Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Prayer Acronym

I was going over different types of prayer with my students this past week.  I like to use the ACTS method of explaining the different kinds of prayer: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  I tacked on Petition at the end, too, though I suppose I could have adopted PACTS as the acronym.  But that would mean giving Petition pride of place as the first type of prayer discussed, and I think Adoration should take the number one spot.

Of course, in my personal prayer life, I find that Petition dominates.  Contrition is a not-too-close second, followed by Thanksgiving, with Supplication dutifully bringing up the rear.  Deliberately adoring God is tacked on at the end, assuming I remember to tack it on at all.  So my personal prayer acronym is PCTSA.  Looks like initials for a once-influential-but-now-in-decline social group: Practical Connecticutian Social Activists, or People Constructing Tolerance, Solidartiy, and Awareness, or maybe a sign for a cable-news channel advertising a job opening: Professional Carpers' Thoughtless Scribbles Accepted.

Where ACTS denotes powerful events and deliberate choices, PCTSA is an unpronounceable jumble of meaningless consonants that added a vowel to try to appear respectable.  It is a bunch of letters pretending to be a word; a tangle of intuitions masquerading as a thought.  How do I untangle this prayer-knot?  By remembering that I am a creature, wholly dependent on God for the powers of my mind and will; my very existence.  If I can keep the understanding of my utter dependence foremost in my mind, it should help me to remember how awesome God is, and why I should routinely admit that He is so.

And yet, and yet... my very dependence on God moves me to ask Him for what I need, not selfishly (I hope), but in light of recognizing that everything is a gift (a Christmas gift?) from Him.  Jesus commanded us to ask God to fulfill our needs, and the Our Father includes some serious petitions along with its praise.  I suppose petition can be praise if it is done in the right spirit, so perhaps it should come first after all... and PACTS does recall the Covenant.  As a teacher of Hebrew Scripture, I do like that.

Well, whether ACTS or PACTS, I need to change my prayer acronym to something intelligible, something that is a true word, something that conforms to God rather than something that tries to conform Him to me.  Advent is an ideal time to do just that.  Thank goodness there is still a whole week of it left!