Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A.C.T.S. - Supplication

Imagine a young child sitting on her parent's lap, the two of them sharing a tender moment. The child lifts up her face to Mommy or Daddy and says "I'm thirsty. Can you give me something to drink?" There is no hesitation on her part, no fear of rejection. She has asked for something she needs, even if she cannot yet tell the difference between 'need' and 'want.' She trusts that Mommy and Daddy will take care of her, because she knows they are good. In such an innocence and trusting spirit, God the Father wants us to approach Him with our requests. Like a child, we need to fully realize our dependence on Him and ask without ulterior motives. Imagine yourself as that child, asking the Father for your needs as the Lord's Prayer delineates.

Give us this day our daily bread...

this day...- I've heard it said that if we were to ask God for an annual supply of bread that He likely would not hear from us except once a year. A child rarely knows what he needs tomorrow, and only asks for what he needs today. Similarly, we are to have priority consciousness of what this day's needs are and not shortchange God's provisions for today for want of tomorrow's. God calls a fool the one who arrogantly relies on wealth and/or human planning to give fullness in life but doesn't seek God's will for even daily living (Luke 12:16-18). Let us not make this mistake ourselves.

...our daily bread - the staff of life is used literally, but also metaphorically of Jesus Christ Himself. Bread feeds our bodies. Jesus, the Bread of Life, feeds our spirits. Without either we die, and so we must ask God to grant us both to live for Him. "Jesus declared 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry. He who believes on me will never be thirsty.'" (John 6:35) "Man does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." (Deut. 8:3)

And lead us not into temptation,

Walking with God is a walk of dependency. The path that belongs to Him is straight, but we are small and severely myopic to the spiritual reality we live in, that the path He is leading us on is the inward journey toward holiness. So we must ask God to steer us ever away from the temptations that our minds conjure up for our hearts to lust after. Of His faithfulness to us, Jesus says, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10:13)

but deliver us from evil.

God doesn't simply save us from His wrath toward our sin. He saves us from the defiling reach of evil that we should feel in every heartbeat. "Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil." (Matt. 12:34-35) Jesus directs us to pray for our deliverance from the grasp of sin in our lives. We are to run to Him, cling to Him, and seek refuge in His righteousness, for He alone is powerful enough to overcome our own evil tendencies. He alone is powerful enough to overcome...us.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A.C.T.S. - Thanksgiving

Though there is no explicit line in the Lord's Prayer that expresses thanksgiving, the entire prayer is fashioned as a response to the Father's creation and providence. The prayer reflects the many points of relationship that we have with His sovereignty, mercy, tender love, and ability to align our wills to His. The God addressed in prayer is a good God, so The Prayer is only effective if prayed with a spirit of thanksgiving.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A.C.T.S. - Confession

There is a daily war between our sinful nature and our redeemed nature. We defile our spirits effortlessly in the attempt to elevate ourselves in our own eyes and in the eyes of other defiled spirits. In vanity, mirrors are tools for pride-elevating positive feedback, but Confession turns mirrors into agents of truth and strips the vanity from our eyes to see our sin as God sees it.

And forgive us our debts...

I've always found it interesting how the different English translations render the word "debts." Some say "trespasses;" some say "sins." In each of these different renderings, the message is conveyed that we have something grevious about ourselves that needs the forgiveness of God. The usage of the word "debts" in the King James helps us to understand that each moment of our sinful lives is lived on borrowed time and mercy from the Creator God. The priority of this clause should not be missed. Jesus' directive is for us to recognize that we have sinned against God before we have sinned against others.
...as we forgive our debtors.

As believers then, our lives are then spent "redeeming the time," (Colossians 4:4-6) paying back the time we spent in rejection of God by paying it forward our forgiveness to those who do not believe and have done injustice to us. Let's look at forgiveness as the wisdom to create justice from injustice and establish the peace of our Lord. Such forgiveness is indeed divine.

A.C.T.S. - Adoration

This is bare-faced expressions of love and worship of God's deity, personhood, and attributes that go beyond mere acknowledgement. Believers exalt His beauty and glory in contrast to their own creatureliness. We adore Him.

