As an infant grows up to be a child, one of the great things he enjoys is learning to play with friends. Children learn to play house, mom and dad, doctor, cops and robbers and teacher. That means they are communicating with their friends and peers. Sometimes, they do not know how to speak with adults, because they do not know how to relate with adults. It is difficult to both show respect in humility as well as communicate confidently, because that child/adult relationship is abstract and takes a while to understand. Consequently a child spends much of his time learning by exhortation from his parents how to relate to peers and adults.
The same is true for spiritual children, especially related to prayer. The spiritual infant has learned what prayer is, but needs to learn basic principles on how to relate to the God of the universe and realize that He is the God who loves him unconditionally. The underlying principle for the spiritual child is to learn to pray in faith. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6 NKJ) A spiritual child needs the reassurance that while he cannot see, hear, taste, touch or smell God, He is real and He is pleased by just talking to Him. Yet, what are several simple things that will help a child grow in his faith, especially in the area of prayer?
The simplest prayer model is the four letter word “ACTS.” Each letter of this acrostic represents a unique aspect of prayer to practice before God. The four letters stand for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (which is a big word for “requests”). Every spiritual child needs a spiritual young adult or spiritual parent to help him understand each of these words.
First, “Adoration” means to adore or praise God for His goodness and work. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” (Matt. 6:9 NKJ) God’s name is hallowed, meaning it is holy, or “holy is Your name,” set apart from all and unique above all.
His name represents His goodness and His work. The Psalmist wrote, “Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (Ps. 106:1 NKJ) God can never be less than good and all that He does is good. His name also represents His work. Paul wrote, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other.” (2 Thess. 1:3 NKJ) Apart from the work of God in our lives, there would be no growth in faith. Additionally, God should also be adored for how He made us. He created each person unique and special to Him. David wrote, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” (Ps. 139:14 NKJ) Every spiritual child needs to learn to thank God for how he is made, regardless of what he thinks. He has life and an opportunity to have an eternal relationship.
One of the great Psalms is full or adoration and praise. The Psalmist wrote,
Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! 2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! (Ps. 150:1-6 NKJ)
Second, “Confession” includes the acknowledgement to God that sin is sin. It is agreement with God that my sin is against a holy God and death is necessary to pay the penalty for that sin. The clearest passage on confession is 1 John 1:9, in which John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NKJ) The word confess means “to acknowledge” or “to agree with” or “to say the same thing.” The word “if” is translated four different ways based on the grammar in the original language. Here the word “if” means “if we confess, maybe we will, maybe we won’t, but if we do,” then God, who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins that we confess. Not only that, God will forgive us from all sins that we haven’t acknowledged, because we don’t know they are sins. In fact, He will remove all unrighteousness from our lives, when we confess the sins for which we have been convicted.
This confession is crucial to understand, because if confession is not made, you can pray until you are “blue in the face,” but God will not hear. The psalmist wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” (Ps. 66:18 NKJ) If you “regard,” that is, “not confess” or “not acknowledge” and therefore remain proud and become calloused, God will not hear your prayers. That is horrifying. Confess your known sins!
Thirdly, give “Thanksgiving” to God. God is in control of all things and nothing comes into our lives without His awareness. God is able to take every situation and work it out for divine good as we trust the Lord. Paul wrote, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NKJ) The phrase “work together” could be translated “synergizes.” Synergism means that the two parts working together have a stronger effect than each part working separately. In other words, the situation PLUS God’s power is an incredible force to work for divine good and will by faith bring you into conformity to Jesus (Rom. 8:29).
Besides God’s ability to work things together for good, no situation can separate God’s children from His love. Paul wrote,
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:37-39 NKJ)
And because God’s children can’t be separated from His love, His children can give thanks in the midst of every circumstance. Paul wrote, “…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes. 5:18 NKJ) You don’t have to give thanks “for” every circumstance, but you can give thanks to God “in” every circumstance, because He is still in control and He will provide a way out in His plan for His glory (1 Cor. 10:13, 31)!
Fourthly, make “Supplication” to God on behalf of yourself and others. Supplication means to make requests or entreaties or pleas to God. There are several ways to make godly requests. Jesus outlined our responsibility,
7Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matt. 7:7-8 NKJ)
In fact, Jesus prays for us, because He knows life is often difficult especially when related to helping others, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:32 NKJ) We will need His strength as we have a godly perspective of wanting to win others to Christ as Paul wrote, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israelis that they may be saved.” (Rom. 10:1 NKJ)
God wants us to pray, that is depend on Him, for the necessities of life. Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11; cf. Luke 11:3 NKJ) But we can also pray for our own deliverances as Paul wrote, “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:19 NKJ) And for any number of other requests that are raised up to God as Paul wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6 NKJ)
The best way to do that is to put on the Armor of God. Part of the Armor of God is prayer. Paul wrote,
18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints– 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, (Eph. 6:18-19 NKJ)
The Sword is God’s Word and prayer moves the Sword as an effective tool to battle in the spiritual warfare of life. Yes, children need to learn that life is a battle. They ought to enjoy praising the Lord, but they also ought to be on alert to the wickedness of evil forces that seek to distract them from experiencing the Love of God.
How do you pray? Pray by faith, that is, by spiritual dependence on God. Teach spiritual children to pray according to the ACTS principles and they will develop the spiritual discipline of prayer and become great warriors for Jesus Christ. Start people praying early in their spiritual life, because the longer people are believers, but do not pray, the harder it will be to start. Failure to pray is sin (Jam. 4:17). This will be explained in the Spiritual Young Adult level. Sin produces a callousness on the soul (Eph. 4:17-19). The callousness of not praying, becomes a barrier to their spiritual growth.