Do you enjoy prayer? Do you think of duty or obligation when you think about prayer? Prayer can be intense and emotional, and it can involve spiritual battling. But I have to be reminded that prayer is a way to enjoy God as well. Let me call your attention to Ananias in Acts 9. His real battle was questioning God’s request for him to visit Saul, who was on a mission to destroy the Christianity. I want to look at several aspects of prayer and add a new twist to the prayer acronym, ACTS.
God Speaking To You
Prior to Jesus making His request known to Ananias, Ananias was praying and had a vision. He was not startled by this vision, the visitation by Jesus, or the conversation that he had. What was more impressive to me was that Ananias was so familiar with God’s voice, that when Jesus called his name, he immediately responded, “Here I am, Lord.” There was no question in his mind that Jesus was addressing him. Are you as intimate with God as Ananias was? Are you familiar with God’s voice?
One of the most incredible miracles in the Bible is when Philip was transported from the desert where he witnessed to and baptized an Ethopian eunech to a city called Azotus. But this only occurred after Philip obeyed a command of the Lord, presumably in prayer. “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is desert.” Philip had just started a revival in Samaria. Why in the world would he think that God was calling him to the desert? But Philip obeyed. “So he arose and went.” He encountered a man in a chariot who was reading Isaiah 53. The Lord told Philip to run to the chariot. “Then the Spirit said to Philip, Go near and overtake this chariot. So Philip ran to him…” Each act of obedience led to another and God was glorified, a seeking man was saved and baptized, and a miracle occurred. Philip was praying without ceasing.
Teach Us To Pray
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” (Lk 11:1) Jesus taught his disciples a prayer to follow, and we still benefit from this model prayer today. But it is only a model. There is nothing magical or formulaic about this prayer. It was intended to make us aware of many things, such as God is our Father, He expects us to do His will, and we are citizens of His kingdom. You can see that this implies intimacy, obedience and God’s supreme reign. In addition, we are taught to seek and extend forgiveness, live in dependence on God, avoid temptation, and that we have an enemy who we need deliverance from.
Before You Ask, Your Father Knows What You Need
“For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray…” (Matt 6:8-9) Isn’t that a relief? We do not need to inform God – He knows what we need and in many cases, He designs trials for us to remind us that we need Him. The purpose of prayer is not to inform God about our circumstances and others in their circumstances. One of the purposes of prayer to is to ask for specific outcomes or results. Let’s look at answered prayer.
How often have you prayed and not gotten what you prayed for? This is all to common and quite common in my life as well. Here is what John wrote, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1Jn 5:14) The key to having answered prayer is to pray according to God’s will. It this the ultimate goal of prayer?
God wants our love. Jesus said, “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.” (Mk 12:30) Paul wrote, “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Phil 3:10) In Ephesians, Paul wrote, “…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” God wants us to comprehend the dimensions of His love and to know His love. We need help to enter into God’s love as well. “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” (2Thes 3:5) Finally, Isaiah wrote, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isa 55:6) This is the aspect of prayer that I think is not emphasized enough. God simply wants us to enjoy being with Jesus and to learn of Him.
Next, I will explain and expand on the ACTS acronym.
ACTS MD (Prayer Acronym)
“Our Father in heaven, I sanctify Your name…” (Matt 6:9)
“And they sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us- to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9-10)
“Seven times a day I praise You…” (Ps 119:64)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4)
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jn 1:9)
“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD, and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Ps 32:5)
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Ps 51:2,3)
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isa 59:2)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…” (Phil 4:6)
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…” (Ps 51:12)
“…and be thankful.” (Col 3:15)
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Thes 5:16-18)
“I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.” (Ps 145:45)
“Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD…” (Isa 58:14)
“Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps 37:4)
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Phil 4:8)
“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Prov 3:6)
“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12)
“…but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:13)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps 119:105)
“…forbidden by the Holy Spirit…the Spirit did not permit them…concluding that the Lord had called us…” (Acts 16:6,7,10)
“…do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him…” (Col 1:9-10)
Meditation And Spiritual Experience
Prayer without meditation may prevent a Christian from experiencing truth. Let me explain. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (Jn 14:27) If in your prayer time you read this verse, but did not consider whether you had the peace of Jesus, you may have missed an opportunity to meditate. You could have praised the Lord for His peace or you could have asked Him why you were lacking it. The same goes for being troubled, being afraid, freedom from sin, or experiencing abundant life. Meditation allows truth and experience to become more aligned. Do you really believe that God is your Father? Do you really believe that God is gracious? Ask God to deepen your faith and understanding. As we meditate, we can deepen our enjoyment in prayer and in our relationship with the Lord.
Prayer Without Direction
Finally, we come to the last letter in the acronym, “D.” Like Ananias, God may direct you to visit a person, pray for a person, lay hands on a person or share the gospel with a person. Or like Philip, God may direct you away from a good work to a more humble opportunity, with miracles awaiting. Or like Paul, God may hinder you in order to direct you in elsewhere. Perhaps, God may direct you to take steps to master a sin, like anger, lust, or fear. Direction takes you from being a spectator to a participant. Jesus said, Follow me. God is active and wants to direct you and I. Yes, God wants to reveal to you opportunities to obey Him. Like Ananias, Philip and Paul, expect God’s direction and obey Him.
Only God And God Alone
In Psalm 62, David declares twice that God “only is my rock and my salvation” and “My soul, wait silently for God alone.” Is God alone enough for you? Is He only your rock and salvation? It is only through prayer and experience that we learn that God is the only person who we can trust on and Who alone will be faithful to care for us. Experience comes with living through the future. Prayer is enjoying the Lord in the present. His throne of grace is available to us. Jesus wants us to learn of Him. Paul was focused on knowing Him.
Prayer And Spiritual Life
Prayer is multifaceted and essential to a Christian’s spiritual life. It shouldn’t be drudgery or obligatory. The acronym ACTS is helpful but incomplete, so I added MD. Most importantly, prayer is not just a topic of conversation but a discipline to be practiced and enjoyed. It is a lifestyle of dependence upon God. Will you join me in Adoring the Lord, Confessing sin, Thanking God, Supplicating to God, Meditating on the person, character, and truth of God, and expecting Direction from Him? God has so much love to give us and so many blessings prepared for us. “But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” Will you commit to knowing Him, relying on Him, being used by Him, and enjoying Him? Let us be ACTS MD Christians.