Our Father,

Our relationship to God as Father comes before His position in our lives. The Father wants devotion borne out of the kind of rapturous love that one can only have for a God that is infintely beautiful and completes the human spirit. He wants our devotion before our worship, belief, or faith in Him. He desires to be "Abba, Father" before anything else.

which art in heaven,

God is our Sovereign. Though He reveals that He is closer than a brother, closer than a whisper into our ears, close enough to study every insecurity etched on our faces and our souls, He occupies that transcendent dimension not seen with human eyes...

Hallowed be Thy Name.

...He occupies that transcendent dimension that burns white hot with a holiness that is so distant from our inferior sinful natures as one end of the universe is from the other end. We cannot bear to look at Him this way, for we will perish in His purity, yet we will never be complete without falling prostrate at the mere thought of His grandeur. We lift up holy hands to exalt Him ever higher for our own sake, knowing that such acts are symbolic and powerless to add anything to Him.

For Thine is the kingdom...

One of Jesus' more famous directives is "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33); coupled with the equally famous, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news" (Mark 1:15) there is a powerful message of God's arrival in a "kingdom" way. Jesus tells us that God's kingdom should be sought after, yet there is not far to go to find it. He also tells us that waiting is no longer necessary, and that all that is necessary to enter the kingdom is to believe in the Gospel. Given the nature of scriptures about the kingdom of God, we should begin to see that God is His kingdom insofar as the God's gateway to Himself. As Jesus says in Mark 10:14, "Let the little children come to Me. Don't stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

...and the power..

Though incomprehensible, the power of God is not inconceivable. We see his workmanship in every waking moment and learn of His divine miracles in His Word. When necessary, He still performs miracles beyond the time of the Scriptures. Yet in all of these grand displays, there is none more grander than seeing all the divine creative power and ability to render cosmic justice in the universe bound up in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. When the Creator can come to exist as the most vulnerable and powerless human ever and grow up to provide redemption for humanity, that is the greatest display of power that can ever be rendered.

...and the glory forever.

It is one thing to compliment someone out of courtesy because he has a position of authority. It is quite another to glorify someone just for being who and what he is. Jesus is the only person who not only is glorious but also deserves glory for His acts on our behalf.

Igor Sikorsky observes that the sentence "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory" is reminiscent of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, mirroring the Devil's offerings to Jesus. As it says in Luke 4:5-7, "And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine." (KJV) In what I can only say is defiance of the Devil's proposition, the prayer declares that Christ is the kingdom, the power, and the glory already from eternity past.


Defined as an affirmation "so be it" or "truly," we are directed to declare our approval of the Lord's will in all that we pray to Him. This declaration is what separates the children of God from all others. James 2:19 says, "You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder." Inasmuch as we affirm God's sovereign accomplishments, the demons oppose them and so will never utter "amen" to His will. Believers should understand how precious few our "amens" are; we are to see them multiplied in worship of God Almighty always.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Praying the A.C.T.S. Model Using the Lord's Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever.
(Matthew 6:10-14)

The Lord's Prayer is timeless. It is also a prayer timelessly named after the Lord who taught it but never prayed it Himself. Such a prayer is meant for His followers, disciples who bend their knees and want to know the heart of communion. The prayer is meant to express the gut basics of a deep, personal connection with God as much as its Spirit-led recitation aligns the believer's heart to establish that connection.

The A.C.T.S. prayer model is also a rather transcendent, albeit a more recent, mnemonic formulation to help believers to remember the elements of communication and communion with God. In this series, I've superimposed the A.C.T.S model onto the Lord's Prayer (or perhaps the other way around), a layering of the ancient with the contemporary of sorts. It is clear that two millenia before we had an acronym, Jesus demonstrated what the human heart should long to say before the face of the Father.

Briefly, A.C.T.S. stands for:
A - Adoration
C - Confession
T - Thanksgiving
S - Supplication

The next four posts will dive into the details of how the Lord's Prayer and A.C.T.S. go together and can give us a way to find prayer memorable and enriching as meaningful communion with the Creator. At the end of each entry, I will insert a song that best captures my mind's ear that buttresses my thoughts. Enjoy.