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The ACTS of Prayer, (part 1)

Nigel Gillson, 4th March 2018

The cross

When we are praying, what are we supposed to say?

As an early Christian, I often wondered what I could say to the God who knows everything. I either ended up giving him a short 5-minute prayer that meant very little or a long wish list of things I would like the creator of the universe to do for me. As result of this, my prayer life became less meaningful, less purposeful and more pointless in my mind, so it was easier not to pray, so I didn’t.

'I sang their praises not only to the rest of the class, but to my other classes'

It was not until I started reading God’s word that I realised God had thought of everything, even including how to pray to him! Matthew 6:5-15 tells us how to pray and what Jesus, himself taught his disciples to say in what we now call, The Lord’s Prayer, probably the most well known prayer in the world. This, it would seem if we take other passages into consideration, is a template for all our prayers, the so-called ACTS of prayer.


What do you do when you hear a great song, or finish reading a fantastic story, or look at a beautiful painting or even witness a football player set up a fellow teammate with a cross, thereby allowing the teammate to score the winning goal? We praise the creator of the fine art, music or gameplay, don’t we? More often than not, we don’t know these people directly, but that doesn’t stop us ‘singing’ their praises, does it? I recently witnessed a student achieve a near perfect score in a recent test. In addition to praising the student directly, I sang their praises not only to the rest of the class, but to my other classes, other teachers and the Headteacher, as well.

If we do all that for us mere humans, it stands to reason then, that we should sing God’s praises for everything he has done for us. The Bible oozes God’s ‘creative juices’ from the creation of the universe in Genesis to his plan for our forgiveness in Christ Jesus in the Gospels. When we pray we are praying to the creator of the universe, the creator of you and me and the one who sent Christ Jesus to die for the forgiveness of our sins. Romans 3:23-24 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Therefore, when I pray, my first words should be one of acknowledgement, words of praise, of honour, glorifying the one who has set me free from the burden of sin. If I truly believe that I am saved by God’s grace alone and not by my own effort, then I must praise the one who has saved me.


Some years ago, I was growing concerned that a person I had considered a friend for a number of years had stopped talking to me. When I started talking to them, they either said the bare minimum in response before moving away or completely blanked me. I enquired of others if I had missed some major anniversary of theirs or if they had suffered a recent loss to try and explain why they were being so cold toward me, but nobody seemed to have the answer. Eventually, I discovered that a few weeks before, I had said something in passing to this individual as a joke and unknown to me they had taken it to heart and resented me for saying it. The only way they would consider starting to rebuild the relationship was if I apologised for what I had said and for hurting their feelings. Of course, I jumped at the chance and we’ve been firm friends ever since.

'I enquired of others if I had missed some major anniversary of theirs'

It’s similar to our relationship with God. We are all sinners. We can be selfish, hurtful, self-absorbed or self-centred (like I was!), say or do things that hurt God. We are all in the same boat. Romans 3:23 reminds us we are all sinners, we all do things wrong and as a result, we cannot be right with God. We cannot be where God’s glory is as a sinner because God is completely good and we are completely bad.

Therefore, God, through his gracious gift of Christ Jesus gave us the opportunity to stand in the glory of God. He took the punishment for our sins and clothed us in righteousness. All we need do is repent of our sins, as the apostle Peter commands in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

I struggle with sin everyday and so it is only right to ask God to forgive my sins before going any further with my prayer, otherwise I am in danger of becoming hypocritical and self-absorbed in my relationship with God. How can I pray for others if I am stooped in unrepentant sin myself?

We will look at the final two aspects of prayer: Thanksgiving and Supplications, next time, until then, God bless.