The Discipline of Prayer by Mike Lutz
Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I had a better prayer life,” “I don’t pray often enough,” “I don’t pray long enough,” or “I can’t seem to keep my mind focused when I pray”? Oswald Chambers, known for his devotional My Utmost for His Highest said, “The battle of prayer is against two things: . . . wandering thoughts and lack of intimacy with God’s character as revealed in His word. Neither can be cured at once, but they can be cured by discipline.”
That is exactly what prayer is, prayer is a discipline that must be practiced in order for us to grow deeper in our relationship with God. While prayer is simply having a conversation with God, one thing is certain: everyone can pray more, can pray more specifically, and can pray more for others.
Famed Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Our ultimate position as Christians is tested by the character of our prayer life.” And it was the great American evangelist D. L Moody, who, when he was asked at the end of his life if there was anything he would have done differently, responded, “I would have prayed more!”
If you have not yet made prayer a regular part of your Christian life than you can start moving in that direction today. Perhaps you are a mature Christian and you know how important prayer is, but you have allowed the busyness of life to distract you from making prayer a priority. Wherever you are on the prayer meter, the fact of the matter is we can all improve our prayer life.
One very effective way to become more consistent, disciplined, and purposeful when you pray is to use the acrostic, ACTS, which can help bring specificity to your prayers. In order to use the ACTS model simply start your prayer time with the letter a, which stands for adoration. Adoration is where you express your praise, exaltation, and worship of God. It is expressing your affection for who God is and what He does, and this is often made easier by focusing on the attributes of God. Adoration isn’t the time to start asking God for stuff. Just allow yourself time to express your love and respect toward God here.
Next comes the letter c for confession. This is a time of asking God for the forgiveness of sins that you have committed and for seeking the strength to turn from and resist those sins in the future. Sin hinders our relationship with God, and confession helps bring healing and restoration to that relationship. Be specific, God already knows your sins so you are not going to shock or surprise Him by confessing your deepest darkest sins, in fact verbalizing your sins to God can help give you a better awareness of your weaknesses so that you might better avoid those problem areas in the future.
Then comes t for thanksgiving. This is a time for expressing gratitude for the many blessings God has given. This should be an easy area to dwell, no matter how hard things may seem, we all have much to be grateful to God for, for starters there is our salvation, an endless supply of thanks can be found here.
Finally, the letter s stands for supplication. This is where you ask God to supply your needs and the needs of others. This is a time to intercede on behalf of others, lifting up family, friends, co-workers, missionaries, leaders, and so many others.
One thing that we must guard against is spending the majority of our time always praying for our own needs while neglecting the needs of others. How many times have you said to someone, “I will pray for you,” only to forget? We must be disciplined to pray for others, because one of the greatest things we can do for another person is to pray for them.
Since we are called to “love [our] neighbor as [ourselves]” (Mark 12:31), then it stands to reason that we should at least pray for others as much as we pray for ourselves. Just imagine what we might see in the world today if we spent as much time praying for the needs of others as we did praying for our own needs.
ACTS isn’t the only way to bring focus and purpose to your prayers, but it is one way that may help. So, be specific. Be consistent. Be committed. Be purposeful. Be blessed. And be a blessing to others with your prayer life.
There is great power in prayer. Moses interceded and turned God’s wrath away from the people (see Exodus 32:7–14). Hezekiah prayed, and God extended his life by fifteen years (see Isaiah 38:1–5). And Peter was freed from prison because of a prayer meeting (see Acts 12:1–16). When a person is praying according to God’s will, their prayers are unstoppable. What should we pray for? Can we be sure that God always hears our prayers? And can we be confident that He will answer when we pray?
In first John 5:14-15 it says, “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.”
This promise from 1 John is all-inclusive and all encompassing. It is remarkably reassuring and profoundly powerful. But there is one condition: our prayers must be according to God’s will. There are some who believe that it shows a lack of faith to add “if the Lord wills” to the end of your prayers, but nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus Himself prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). So how can we be sure that we are praying according to God’s will?
First, we must pray according to what the Bible teaches. God never will go against His Word, so it is foolish to pray for anything that contradicts what He has already revealed to us in the Bible. James 4:3 tells us, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss.” Also, praying according to God’s will means that we must ask, believing: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22).
It has been said, “when I do not have faith, I’m saying one of two things: either God cannot answer this prayer or God will not answer this prayer. If I say He cannot, I’m questioning His sovereignty and His power. If I say He will not, I’m questioning His goodness. To pray in faith means that I believe God can and I believe God will insofar as it’s consistent with His glory, because God is good.”
Next, praying according to God’s will means that we are praying from a place of purity in our personal lives. If we are praying to God from a place of sinfulness, meaning that we are living in state of habitual sin, then God will not hear or answer our prayers until we deal with our sin. The only prayer God will hear or answer when we are in sin is a prayer of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. Once our sins have been properly dealt with, we can resume our regular prayer lives once again.
Finally, praying according to God’s will means that we are praying from a place of close proximity to Jesus. Jesus made this promise: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). We must be spending time with Jesus and living in obedience if we want to see fruitfulness from our prayerfulness.
If you want to experience the power of prayer, then you must pray by the rules. When we hunger for God’s will to be done and pray accordingly, we can pray with confidence that God hears our prayers and will answer them for our good and His glory.
Mike Lutz is the author of the newly released daily devotional “God Every Day: 365 Life Application Devotions.” Mike also has authored the inspirational book “Discovering God’s Will for Your Life: Your Journey with God.” Coming soon from Mike is the biblical thriller “The Armageddon Conspiracy.” For more information visit www.MikeLutz.org.
Excerpts taken from “God Every Day: 365 Life Application Devotions” by Mike Lutz