My life has been shaped by one extremely influential mentor. If I was Samuel, she was Eli. For years she taught me how to serve and how to discern the Lord’s voice.
She made sure I knew I was loved by God. When I came to her, panicked because I didn’t know if I was “saved,” she stopped right there and prayed with me. When I joined the LDS church, she stood with me wholeheartedly. She gave me my first real job and taught me to be confident in my abilities.
But before all that, she taught me how to pray. She first taught me using the PATH method of prayer. It’s so easy to remember, it’s stuck with me since. PATH is an acronym, standing for Praise, Adoration, Thanksgiving, and Help. I’ll share some thoughts and insights I’ve gained about this method and each of its parts as I’ve used it.
We begin prayer like Jesus did, always praising and thanking God before asking. The purpose of this is not to remind God who God is, but primarily to remind US of who God is. Beginning prayer with praise, adoration, and thanksgiving puts us in the correct mindset. We are awed by God’s majesty and we are filled with hope because of who God is and what God has done for us in the past.
Praise is to “express warm approval or admiration of.” When we praise God, we say, “God, You’re great!” Another dictionary defines praise as “to glorify (a god or saint) especially by the attribution of perfections.” God, You are perfect in Love, perfect in Creating, perfect in forgiving, perfect in hearing us.
If we think about how we commonly use the word praise, we think of praising people for things. We praise actors for superb performances in films, we praise singers for moving performances on stage, we praise painters for exquisite works of art in museums. We praise politicians for enacting fair and just policies, we praise juries for demanding justice. We praise people for what they do. And I think it’s beneficial to think of praising God using this comparison.
In praise, we thank God for what God does: God, I praise You because You are working in me and making me new, I praise You because You hear my cries, I praise You because You protect me from harm, I praise You because You provide for my needs.
This is different from adoration, where we simply adore God for who God is. “I will worship You for who You are,” Hillsong Worship sings. In adoration, we simply stand (or sit or kneel) in awe of who God is. God is powerful, just, mighty, fair. God is a rock, a fortress, a safe place. God is mindful, God is merciful, God is gracious, God is extravagantly generous to us. God is “my author, my maker, my ransom, my savior, my refuge, my hiding place. You’re my helper, my healer, my blessed redeemer, my answer my saying grace. You’re my hope in the shadows, my strength in the battle, my anchor for all my days” (Worthy of Your Name, Passion).
After praising and adoring, we thank. We thank God for all that we have and all that God has done for us. We are profoundly grateful and we express that gratitude to the Source of all that we have.
Then, we are finally positioned to ask for help. A proverb says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is true because when we delight in the Lord, His desires become our desires. Since His will always comes to pass, our desires will be given in that way. Beginning prayer with praise, adoration, and thanksgiving is a way to delight in the Lord. After we have done that, we’ve invited the inspiration of the Spirit and can better know what to ask for.
Prayer is a time to be filled with God’s spirit, That should be one of our primary requests. In the Help portion of prayer, we pour out our hearts to God and seek comfort in His hands.
We pray for our families, our friends, our churches, our cities, our nations, and our world. We ask God to help us. We ask God to help our world.
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Another acronym for prayer, similar but not identical, is ACTS. This stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.
Here, we begin with adoration. We begin by declaring and reminding ourselves how big our God is. God can do anything.
Then, we move to confession. “We confess that we have not loved you with our whole hearts,” one prayer says. Here we come before a holy God and confess that we are not God. And how freeing it is to not be God.
Then we give thanks. We thank God. We thank, we thank, we thank. Because nothing we have or are is by our own doing. Everything we have and are is due to God’s grace and mercy on our lives. It’s all chance. So we are grateful, and we express that gratitude.
Finally, we end again with supplication. The time when we come before the all-powerful, whom we have adored, confessed, and thanked, and humbly ask. We ask for revelation, for strength, for help, for healing. We ask for ourselves and on behalf of our whole world.
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And then, we listen.
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This post is the second in a series, Prayer: Reflections for Lent, which explores prayer in a variety of ways. Read Part 1 here. Come back on Thursdays during Lent for the next post!