Sunday’s sermon was probably one of the most unsexy presentations ever… We talked about Prayer, and we talked about A-C-T-S, as a guideline we can use. For people who’ve been around church both of these are so common-sounding that they might be phenomenally boring to you… But don’t let that trick you into missing the point!!! If you had some hard-to-treat disease and someone came up with a magic pill that would gradually make you completely well – chances are, that when you first took the pill you would not feel any different. It’s anticlimactic taking the pill. You are exactly the same after taking the pill as you were right before. And yet, if the pill does its job then gradually the disease will be done away with and you will become healthier. The doctors and researchers did the hard work of coming up with a pill that could cure your disease, but it’s up to YOU to take the right amount and the right time, and to do so faithfully to give the pill the chance to do its work. It’s the same with Jesus-prayer.
If you missed it, here’s the point of Jesus’ teaching on prayer:
1) It doesn’t matter how long you pray, how many words, or what special words you use. Christians (including myself) are often saying “I should pray MORE…” Jesus NEVER EVER said that. Instead, He said don’t think that your many words will make God hear you…
2) Don’t put on any masks. Ancient Greek actors put on different (wood or stone) masks to play different characters. People do that today: we put on our work mask, our play mask, and our church mask. Pastors often have the most pronounced church mask that they use for praying in public, preaching, and all other pastorly functions. But Jesus says: no masks. No special prayer language. No special prayer voice. Stop playing a role, stop acting… I know you’re acting with the best of intentions – to honor God – but He actually doesn’t like it when you do that, and He has said so many times.
Now if you take away the masks and the prayer voice and the prayer language and the idea that we need to pray longer… most people are totally in the dark as to how to pray. So Jesus gave a very simple outline saying, “then THIS is how you ought to pray.” We call this the Lord’s Prayer, and you can look it up on your own in Matthew and Luke… To make this practical, we used the acronym A-C-T-S. You can look that up to so I won’t explain it here… But the idea is we go talk to our Father in Heaven who loves us, and knows everything by saying:
Adoration: “Father, what ways should I be praising you for ‘who you are?’ Instead of just going to you to get “stuff”, what should I be delighting in more? Things like your goodness, and faithfulness, your patience, your compassion… Your artistry and craftsmanship, your understanding of beauty and justice…” And use the first part of your prayer to simply praise Him for what you adore in Him. <– this is often hard for us because we like the gifts more than the giver, so it’s important that we do this intentionally. If God was not worth simply adoring and praising…that kind of God also would not be wise enough or good enough to give you what you needed. But He is enough, and so spending time with Him involves praising those qualities.
Confession: Confessing our sins and our weaknesses. Not making excuses for our failings by blaming them on circumstance or other people (or blaming God), but taking responsibility and appealing to God’s mercy.
Thanksgiving: Being thankful for what God does. For His forgiveness, for the way He provides.
Supplication: Asking God to “supply” what we need. And in particular, asking for “our daily bread.” Not asking for so much that we could go on without Him and become proud… But asking Him for what we really DO need emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually…and return to Him every day as forest animals return every day to a stream to quench their thirst.
So that is the boring idea – it is boring…but if you actually do this, if you actually take this pill, you will find God doing spectacular things through it. It takes just five minutes to pray A-C-T-S, but if you do this every day, multiple times (more than once at least) a day – you will get something better than money or power or sex or anything… You’ll get God, the one who invented all those things. A Father in Heaven who wants to connect with you, for whom Jesus literally died so He could connect with you. We should be begging Him to speak to us – but in our broken world God holds out His arms wide and sends human messengers to BEG people to come home to Him, to spend time with Him, to know Him, and be blessed. So the prayer “pill” might be boring, but what it does in you if you’re faithful with it is absolutely amazing.