Someone asked me the other day about teaching kids to pray. It can be mechanical at times, and my favorite book on prayer (which I obviously highly recommend) A Praying Life, doesn’t exactly endorse it, but I’ve not found anything more helpful in thinking through prayer than the A.C.T.S. acronym. Of course the Lord’s prayer is the best, but I think the A.C.T.S. roughly follows that outline.
Anyhow, you start out with Adoration, which is simply praise, then move toward Confession, then Thanksgiving, and then Supplication or requests.
But since prayer is a relationship with the living God, this liturgy (a directed order of prayer/worship) is apropos for our relationships as well. For instance, take Adoration. This is the opportunity we have to simply pause and consider the beauty of Christ, the transcendence of God, His power, His justice, His Mystery, His wrath, His Love, etc…Sometimes, or actually almost always, we skip this part and simply jump into “Thank you Lord for forgiving me, delivering me, or providing for me.” These are all good, but our love for God can’t simply be built upon what He does, but also who He is.
Now if you want to go really deep, they can’t be separated (His actions are an extension of His character, and He always act according to His character) but clearly we see Psalms of Praise for God’s eternal nature (90), as well as Psalms of Thanksgiving for deliverance (40).
Break it down to a personal level now. If all you did was thank your wife for what she did for you, how she serves great meals, picks up the kids, great bedroom activity, pays bills on time, etc…., then you basically love her for what she has done for you, and not for who she is. Don’t you need to also praise her for her beauty, personality, kindness toward others (not you), character, discipline, perseverance, etc…?
The same thing goes with friendships. When friendships are devoid of praise, and simply exist on thanksgiving, then we’re getting dangerously close to the childhood “friends” we used or were used by. Remember those friends growing up who we used, and were used by them, because they or we had great toys, a cool pool or pool table, or a happening house. A friendship without praise is not much different.
Sometimes when we’re on cruise control in the busyness of our schedules, we thank God and thank our wives, and friends, but we don’t praise God, our wives, or our friends. So I think this ACTS liturgy for prayer has huge ramifications not just for our prayer lives but our relationships as well.