Monday, October 13, 2008

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ACTS, Popcorn and Psalms: More Hints on Prayer

A friend in California recently reminded me of a very helpful tool in teaching and practicing a balanced prayer life. You'll recall I mentioned the Navs' "Hand" illustration below, but the "ACTS" acrostic is what I learned first and still use: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. What I've really come to appreciate about both tools is the reminder to begin with adoration (or praise), recognizing and honoring God for who He is, which is something distinct from thanking Him for what He has done.

Another favorite technique for group prayer, when time and environment permit, is what's commonly called conversational (or "popcorn") prayer. This method recognizes that corporate prayer can easily devolve into a series of individual prayers, where the "experienced" pray-ers dominate with long, eloquent, or fervent soliloquies while the newer, more timid or just more reserved participants keep silent (or spend most of the prayer time trying to compose an acceptable prayer, hoping to sound competent or at least not foolish). Popcorn prayer begins with a couple of simple ground rules:
  • No prayers over 2 sentences
  • When someone is praying out loud, we're all praying
  • Try to build on one anothers' prayers

Warning: if you bring this into an established group, it will take some getting used to. Some people have never prayed this way, and find it difficult to stop themselves after 2 sentences.

We've even used this quite a bit at home and have discovered our kids open up much more using this kind of open-ended model.

A couple of final notes: First, just to clarify, a devotional setting in a food court or a bowling alley is seldom conducive to this kind of interaction. Second, depending on your group dynamics, you may find it convenient to skip the "prayer request" time when you use the popcorn method, and simply invite people to lift their requests straight up to God ... after all, you're all praying together!

ACTS and popcorn prayer can be used in tandem, with the leader providing the transition from phase to phase. Begin with the leader explaining that you'll begin with adoration, and then at intervals announcing the transition to the next phase (i.e., "Confession!").

Finally, I'm a fan of praying the Scriptures. Psalms are perfect for this, of course, though there are others that can be used. I like to open or close a prayer time with a prayer directly from Scripture.

1 comment:

  1. The ACTS method of prayer is often untaught to Christians all over. Also, praying the scriptures is a powerful tool overlooked by many Christians too. More emphasis needs to be spent on teaching even old Christians how to pray using ACTS and the scriptures. This is an important new way of praying I only recently learned because it was taught in our church this year. Thanks for sharing it. -Daisy

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