Posted in theology

Prayer: What is it, how do we do it? A Tutorial

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

Yesterday I posted a critique of Beth Moore’s Instagram tutorial on prayer. There was some that was good in it and much that was concerning. That critique is here. Today I’m posting information I’ve learned from a course I’m taking at The Master’s Seminary track called Institute for Church Leadership. It is titled The Practice of Prayer and Dr. Brad Klassen is leading it. The class provides lay training for the local church. Previously I completed one track and earned a certificate in Sound Doctrine. Now I’m taking classes in the track in Christian Living.

The class is so rich with biblical concepts, practical guidelines, and is so highly exalting of Jesus that I wanted to share some of what I am learning. I’m 50% finished with the class so there is more to go, but of what I’ve learned so far, it’s tremendous.

I don’t think anyone, if asked, would answer a query about their prayer life with “It’s perfect! No need to improve!” We all can do better in praying. This infographic from Crossway asked 14,000 people about the state of their prayer life. Here are the results:

Source. Data collected in 2019.

Jesus prayed. The New Testament shows him constantly slipping off to a place by himself to pray, as seen in Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Matthew 14:23. Jesus is the model for us in all things, since we are to pursue being Christ-like. If He pursued prayer, we should too. Therefore prayer should be a priority for us. In addition, there are many benefits to prayer for the willing and disciplined Christian:

  • Foremost, it effects forgiveness of sin unto salvation. It also cleanses the conscience of the penitent.
  • Prayer promotes holiness and mortifies sin, not just unto salvation but for every and any Christian afterwards.
  • Prayer taps God’s strength to meet daily needs.
  • Prayer gives opportunity to experience God’s goodness.
  • Prayer submits us to the will of God and acknowledges His sovereignty.
  • Prayer expresses true love for others; our hearts follow what we pray for.
  • Prayer acknowledges dependency for success in ministry.
  • Prayer renders the study of scripture effective.
  • Prayer indicates the condition of one’s soul.
  • Prayer gives God glory!

So, prayer is important. But what IS prayer? It’s not just slapping two hands together in thoughtless requests as you distractedly think of all the stuff you have to do that day. It’s not a mumbled request for traveling mercies as you hurtle down the driveway, late for work. All too often we relegate prayer to the last item on the list and then it gets short shrift, if we do it at all. I’m guilty of this.

Prayer is not a wish, magic that ‘releases’ God, a mystical meditation, or a way to receive revelation. We were created in the image of God to have communion with our Creator on a personal level, therefore prayer is natural to us. However, the Fall and the original sin has distorted our innate impulse to commune with the true God. (Romans 1:21, 25). We need to have a biblical concept of prayer.

As the creature communes with his Creator, he also fastens it to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to the Intercession of Jesus Christ, and to the bedrock of the Word of God.” ~Dr. Brad Klassen, The Practice of Prayer.

We’ve looked at the importance of prayer, the benefits of prayer, what prayer is and is not. Now we look at the components of prayer.

In my class, Dr. Klassen recommended the ACTS approach. A stands for Adoration, C = Confession, T = Thanksgiving, S = Supplication. It follows the concept Jesus gave in the Lord’s Prayer.

Components of prayer ACTS: Adoration

Adoration renders to God the reverence, trust and love He deserves. Biblical prayers of adoration include Moses’ prayer in Deuteronomy 32:1-4; Job’s prayer in Job 42:1-6; Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:22-24, and Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:4. You can review those prayers to see what adoration is and how these men structured their prayer. You can even use these prayers as a basis for speaking scripture back to God, something He loves. When we use God’s own verses by praying Scripture to Him, what we are doing is aligning ourselves with His heart and praying according to His will.

You can use those biblical prayers and others I’ll share under the C, T, and S acronyms,, by re-stating it, reading it directly to Him, allowing its concept to form a picture in your mind, or just meditate on the verse before you begin your prayer.

Components of Prayer ACTS: Confession

Confession is to express our agreement with God’s revelation of Himself and His assessment of us. Our confessions must be based on what God has already revealed in scripture about that sin. Don’t be general about your sin, saying , ‘O Lord, forgive my many sins…’ I’m guilty of this. I gloss over the sin and use generalities, as of it makes it less ugly to God. We’re not fooling God. He already knows about our sin. Confession is to acknowledge His sovereignty and omniscience by aligning our heart and mind with the ugliness He sees in that specific sin. So be specific in showing your hatred for that sin as it is expressed in His word.

We also confess Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate, as in Matthew 16:16, John 20:28, Romans 10:9, 1 John 4:15.

Biblical confessions include the negative (our own sins) and positive (who Jesus is). Biblical confessions of sin can be seen in many Psalms, and also Psalm 32:5 and Daniel 9:13-20.

Components of Prayer ACTS: Thanksgiving

What can we thank God for? So many things! From ICL Class The Practice of Prayer

A definition of biblical thanksgiving (gratitude) is to “express our appreciation for the benefits or blessings to the one who is the source of such gifts, in a humble spirit of dependency.” ~Dr. Brad Klassen

Synonyms for thanksgiving are; appreciate, acknowledge, contentment, or ‘to bless’. Praying our gratitude to God cultivates an awareness, or an alertness, to intentionally observe the goodness of God and His undeserved mercies on us, the creatures, in our lives.

Biblical prayers of thanksgiving include 2 Samuel 22:47-51, Daniel 2:23, Daniel 6:10, Psalm 7:17, Romans 1:8, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:15-16, and I’m sure you will find many more!

We are thankful for so MANY things! From ICL Class The Practice of Prayer

Components of Prayer ACTS: Supplication

Supplication or petition means bringing our requests for the needs of others and ourselves to God. Supplication is not only physical needs, for God knows what we need before we even ask Him. He is mindful of our physical needs (Matthew 6:25-32), though we certainly can and should ask for help with food, clothing, housing, and the like. It’s OK to bring our physical needs to Him in prayer. But don’t stop there. Ask Him to aid you in pursuing holiness, in sanctifying your walk, in being diligent in ministry, etc. As it’s said in Matthew 6:33,

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.

Biblical prayers of petition or supplication include, Philippians 4:6, Ephesians 6:18, 19,
I Timothy 2:1-4, 1 Kings 8:45, Psalm 28:2
, and many others.

Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed my quick tutorial on prayer. We looked at what prayer is & isn’t, the importance of the discipline, praying God’s word back to Him, the components of prayer using the acronym ACTS, and verses of prayer we can read, meditate on, and model.

Below please find good resources on prayer that may help you further as you engage with God in prayer. I hope you do. I hope I do! Personal communion with Him is a privilege, and a duty, and a loving act to a good and gracious Father.

Bibliography

Ten Reasons We Should pray Scripture to God

EM Bounds is known for his classics on prayer. Here is one that happens to be online. E.M. Bounds on Prayer

Simplify your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed, book, Don Whitney

Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers, book, compiled by Arthur Bennett, Editor. Also online: here

Tim Challies’ chart in visual theology, 25 Attributes of God. You can include acknowledgement of these attributes day by day in your prayers as part of your adoration.

The Hidden Life of Prayer, David McIntyre, book available at Amazon etc., but also online for free.

The Doctrine of Repentance, Thomas Watson. A Puritan Paperback.

A Method for Prayer, Matthew Henry, online here updated in modern language, also available as a book to buy.

Susan Heck video tutorial, James Lesson 23 – Becoming a Woman of Prayer – James 5:13-18.

Susan Heck audio lessons: With the Master – (Prayer) On Our Knees

How to Pray, John MacArthur sermon.

Author:

Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

One thought on “Prayer: What is it, how do we do it? A Tutorial

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