Are you familiar with the A.C.T.S. prayer?
“A.C.T.S.” is an easy way to remember key elements of prayer. It is simply prayer in four parts:
- Adoration: praise and glorify God for his nature and character.
- Confession: admit to God where we have fallen short.
- Thanksgiving: express gratitude for what God is doing in our lives.
- Supplication: make our requests known to God.
I love the A.C.T.S. prayer. In it I find a beautiful call and response that celebrates all that God is and all that God does, in contrast with all that we are and all that we need.
I’m a big believer in the power of prayer—but I admit I’ve struggled with confession. For so long I used my “time of confession” to tick off the fault-of-the-day:
I’m sorry I snapped at my kids.
I’m sorry I envied my friend her luxury vacation when we had to stay home.
I’m sorry I forgot to call my parents. Again.
But I must confess this approach really didn’t do much for me.
Meanwhile, I’ve spent the last eight years involved in a weekly prayer ministry that follows the A.C.T.S. model. This practice has not only grown my prayer life, but deepened my understanding of confession. Over time I have come to recognize that confession in not just a recitation of daily blunders, but an acknowledgement of chronic brokenness:
When I am quick-tempered, it may be because I’m worried about something and don’t know how to handle it.
I confess my fears and anxieties. I confess the pride that stubbornly insists on fixing it my way.
If I’m jealous because someone else has something I want, I need to address my doubt and discontent. Envy is a sure sign that I am disregarding what God has done in the past and promises to do in the future.
I confess my ingratitude and mistrust.
If I forget to call my parents, it’s (usually) because I’m distracted by my own priorities and have neglected to “look to the interests of others as well as my own.”
I confess my self-centeredness and insensitivity.
In other words, it is during confession that I bring to God not just all that I do—but all that I am.
It is through confession I find not just forgiveness, but understanding and acceptance.
It is from confession that I move ahead with complete assurance that my God loves me, warts and all.
If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. I John 1:8-9 (The Message)
I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent. Luke 5:32 (NLT)
Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me. I will never turn away anyone who comes to me. John 6:37 (GW)