There is a formula that many people like to use when conducting themselves in prayer to the God of the universe so as to assist staying mindful of important things to include. The method is by using the acronym A.C.T.S. ACTS stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. In truth, it really does help! Beginning with Adoration, we are reminded to worship, bless, acknowledge and praise Yahweh God as the creator of all things, the One who holds the universe together, and for His immeasurable love that He has for His creation. Next we Confess our shortcomings and violations of His decrees by acknowledging them in repentance and asking His forgiveness. We then give Him Thanksgiving for the wonderful blessings, mercies, and gifts that He bestows on us every day, recognizing where our sustenance is from. And afterward, we add in important requests and items of concern before His throne of grace, asking for His intervention to affect our lives and those around us.
Many who call themselves Christian have no problems with praising God for His blessings, thanking Him for the things we receive, and in giving Him a spiritual “high-five” acknowledgement for providing an answer to prayer. Essentially the Thanksgiving and Supplication portions of the acronym flow nice and easy for most people who claim belief in God. Where we tend to be a bit short-sighted is in our Adoration and Confession. Adoration is something I have spoken about many times before, how so many are somewhat shallow with holding a deep and reverential awe to the One who breathes everything into existence and sustains all things by His hand. We are, likewise, quite lax in our submission to God’s laws in the manner that He calls for within the Scriptures. The Bible asks “does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samual 15:22) And we also know that to God, “sacrifice and offering You have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.” (Psalm 40:6) Essentially saying that what God is looking to receive from us, above and beyond the sacrifices and offerings, is our love, devotion, trust, commitment, and submission to Himself in all things. Like the birds of the air and lilies in the field (Matthew 6:26-30) that trust God for all things, so, too, He will be for us a Father who provides all we need, and thus can have complete faith and devotion to Him.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16). Well, I need prayer! Because my confession to you is my lack of study of the Word of God, the Holy Bible! Now, before I go on, I can say with complete confidence that I have countless excuses as to why I lack daily Bible reading and study, and many of them (I’m sure you would agree with me) are valid and true! And while there is no set schedule written in the Word of God that we are commanded to customarily commit to the study of the Bible daily, there are numerous verses that declare the importance of our duties to study God’s very words. Ezra, as an example, “had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10) Yes, we should want to study the Scriptures, not because of commands, but because of our inward desire to know the Author and perfecter of our faith! And yet, many of us fall short of that very desire. I can also submit that reading memes or social media posts with Scripture verses in them does not constitute a Bible study…contrary to popular belief! Snippets of Scripture are just that…small pieces of the very word of God. You wouldn’t take a couple pieces out of a jigsaw puzzle box and feel satisfied that you have the whole picture, would you? Nor can you look at a handful of sand and truly feel that you have now experienced what it is like to be at a beach. And such is reading the occasional verse or two out of the Bible. That method does not give you complete understanding of God and His amazing love and grace as well.
The reason that so many people wander life thinking that they know Yahweh God is that they have entrusted their religion to a handful of verses and experiences and then they fill in the many blanks with their own perceptions and ideologies as to what they think the God of the Bible is really like. Essentially, the majority of people have a very small percentage of Biblical knowledge and a large percentage of their own added humanistic conception. This is not only heretical, but dangerous to the soul. Making up what we think God should be like is in essence creating your own spiritual religion based on some core gleanings from what little you may truly know about the Bible’s contents or even what little you may have heard from some church attendance or what others have shared. This is the very reason so many churches have careened off the Bible highway and crashed…because they decided to run with their own understandings and not the Bible’s actual written truths. Proverbs warns of this dangerous practice when it says “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Yet, as I mentioned, there are excuses and reasons that cause me to stand (sit) before you and confess my sins. First and foremost has always been my time availability. I am so good with mismanaging time. I can get up early and quite easily get distracted away from Bible reading and devotions with just a glance at my phone or tablet. News, weather, social media, texts, and emails quietly draw my mind away from matters of the spirit. During the all-important coffee time, my brain runs through the daily “to do” list, and before I know it, it’s time to hit the shower, dress, gather my lunch, and race out the door for work. Of course there’s the drive time (I have a fairly long commute) that I could spend with God, but of course as soon as I try to mumble a prayer or listen to Scriptures or preaching via radio, I am distracted by the nuances of traffic and and the many sketchy drivers around me. And then…work. Again, too many distractions to commit time and thought. After work, the drive home, is my time to wind down and compose myself, all the while dodging the inconsiderate drivers who are also on their quest home. Once home, more distractions with domestic duties, dinner, cleaning, and before you know it…time for bed. See? Many excuses and reasons.
