But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)
Tomorrow will be the first Sunday in a very long time when all the churches will be closed. The long established patterns of worship will be paused, and we will need to think of new ways to mark what is after all still the Lord’s Day.
There will be services available online, but there is more which can be done!
In the passage quoted above, Jesus reminds us that we can - and should - pray in private. Although it is good and right that we gather together to worship on a Sunday, this is only part of the story. God our Father also meets us as we pray individually, as we pray with the door shut behind us. Private prayer and public services sit side by side, and both are needed. When the public services are stopped, the private prayer becomes all the more important.
So how do we pray? There are many ways, of course, but a few years back I heard an American theologian - R C Sproul - suggest a pattern he has long found useful based upon the acronym ACTS. This stands for
A - Adoration
C - Confession
T - Thanksgiving
S - Supplication
The first element of prayer should be adoration, or praise. The Psalms, which are inspired samples of godly prayer, are heavily weighted on the side of adoration. I’ve noticed over many years that as we grow in the discipline and in the delight of prayer, it seems that we naturally spend more and more of our time on this first element.
Second, prayer should include confession of our sin; as we remember who we are when we come into God’s presence, we see that we have come short of His holiness and have need of His forgiveness.
Third, when we pray, we should always give thanks, remembering the grace and mercy God has shown toward us.
Fourth, prayer rightly includes supplication or petition, bringing our requests for the needs of others and ourselves to God.
So let me make a suggestion. Have a look at the list at the bottom of this email and either watch, or read through a service. I’ll be emailing out the readings very early tomorrow morning, along with a short ‘sermon’, so you’ll have those too. When you get to the prayers, perhaps you might use the ACTS model. If you don’t find it useful, I’ll be sending over some other suggestions in coming days so don’t worry!
We might be scattered, but we can still come together in prayer. We share the same Father in heaven, and join with the same ‘angels and archangels’ as we pray. It might be we are sitting by ourselves tomorrow morning, but we are not alone