Although we may want to set aside some time to be with God and to pray, at times we may not know how to get started or what to pray for. This is particularly the case if we have had a busy day, or are facing a stressful time. It is important to broaden our prayers beyond our immediate worries, and to avoid having our prayers become narrow or repetitive. A useful way of overcoming these obstacles to prayer is to adopt a “Pattern of Prayer” and use it on a regular basis – a pattern that is easy to remember and to use, and includes several kinds of prayer, Often using an Acronym helps us find our way into prayer and to identify what we are led to include in our prayers.. This article contains some suggested ways of developing a prayer rhythm or Pattern of Prayer.
There is no one way to pray, or one set of circumstances to pray for. My experience is that we have a tendency to concentrate on asking God for certain things to happen or asking for help, to the exclusion of other kinds of prayer. Asking is not the only type of prayer. There are several kinds of prayer that enrich our relationship with God that are not “asking” prayers. A useful pattern of prayer would be one that intentionally includes spending time expressing several different kinds of prayer. One of the simplest ways to remember different kinds of prayer is to use a sentence or Acronym, such as “As the Christian I pray”, with the first letter of each word representing a word that describes one type of prayer.
A simpler form of this is ACTS – A for Adoration; C for Confession; T for Thanksgiving; and S for Supplication (Intercession and Petition).
To use these patterns we simply start with the first type of prayer and then to progress through the other types of prayer during the time we have set aside. These patterns are meant to assist us in focussing on God. We don’t have to slavishly follow a pattern each time or spend an equal amount of time on each type of prayer. It is also not necessary to include all types of prayer every time. If it seems right to spend extra time on one kind of prayer, then we should feel free to do so. The use of a pattern allows us to overcome any obstacles that might be present in getting started and to discover what we should share with God at any given time.
The Anglican Fellowship of Prayer, in cooperation with the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE), has initiated “Prayers of the People” — a way for people to submit prayers via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that can be read by others, and to read prayers that have been sent in by others. By logging on to www.anglicanprayer.org, or Facebook, or receiving a daily email, people can see the prayers that have been submitted. Not only can we get a sense of what is on other people’s hearts, but we can pray the prayers that they see. Some of the prayers submitted could be used by Intercessors in worship services. For these “Prayers of the People” the pattern of prayers is:
- Adoration is the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.
- We Praise God, not to obtain anything, but because God’s Being draws praise from us.
- Thanksgiving is offered to God for all the blessings of this life, for our redemption, and for whatever draws us closer to God.
- In Penitence we confess our sins and make restitution where possible, with the intention to amend our lives.
- Oblation is an offering of ourselves, our lives, and labours, in union with Christ, for the purposes of God.
- Intercession brings before God the needs of others.
- In Petition we present our own needs, that God’s will may be done.
God touches us during the times we set apart. We need not attempt to hide our weaknesses and failures from God. Our continually accelerating culture makes it difficult to grasp that it takes a lifetime to grow in prayer; learning what it means to love God, others and ourselves will take more than the rest of our life. Becoming aware of the continual presence of the One who loves us, and discovering how to give and receive are keys to finding God in all things. Prayer is a journey of discovery, and we are pilgrims. The journey is more important than arriving at the destination.