In essence, it is quite easy to substitute our time with God and His Word and replace it with time with the world. And then we wonder why our spiritual walk is struggling and lacking. We wonder “where is God” in our daily battles. We find ourselves wondering why we are so unsure of our footing in the pilgrimage we are supposed to be on. We wonder how the enemy is able to weaken us so much daily. The answer might be obvious, but obvious doesn’t solve the problem.
There are so many people that I see on social media and the like who display their Bibles with full-blown color coded, every-verse-lined and marked, as well as noted and referenced on every page! And what shames me more is that for many, these might be their second, third, or even more, copy of Scriptures that they have studied so diligently that they end up wearing out the pages and ink! All praise to God for their amazing and inspirational devotion to the study of Scripture! More confession: none of the several Bibles I own have anything near that wear and tear within the covers. In fact, many have multiple pages that have never had my hand upon them to be read. This is testimony to “something is wrong with this picture”!
We know from Scriptures that the god of this world is the devil, and that he and his minions will do everything in their power to snatch people from God. Even if the person is a saved Christian, the enemies of God will try to destroy their peace and joy and damage their relationship with Jesus. This place is not our eternal home. Jesus said that “if you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:19) We are not going to have an easy path on this journey through here because we are not only attacked internally by our own nature, but because we are also under siege by the external powers of darkness as well. There is a war going on around us and we are involved whether we like it or not! And subsequently, this war is working to keep us from God and His Word.
So I mentioned that the answer to this dilemma is obvious, but recognizing the problem doesn’t solve the problem. The obvious answer is simply dedicating more time to the Word of God and to prayer. But, not so fast! As I also mentioned, there is this war of time that we are being pulled into daily. From the moment we wake up to the end of the day when we lay down for sleep, we are bombarded by attention grabbers. And whether the demand is from work, kids, appointments, family, friends, or other obligations, we are being tempted away from our personal time with God. But despite what we may think, we really do have personal time available no matter what our circumstances, and that we can devote time to God and His Word. The distractions mentioned above can, and should be, simple enough to avoid as an excuse. This is where spiritual discipline comes in to play.
When we look at our Savior Jesus, He gives us examples of disciplines that show how we are to grow and become strong in faith. Foremost is that the study, memorization, and meditation of the Scriptures is paramount to growth and our walk every day. Without the Word of God in our hearts and minds, we can easily succumb to the demonic influences that are all around us. Jesus used the Scriptures to turn away the temptations of Satan, even when He was at His weakest physically (Luke 4; Matthew 4). Paul reminds us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) The Bible is our sword of the Spirit and our only offensive weapon against the fallen evil we come up against.
Another key part that Jesus shows us is the power of prayer. Jesus took time away from His ministry regularly and purposefully to “recharge” and focus personally on the one whom He is to glorify. He would break away from the crowds, and even His disciples, just to spend important time with His Father in Heaven. This was written for us to see that no matter what life is throwing at us, we also need this intimate time with God. We pray to communicate with God through Jesus, who is our mediator with the Father and to cast all our worries and anxieties on Him as we also listen to Him and commit all our ways to Him in everything we do. Christ instructs us to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) These were not just suggestions, but important instructions because of our weak nature.
How much does this lack of prayer and study affect me? Quite honestly; a lot! The devil has a purpose to draw us away from God, to strip us of the power of His Word, and to disrupt our intimate communications with Yahweh God. We cannot survive any battles in life if we do not have proper protections, proper weapons, and proper knowledge. To survive the onslaught of the enemy, we must maintain our battle gear, stay in communications with our Leader, and know the tactics of the enemy. Essentially, we read and study the Bible to understand who God is, who we are, what God requires of us, how God saved us through Christ Jesus, and to how to stay connected to God through prayer and the study of His Word…all by the work of the Holy Spirit to help and guide us through. We learn to recognize the enemies tactics and stay equipped with the armor of God and the Sword of the Spirit, the Holy Bible, so as to withstand the attacks.
Having our attention diverted away from our walk with the Savior simply means that our focus is on other things, such as self and the world. It’s then that sin can so easily creep in and weaken us. Being distracted is like letting our guard down…and the moment we do, that is when the devil pounces. So these excuses we use to skip time with God through His Word are actually tactics of the enemy to break down our defenses and cause us to forget God. In Deuteronomy 4 we are instructed to “give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life.” In order to stand firm on the Truth every day we have to purposefully task ourselves to prayer and reading, to commit our ways to the Lord…long before we pick up a phone, log in to a computer, read a paper, watch news and weather, or even enjoy that first cup of coffee. It is when we put God first, then “we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6) It is when we acknowledge that our life is under Him, through Him, and for Him, that we now set our priorities right and are properly equipped to face any and all of the challenges each day!