By: Brad Rogers
Here at Redeemer Presbyterian in Raleigh, we are using a Community Bible Reading plan complete with a handy journal as an aid to help us personally commune with God, know the Scriptures, and grow in community. The journal is laid out in such a way as to help us pray the Scriptures back to God. As such the A.C.T.S. model of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, & Supplication) is utilized as a way to engage with God through the Scriptures. The idea is that as one reads a particular text; he/she writes in the journal things for which they find God praiseworthy (adoration), sins the text reveals they may need to confess (confession), aspects of God’s saving work the text reveals for which to be thankful (thanksgiving) and any requests that one would like to make to God in response to what they find in God’s word that day. A person can then take what they have written in each of these four sections of the journal and pray them back to God. This model of reading and praying the Scriptures can be a little clunky and awkward at first, but I have found that pushing past that initial uncomfortableness has yielded much fruit in my life personally. In the humble interest of helping those on this plan and anyone else desiring a closer walk with Christ by praying the Scriptures, I am beginning a 4 part series today taking each aspect of the A.C.T.S. model of prayer one at a time.
Adoration: The Importance of Praise
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, the first thing he modeled for them was asking that our heavenly Father’s name might be hallowed. He was showing us that we should pray that God’s name would be revered, or regarded as holy. It is praying that all people everywhere would praise and adore God. Over and again in the book of Psalms we find God calling His people to praise His name. We don’t need to get bent out of shape as if this is some other human asking us to give them honor.
God has revealed who He is to us, and He is a God infinitely beyond us in holiness, power, and glory. C.S. Lewis has helpfully pointed out that failing to admire that which is truly admirable is a flaw in itself and causes one to miss out on the full experience of something wonderful. In his Reflections on the Psalms, he writes that if God is the great object of admiration behind all other beauties and magnificence, then to praise and admire him would be “simply to be awake, to have entered the real world … but not to do so would be to be deaf, blind and bedridden with respect to the real world.” It is important not to merely think God is worthy of praise, but to actually praise him for those attributes for which He is worthy as this honors Him and moves us beyond knowledge of facts about God into a loving relationship with Him that changes our hearts. James K.A. Smith says that “we are what we adore” (and maybe we can say that we are becoming that which we adore).
Practicing Adoration through Bible Reading
As you are reading any text of the Bible devotionally, it is good to jot down those attributes of God you see in that Scripture that are worthy of praise as a means of understanding the text itself, but also so that you can take those praises up in prayer once you have completed your Bible reading. Throughout the Bible, God is redeeming people prone to wander in sin back to himself. When we are thinking through the category of praise it’s helpful to ask ourselves as we read, “What is it about God’s nature and character that leads Him to the redeeming work that I see in this particular passage?” In a paper, I was told New York City Pastor Tim Keller wrote that he asks these questions of the Scriptures to help identify particular attributes of God worthy of praise. What does this (Scripture) teach me: of God’s excellence? Of his majesty/greatness? Of his grace/tenderness? Of his wisdom/symmetry? In sum, in the adoration section of your journal, you are looking to write down what kind of God the passage in front of you reveals.
I tend to write out praise worthy attributes down as I read the text. You might prefer to read through the whole text for the day (or for a section at a time) and then write down praise worthy attributes you notice about God. It could be one word, or it could be several words. I tend to write down something short that I can expand on when I begin to actually praise God in my prayers. Looking through recent entries into the adoration section of my journal I find words and phrases like: healer, the holy one, Lord over the fish in the seas, searcher of hearts, Authoritative One, Creator, Mighty One, supplier of food, revealer of truth and one for whom nothing is impossible. Even if you don’t journal or don’t have a journal with you, it’s still possible to make mental notes of things regarding God’s character that you can then reflect back to Him in prayer. In these times, I find myself praying such things back to God as I read rather than waiting until I finish. The journal is aimed at helping you engage with God and commune with Him as He speaks to you in the Scriptures. The Community Bible Reading Journal is just a tool and a means towards this end, so I wouldn’t get overly concerned with the particulars. The ultimate goal is to become more comfortable with the method so that you better understand, appreciate, and adore God as He reveals himself to us in the Bible so that we become more like the God we praise.