In a way, it’s probably unfortunate that about the same time I was learning about the ACTS prayer model, I was also learning about the tonsured, pre-Reformational Martin Luther. I was learning lots of great stuff about his life and the history of his theology, but the picture of him lying prostrate in his monk’s cell, agonizing over and repenting of his sins for days, somehow seemed to taint my view of the C for Confession step of the prayer model. I think this is where the model started messing with me.
I recognized that I didn’t have to be quite as extreme as Luther, but the very order, that is, its second place in the model, told me that I needed to start thinking about my sin right away in my prayers. So, after I praised God, I confessed. And confessed, and…more often than not, by the time I went on to T for Thanksgiving, I was still wondering if I had confessed enough.
What a different perspective I got when I looked at what Jesus taught. The second thing Jesus taught me to pray for (by my calculation for these purposes) is the stuff He knows is on my heart from the outset of my prayers. He taught me to ask for my “daily bread” – the things I need for the day. Is that merciful, or what? He didn’t teach me to dredge up all my sins right off the bat; he goes straight to the things I need for my well-being. Jesus really was human and he really did understand the kinds of things we need in this world. Man tells me (via the model) to remember how unworthy I am and how thankful I should be before I even think about asking Jesus for anything. Jesus tells me, “We’ll get to your sin later. Right now, tell me what you need today.”
And “today” is yet another key word. Gregory of Nyssa, in writing on The Lord’s Prayer, said, “Our Lord tells us to pray for today, and so he prevents us from tormenting ourselves about tomorrow.” I have to admit that after years of all out S for Supplication at the end of my prayers, limiting my concerns to one day’s needs took some getting used to. I had certainly set up a habit of tormenting myself about my tomorrows. What a freeing breakthrough it has been for me to focus on one day’s needs at a time.
Speaking of tomorrow, well, that’s when I’m wrapping this up.