Bible as well. It breaks down this way:
Adoration – In all of our prayers, giving praise, honor, and worship to God for who he is should be first and foremost. Some good examples of this can be found in Psalms 95, 145, and 150; Isaiah 6:3; and Revelation 4:8, 4:11, 5:12, and 5:13.
Confession – After giving praises to God, we should take time not only to acknowledge and confess specific sins that we have committed, but the very fact that we are sinners (Luke 18:13 and 1 John 1:8). One of the greatest expressions of confession and repentance ever written is Psalm 51.
Thanksgiving – All good things come from God, and no matter our circumstances we all have things for which to be thankful. We should next express these thanks to the Lord. If we thank each other for even small gifts, how much more do we owe thanks to God for all he has given us? Psalm 138 is a beautiful psalm of Thanksgiving.
Supplication – Far too often I jump straight to supplication (asking God for things) and never move beyond that point. God wants us to bring our petitions to him (Matthew 7:11; Philippians 4:6), but as the ACTS acronym rightly shows, it should be the last part of our prayer time, not the first and only. I would further suggest that our prayers for others be presented before prayers for ourselves. This can be difficult, especially when we are in particularly dire circumstances, but can also be quite beneficial to our spiritual growth.
ACTS is an important reminder in another way as well. At the end of our prayer time, it reminds us that we are always to pair prayer with action. We find this throughout the Bible; the time that comes most often to my mind is when Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem: he “prayed and posted a guard.” My prayer is that the ACTS method will benefit both your prayer life and the living out of your faith as well.