How to Pray [Part 1]

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Episode Synopsis

A helpful tool to begin to build a consistent prayer life, using the acronym ACTS.

Audio Transcript

Sustaining A Pattern of Prayer 00:21

Heidi: Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about going deeper with God, how we can develop a relationship with him, how we can pray to him, how we can hear his voice through scripture, and today we’re going to begin talking about what it looks like to pray to God on a daily basis. We know it’s important to pray, but how can we develop habits that are sustainable? How can we develop a relationship with God where we’re entering into his presence every day?

Jani: Thank you, Heidi. Yes, that’s what we want to talk about. I think it’s easy to begin a habit of prayer, but it’s hard to sustain it. I’ve found that, have you Heidi?

Heidi: I have, too. And t’s easy for me to know and feel motivated. I want to pray to the Lord, but as I’m so busy with my children, how do I really do that? What does that look like in the course of my day?

Jani: Yes. I found the same thing true in my own life. When I travel, when I’m visiting grandchildren or we’re entertaining people who are staying in our home, it’s hard for me to set aside that time to pray. So we want to talk about that with our listeners and give them some helps. As you know, Heidi and some of our listeners know, I was greatly helped by my mother-in-law,, Anne Otrlund, in this area. We’ll share some of the secrets she shared with me later today in our podcast.

Why is a pattern of prayer so hard? 1:49

Jani: I wonder why it’s so hard to sustain a pattern of prayer. Why do we lose heart and give up?

Because…I’m busy

Jani: I find in my own life, it’s just because I get busy. I get overwhelmed with the details of life. My schedule is so full. I’m so busy serving the Lord—oh! Isn’t that awful?—that I hardly have time to talk to him about it. Oh, I’m so embarrassed to tell you all that, but that’s true. I tell myself, “Lord, you’ve given me so many things to do. I have to get about them!” before I even stop and ask for his help in them. Sometimes I say, “Well, I’ll get to it later, Lord,” but later never comes.

Because…I wonder if God hears me

Jani: Along with my busy schedule, there’s another reason why II lose heart and I give up on regular praying. Sometimes it’s because I don’t see it working and I wonder, has God really heard my prayer? Does he really care about little old Jani Ortlund and her life? All the details in her life? I think of the psalmist in Psalm 13 who said, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Sometimes we lose heart in prayer because we feel that God might have turned his face away from us.

Because…I don’t know how

Jani: Another reason that I don’t establish a regular pattern of prayer is I just don’t know how. I don’t know where to begin. So I sometimes like to use prayer aids to help me –like a daily prayer journal or a daily prayer email or books on prayer. Heidi, I’ve shared with you, one of my favorite books on prayer is called Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore. I learned how to pray scripture through that book. I highly recommend it: Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore.

Prayer Helps: ACTS 4:00

Jani: But really the most important tool that I have found in my prayer life is developing my own personal prayer notebook. Mom helped me and I’ve expanded her ideas. I keep prayer quotes in it and prayer needs organized in a way that makes sense to me, and we’re going to talk about that in just a little bit. But before we do, I want to talk about one other tool in prayer. Perhaps you’ve heard of this before. It’s the ACTS acrostic. Heidi, tell us what those four letters in Acts mean in prayer.

Heidi: Yes, I found the ACTS acrostic really helpful in my own prayer life as well, Jani.

Heidi: A stands for adoration. It’s where we take a moment to pause and worship God. Too often, I bring the Lord all of my requests, but I forget to take a moment to just say, “God, you are the God of the universe and I stand in awe of you.” So I love the ACTS acrostic because it reminds me to just pause in each of these really important aspects of prayer. So A stands for adoration.

Heidi: C is for confession. It gives us a moment where we can confess our faith to God. We can tell him what we believe, and we can also confess our sins to God. I think in a few episodes ago, we had talked about that we don’t want to let our sin stock pile up, but we want to be women that are quick to confess them. When I wrong someone in my family or even when I do a sin that’s only between me and the Lord, the Lord is teaching me, “Heidi, stop and just repent of it right there to me. Don’t go day in and out without even thinking about, Lord, what sins do I have on my heart? What do I need to confess to you?” Don’t let them stock pile up, but confess them, repent right away and be met with his grace.

Heidi: T stands for thanksgiving. We want to learn to say, “Thank you” to our Father. I love thanksgiving. I often, when I go hit T every day, I’ll list out three things that I’m grateful for. I think of Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, and how important it is to see that all the blessings that God has given us and to name them.

Heidi: And then S stands for supplication. This is where we talk to God about our needs and the needs of others.

Jani: ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

Jani: Oh my goodness. I tend to camp a lot on the S–supplication–because I’m so needy. I’m glad that the Lord doesn’t mind that. He understands my frame—that “I am but dust” and he doesn’t mind me camping there. But I think it really is important to enter into those other three ways of praying, the adoration, the confession, the thanksgiving. Thank you, Heidi. That’s so good.

