In her little book, “The Quotidian Mysteries – Laundry, Liturgy and ‘Women’s Work,'” Kathleen Norris writes, “When confronting a sinkful of dirty dishes…I admit that I generally lose sight of the fact that God is inviting me to play.”
“What,” you may ask, “does that have to do with the conclusion of your thoughts on prayer models?” OK, so it is a blatant act of inserting my favorite word into this conversation. But it also helps me make the point that sometimes we fail to see God’s invitations to us. Hang with me here.
In the ACTS model, Thanksgiving is the next component of prayer after Confession. (Incidentally, at this point when I look at this model, I can kind of see how some people might think that Christians seem to serve an egotistical God who is all about getting us to praise and thank Him and squirm over our sin. He might seem to only care about the things I need AFTER I give him his due.) BUT in the LORD’s Prayer, Jesus doesn’t tell me to thank God at all. Kind of seems like an oversight on His part, doesn’t it? It’s not too hard to find other scriptures that tell us to be thankful. Why would Jesus leave that out of His prayer?
This is just my opinion, but I think that Jesus reminds us how thankful we should be in the very beginning, when he has us consider “Our Father, who art in Heaven.” By setting our minds on our adoptive Father and Heaven, Jesus is INVITING us to thankfulness. He seems to be saying that thankfulness is as much a mindset as it is a list of things to name. This leads me to think that my entire prayer should be infused with thankfulness. There isn’t time enough in the day to speak each thing I have for which I ought to give thanks, but as I recall my needs for the day I can remember His past provision. When I pray for a child’s hurt finger, I can be thankful for the child, for the fingers, etc. etc.
I hope we can agree that even though Jesus doesn’t come right out and mention Thanksgiving in his model, he does invite us to thankfulness. But will we agree on the way each of these models is concluded?
The ACTS model concludes with S which stands for another fancy word – Supplication – the act of asking for supplies (my definition.) Again, the position of this component seems to indicate something, i.e., that my physical needs come last. I’ve already stated my difference of opinion on this, so what does Jesus put last in his prayer? Sin. He prays, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I can’t even really begin to wrap my mind around this pregnant request. I just want to point out that Jesus deals with sin last. It should comfort all of us who pray to Christ to know that He has already taken care of our sin. And when we think of our sins against him (again, are there enough hours in the day to repent of each one?) he wants us to think of them in light of his example of forgiving others. Yes, I need to consider my sin. (He doesn’t completely leave it out of his model.) I need to ask for forgiveness and seek to flee temptation. But just as importantly I need to forgive others. There are dire consequences if I don’t. The “post script” to the prayer makes this clear, “But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:15) I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I take this as seriously as I should.
Finally, looking again at Norris’s quote, I find a general application for prayer. With the ACTS prayer, I must show up ready to be full of praise and thanksgiving and sorrow for my sin. It almost seems like an invitation to PERFORM. With Jesus’ teaching, I can show up a dirty child with a sinkful of needs. That truly is an invitation to PRAY.