We often have a limited view of prayer. We view prayer as a tool to get something we want. We see God as being there to serve us.
- Give me a good career
- Help me get accepted into the school I want
- Heal me of this disease
Other than giving us what we want, we let God’s gift of prayer slip into the background. When times are good, we go along without much thought towards God. But when we stumble or fall, it is back to God we go. God is like that insurance policy. We don’t have much use for it until it’s time to make a claim.
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:8 (ESV)
When James says establish your hearts, he is encouraging us to see the bigger picture. God is on the move. History is moving towards its culmination. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about something much bigger. It’s about God and his plan. You and I are blessed to be participants in it.
The challenge is to see prayer as something more than a way to get what I want from God. When we talked about prayer yesterday, we learned how it is not so much what God wants to do for you, but what God wants to do in you. Prayer is building a relationship with him.
When I was in Sunday School, I learned the four parts of prayer. These are four ways to make the most of prayer. Maybe you are familiar with them. An easy way to remember them is with an acrostic that spells out ACTS.
A is for adoration. Adoration is what a couple in love gives to each other. They express their affections for one another. They tell each other how wonderful they are.
God is great. He is almighty. He is everything. He is faithful. He is Lord of lords. He is King of kings. He is above all. He is worthy of our worship and praise. There is no end to the words we can use to express our adoration.
There is something about expressing these things that build our faith. It is through expressing these things that we are enabled to enter the other parts of prayer. Words of adoration connect you to God in a personal way. Knowing God in a personal way gives you confidence that God can and will work in your life. If you only know about God in an impersonal way, you will never have the confidence and faith to see what he can do.
C is for confession. Confession is about coming clean. Confession is about honesty before God. For any relationship to work there must be truthfulness. God already knows. You are not hiding anything from him. But are you willing to be transparent before him? Real change takes place when we can put everything on the table and hold nothing back. God is the Wonderful Counselor. When you are working with a counselor, and you keep things from the counselor, the work of the counselor will not be as effective.
We must recognize that sometimes God is holding back an answer to prayer because of a hidden sin in our life. Because of the sin working in our life, he knows that we would not be able to handle the answer. Think about lottery winners. Many lottery winners go bankrupt after the incredible infusion of cash. Why does that happen? They thought they had a money problem. What they had was a spending problem. More money didn’t solve the real problem. We may think we know what we need, but God is sure of what we need.
T is for thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is gratitude. It remembers God’s past faithfulness in your life. It recognizes what God has already given you. If you are not thankful for God’s past blessings, you will not be thankful for his future blessings.
Like adoration, thanksgiving builds our faith. It opens our eyes to see that God will not forsake us. He sent Jesus to give us the gift of salvation. It is the greatest gift imaginable. If he would do that for us, what else will he not do.
S is for supplication. Supplication is when we get to the asking part. It is asking God to supply. But we come to this part of prayer last. It is the other parts that build our faith and relationship with God to get to this place. The other parts of prayer will help shape the requests we make of God. The way we ask of God will be different. What we ask of God will be different. God becomes more than the “big man in the sky.” He becomes Father, Friend, and Savior.
Establish in your heart! That is the word James gives to us. His coming is at hand. God is on the move!
Questions for Reflection
- How are you tempted to make prayer about yourself?
- What do you think it means to establish your heart?
- Which of the four parts of prayer do you see as an opportunity for growth.
- Share your comments.