Communication is the key to any successful relationship. Can you imagine having a relationship with someone you never speak to? What would happen if you stopped talking to your best friend or to your spouse? What would happen if you stopped listening?
Now that God has forgiven your sins and made you one of His children you will want to learn to communicate with Him.
Prayer is simply talking with God. Many followers of Yeshua find it helpful to think of four ways to speak with God, easily remembered by the acrostic ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication).
Adoration: Adoration is praising and worshiping God for who He is. Psalm 100 is an example of adoration:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (NIV)
One way to adore God is to review what you learned about Him in the first section. Praise God that He and He alone is God; that He created everything; that He is all-powerful; that He is all-knowing; that He loves us even though we don’t deserve it; and that He forgives our sins.
Over time you will learn many other things about God and about who He is. As you do, write down what you learn and use that to praise and worship God the Father and Jesus.
Confession: Confession means to admit your sins and agree with God that your sin breaks His law and His heart, and therefore hinders your fellowship with Him. When God brings particular sins to mind, confess them to Him. Listen to these words from the Psalmist:
Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! (Psalm 66:16–20, NIV).
In the words of the psalm, do not “cherish sin in your heart.” Confess your sins and you will experience God’s forgiveness. John wrote in the New Testament, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. . . . My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Messiah Yeshua, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:9, 2:1–2, NIV [adapted]).
David experienced this after his own sins, as we saw in a previous section. Here is yet another psalm of David describing how wonderful it is to be forgiven:
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’”—and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:1–5, NIV).
Thanksgiving: Expressing gratitude is another component of our communication with God. King David said it best:
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:2–5, NIV).
It may be impossible to remember all His benefits, but you can certainly think of some. You can thank God for all He has done for you personally. For example, He has saved you from punishment for your sins. Perhaps He has given you fulfilling relationships in life, or a good job, or an experience of the wonders of nature. Regardless of your circumstances, there are things to be grateful for.
David wrote a psalm of thanksgiving to celebrate his bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Take time to read it in 1 Chronicles 16:1–36. It is a wonderful example of a combination of praise and thanksgiving; you might simply read this psalm to God as you are learning to give thanks to Him.
Supplication, or making requests: Having worshiped God, confessed our sins to Him, and thanked Him for His many blessings, now we are ready to ask for His intervention here on earth on behalf of others and ourselves. In the New Testament book of James, we read, “… pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16, NIV). Paul asked the congregations that he began to pray for him (Colossians 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:25) and in turn he prayed for them (Colossians 1:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:11). Paul also suggested praying for society and civic leaders:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NIV).
We can pray for others and for our own needs, and expect that God will act. It may be helpful to make a list of people and things to be praying for. You may want to pray for specific people on specific days, or for some people every day. Pray in expectation that God will answer. And realizing that He is wiser than we are, recognize that sometimes God may answer “no,” or answer in an unexpected way. But He will answer! One good prayer request is that God will help you to “hear” His answer. This doesn’t mean He responds in an audible voice, but if you open your heart to what God wants you to know, over time, you’ll learn to recognize His response.
Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication are the basic
elements of prayer. Prayer is the first key to experiencing God every day of your life.