Heart Building Habits.
Routines are important. They help us to build healthy habits that guide us in getting the most out of life. Author Bill Hybels, in his book Too Busy Not To Pray, shares a pertinent example with us. He writes about what happens when you join a health club. Usually there is a professional there who will give you a tour and demonstrate all the different kinds of exercises and machines that you can use to get your body in shape. Then he or she will give you a routine that will help you to get a well-rounded work out. It is important to listen to their advice. Unfortunately, most people tend to ignore the routines given them and inevitably wind up just doing the easy exercises. This happens because we often find routines difficult. Our culture encourages us to focus on immediate gratification and not long term gains. The result is we only exercises certain muscles and do not benefitting from a well-rounded workout. The same is true for prayer. There are many different aspects or parts to prayer. The part of prayer that Christians tend to devote the most effort to is “asking for what we need” (supplication). This results in a stunted or underdeveloped prayer life which leads to an inconsistent faith in God.
Certainly praying about our needs and desires is important and God wants to hear about them, but it is only a small part of what prayer is. One main reason why we spend so much time praying just for what we desire or need (i.e. asking God for something) is because desperation and need (and little else) are what tend to drive us to prayer. One way to begin to pray differently is to remember this handy little acronym (A.C.T.S.) which can guide us so that, when we pray, we will have well rounded prayers. Spelled out it stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Adoration is when we express our Praise to God for being so great. It is focused on God, not us. Confession is when we acknowledge our sins (verbally) before God and receive forgiveness. Thanksgiving is when we simply express our gratitude to God for all the wonderful blessings he has given us. Supplication happens when we share our needs, burdens, and requests with God. Too often we hurry through the first 3 things and get right to our requests. But when we take time to praise God, confess our sins, and express our gratitude, it puts are hearts and minds into the right perspective/attitude before God. This enables us to connect with God and hear or receive God’s response when we express our needs. We pray through each area so that our prayers can be more effective in changing us, deepening our faith and our experience of God. But this takes effort and discipline. It requires us to be willing to develop and stick to a routine. It is not easy, but it is life transforming. Lent provides one of the best opportunities to adapt a new prayer routine that can be life changing.