Abraham and the City (Intercessory Prayer) 7:01

Jani: Let’s talk a little bit about supplication because I think that’s important to us, and it would be helpful for our listeners to hear a little bit how you and I have worked this out in our own lives.

Jani: I think one of the most famous intercessory prayers in all of Scripture is recorded in Genesis 18:23-33, where Abraham is asking the Lord to spare Sodom. We know the story: Abraham has family there and he has led his own family out of Ur and cared for, sacrificed for them, even rescued them at cost to himself through the years. And now the Lord reveals to Abraham his plan to judge Sodom and Gomorrah for their sin. Whoa. We see Abraham struggling with the righteous judgment of God. We know we do that sometimes, too, when we know that God is going to execute judgment and we struggle with what that will mean for those whom we love, for those around us, even our country, I think sometimes we struggle through with that. So here we find Abraham struggling with the righteous judgment of God and his own distress for the city where his family lives. He prays six times begging God to spare those cities.

Jani: Now, Abraham here symbolizes God’s redeemed people on Earth. We, as Abraham’s descendants, are called to be blessings to the world around us. God calls us to pray for our cities and our families in them. I think of Jeremiah 29:7, “But seek the welfare of city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf. For in it’s welfare, you will find your welfare.” Isn’t that wonderful? The Lord calls us to pray for our own cities where he sent us and it will bless us as our city is blessed.

Jani: You see, our prayers are significant to God. They are significant for our city, our family there. Proverbs11:11 says this, by the blessing of the upright, a city is exalted. Oh, let’s be blessings to the cities God has called us to through our prayers. God has placed each one of us—Heidi, Jani, each one of our listeners—in your specific family and in your specific city with kingdom advancing, strategic significance. Embrace that. Accept that from the Lord. Put yourself in that space between God and your child, God and your family, God and your school, God and your City, God and your country, and pray!

Jani: In Genesis 18 Abraham has a humble boldness with God. He is forthright, but he’s not arrogant. Abraham is reverent as he prays, but he presses in. He uses “pushy” prayers as we talked about in our last episode. He’s pushing hard against God. He’s wrestling with him. Don’t be afraid to wrestle with God over your prayer needs. What good did Abraham’s wrestling do? What good did his intercession do? Well, think of Genesis19:29. God saved Lot!

Other Passages on Supplication 10:50

Jani: There are some passages, other passages outside of Genesis 18, that help me in this area of supplication.

Psalm 107:19

Jani: Heidi, would you read Psalm 107:19?

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

Jani: “They cried.” I love that. Oh, we have a deliverer who hears our cries and wipes our tears and holds us close as we cry out to him.

Psalm 43:5

Jani: What about Psalm 43:5?

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Jani: Prayer proves that you believe in God, that you have hope in him. I love that—hope in God. Prayer is hope put into words.

1 Chronicles 4:10

Jani: I also want to encourage us to pray big prayers, expansive prayers. Heidi read us the prayer of Jabez—it’s rather famous.

Heidi: Yes. This is one of my favorite prayers, Jani.

Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.

Jani: I love that. That’s 1 Chronicles 4:10. Jabez was boldly asking God to bless him in expansive ways. Let’s not be afraid to do that. Let’s ask God to expand our borders, to spread his kingdom out through us, through our families, through our workplaces, through our churches, into this needy world.

Lamentations 2:19

Jani: I also want us to remember that prayer in the ways of God saves people. Listen as I read Lamentations 2:19,

“Arise, cry out, in the night at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord. Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”

Jani: I love this because it tells me that no condition is so low that God will not hear it. “Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord.”

Heidi: I love how he encourages that: “Pour out your heart like water.” Pour it all before him. Your sadness, your joy. Your anger. Your frustration…that we can trust him with everything that’s in our hearts.

Jani: Yes. Let your heart just run out before him. We don’t have to put a guard over it. We can just pour it out. Oh, I love that too, Heidi. Then he says, lift your hands to him—our empty hands. Heidi. Don’t you feel that sometimes when you’re praying?

Heidi: All the time.

Jani: I feel so helpless…powerless…that I have nothing with which to solve this problem. And that’s perfect! Then I need God. I realize, yes, this is how it works. He says, lift your empty hands that can do nothing but ask. Let’s lift our hands up for the lives of those around us. Our family members, our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, our students (for those of us who teach), our co-workers, for those of us who are in the workplace.

Jani: Here in Lamentations 2 the children needed real bread; they were starving. Now, that might not necessarily be the case for our listeners. I hope not, but we may know of those who live in poverty. But the picture here is of children picking through the garbage heaps to satisfy themselves. That’s what we see today. So many young people doing that. The children of our day don’t have physical hunger as much as spiritual hunger, so let’s go to God for the needs of our children. Let’s keep going to him. Let’s intercede for those around us.

Psalm 141:1-2

Jani: Psalm 141:1-2 puts it this way.

O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
    Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
    and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

Up Next 15:38

Jani: Thanks so much for joining us today. As we’ve started talking about prayer, we hope you’ll join us next week when Heidi and I share how we have developed different tools to support our prayer life. See you then.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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