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Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
So Where Do We Start?
God created each of us uniquely. How we pray to Him will look a little different for everyone. Below is a menu of a few ways one might approach prayer.
We encourage you to sample as many of these as you like. Some are based on examples found in the scriptures, while others and methods developed to expand our idea of what prayer can look like. Dig in, and enjoy!
ACTS: The 4-step prayer method begins with ACKNOWLEDGING God for who He is and Adoring His Attributes. This method will lend itself well to the daily prayer page, which includes an attribute for you to focus on for the day. Simply fill in the blank: God you are_____. Feel free to praise as many of His wonderful qualities as come to mind.
The next step is to CONFESS your sin to God. This is an opportunity to humbly address your heavenly Father, and admit the ways that you fail to give Him surrender of your life. It is also a time to repent and then soak in His forgiveness and grace. Confession is not meant to induce guilt, but to spur you toward corrective thoughts and actions that draw you closer to God.
Then comes THANKSGIVING. After realizing how gracious and good God is to you, you will have plenty to thank Him for! We can never thank Him too much.
Finally, you will bring your SUPPLICATIONS to God. These are our prayer requests for ourselves, others, and the world. Don’t be afraid to be specific. The more detailed the prayer, the more easily the answers will be to identify. Prayers are not always answered in the way we expect. But, because God hears our prayers and is always working for our good, we can trust that God’s ways and timing are always best.
Jesus taught his disciples how to pray to God directly, and in a more personal and intimate way than they had thought possible. He wanted them to “not keep on babbling” (Matthew 6:7) as others were known to do, but to be concise and direct in their approach. This advice is for Christ followers in every generation. Because God already knows what we are going to say before we say it, we can simply pray,
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evel one. (NIV) For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.” (NKJV)
To make this prayer more personal and meaningful, reflect on each of lines (or word if you prefer) before moving to the next. This prayer incorporates each of the elements of the ACTS approach, but just in a more structured or scripted way.
Though not necessarily a method of prayer per se, finding the way you best connect with God will certainly help you to be more spiritually focused.
By meeting God in a way that suits your personality, interests and skills, you will be able to hear the Holy Spirit’s guiding voice. In Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways (Zondervan, 1996), he outlines 7 distinct approaches to communing with God:
Relational – connect with God when with others
Intellectual – connect with God when learning Worship – connect with God through worship and song
Activist – connect with God when active
Contemplative – connect with God in silence and thought
Serving – connect with God through service
Creation – connect with God in nature
Though there may be some overlap, most of us have one way of connecting with God that stands out. If you are not sure which one best describes you, take the online Spiritual Pathways Assessment. Since the point of prayer is getting to know God better, finding the best way to connect with Him will aid you on your prayer journey and enhance your spiritual development.
If you took the Spiritual Pathways Assessment and found that you were a Contemplative type, journaling may be a good prayer method to employ.
Even if you are not, the act of writing down your thoughts and prayers can be very useful in your spiritual growth. Taking the time to put into words the things you want to talk to God about can help you to process and discover what is truly on your heart and mind.
Keeping a prayer journal helps you to stay focused when praying and it serves as a record of past prayer. Reflecting on your journal entries reveals how God has been with you and answered your prayers. Since there are no rules about what you write (or draw), it is something anyone can do. It can take on many forms from, writing a love letter to God to keeping lists of people you are praying for and specific personal requests. You could easily incorporate journaling into any of the prayer methods mentioned in this guide as a way of reinforcing your commitment to the practice and for documenting your journey. How you approach it is up to you. It can be a book of songs to God or an expression of grief or sorrow.
Regardless of how you journal, you are spending time with your heavenly Father, and that is always good.
God created us with five physical senses so that we might fully experience the world He made. By taking time to focus on each one, with the purpose of appreciating the gift that it is, we worship God.
You may consider honing-in on one sense each day for five days, praising God for it and talking to Him about your experience. Or, you could try to take some time to observe what you are seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, and tasting, at any given moment while sending your reflections to God in the form of a prayer.
By praying in this way, you will find that you are more connected to God in those moments and more in touch with yourself. It may just become a natural response to living in your body in this world. God would enjoy that!
Fasting combined with prayer is in ancient practice that does not get much attention these days. Very common among the Levite priests and observant Jews (past and present), the act of abstaining from food, while fervently praying to God is a biblically sound practice, and one that serves several purposes.
First, it is an intentional act of submitting to God and humbly approaching Him in weakness and need. It causes you to look to God for strength and sustenance. Second, the act of denying oneself shows God that you are willing to endure discomfort to seek His will above all else. Finally, fasting from food frees up more time to spend with God in prayer.
Fasting and praying are highly beneficial for those seeking help from God in the form of relief, guidance, and clarity. By taking your own needs out of the equation and putting your entire focus of communicating with God, you draw near to Him and He draws near to you. There you will find what you are looking for. And if those are not good enough reasons to fast and pray once in a while, then recall that Jesus tells us how we are to behave “when” we fast, not “if,”. (Matthew 6:16).
Adapted from the ancient writings of Brother Lawrence in his book, The Practice of the Presence of God (updated version by Simon and Schuster, 2013), came the concept of Breath Prayers. The idea is to see prayer as both normal and essential for the Christian as breathing.
Examples phrases to say while you exhale a breath:
“Thank you, Lord!” “God help me”. “Help me keep my cool. “I blew it, Lord.” “Jesus, form your life in me.”
Each of the components of the ACTS process lend themselves well to how you might turn a thought into an opportunity to Adore God, confess your need for His grace, bestow of Him your heartfelt Thanksgiving, and to ask Him to Supply for your needs according to His will. Of course, each exhalation could simply be you saying, “I trust you Jesus!”