This is a continuation of the series on Fighting the Spiritual Battle in Prayer.
The second “all” of Ephesians 6:18 is “all prayer and supplication.”
I understand this to mean that we need to pray all different types of prayers, not just ask God to give us what we want.
We need to worship, confess our sins, and give thanks. I think the church today greatly needs this point. When we pray only giving God a grocery list of self-centered requests, we treat God in an impersonal way like an ATM or Santa Claus when He is really our Heavenly Father.
Following the acronym ACTS has helped me a lot in diversifying my prayers. (Another great pattern is to pray the petitions of the Lord’s prayer.)
- Adoration – Praising God for his character, His works, His faithfulness
- Confession of sins – Which is like taking out the garbage of our spiritual lives—something we need to do daily
- Thanksgiving – Giving thanks to God for His grace and provision
- Supplication – Asking for the help and provision of God
Praying one-dimensional, self-centered prayers often forgets the greatness of God (the cause of our adoration), our own sin (and thus need for confession), and might even make an anxious situation worse.
Let me explain.
Recently, I was thinking through a situation in ministry that made me very anxious. I turned to the Lord in prayer, hoping to find the Lord’s peace as it says in Philippians 4. What actually happened is that the more I prayed, the more anxious I became. I felt like I was trapped in a hot car breathing the same air over and over again.
I soon realized something needed to change. My prayers were really meditations on my anxious thoughts, something that only threw gasoline on the fire of anxiety. Isaiah 55:7 then came to mind, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, declares the Lord.”
I needed fresh thoughts from the Word of God to guide my prayers and renew my anxious mind.
So I grabbed my Bible and read. I grabbed a journal and pen and began to write all the biblical reasons I had to adore God. I thought on every sin or bad attitude I needed to confess, and I confessed, remembering that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). I thought on every possible reason I had to give thanks to God before thinking again about asking for help (supplication) in my anxious situation.
This exercise of breathing in the truth of God’s Word came like a breath of fresh air to my anxious soul. I soon left the dark cloud of anxiety and soon had a new perspective and fresh reminder of God’s power.
God uses praise, confession, and thanksgiving to mold our hearts and stir our affections as we contemplate Him and His goodness. Praying with “all prayer” helps us enter the peace of God that passes understanding as Philippians 4:6–7 promises.