The purpose of prayer is not to obtain a swift solution for a spiritual ‘wish list’. There is an acronym ‘ACTS’ which is useful to help us consider how and what we pray for. ACTS stands for ‘adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication’. This format need not be followed on every single occasion that we pray, since it is not a means to an end strictly in itself.
So instead of launching into a voluminous petition of what we want now, it is wise to begin by expressing our adoration to God for who He is, for His many excellent attributes and His character which we can voice in our own words of praise. (We find out about God’s character and attributes in the Bible, which we then begin to experience in our lives as we trust in the Messiah.) Then we can confess our sins to Him. This may include things that we have said or done or wrong patterns of thought but also things that we should have done but did not do. The God of the Bible is able to forgive our sins and remove them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
Thanksgiving is offered from a grateful heart to the Lord our God for what He has done and His provision for us. It says a great deal about our relationship with Him and whether we want to pray to the Lord to meet and please Him or for what we may perceive He might give to us. Supplication (making requests for our needs) reminds us that God is sovereign, and we should approach Him boldly yet with humility and dependence, and we should make those requests according to His will and purpose. The more we read the Bible and ask Him to reveal the truth of it to us, the more we will learn what pleases God and how and what He wishes us to pray.
We can pray for all matters of our lives and those of others and bring them before the Lord. God is concerned with each aspect of our lives. We can pray for God to reveal Himself since those who seek Him will find Him when they seek Him with their whole heart (Jeremiah 29:13). We can pray for the health and safety of others. We can pray that God will change our character to become more like His. We are encouraged to pray for our government and leaders. We should remember in prayer those in prison and persecuted for their faith in the Messiah. Reading through the Bible uncovers many prayers by various characters and shows us why, how, and what to pray for.