Keeping God, ourselves and our circumstances in the right perspective is important when we pray. For this reason, I usually pray through the ACTS acronym, even when the primary purpose of my prayer is to petition God for something relatively insignificant.

There is nothing magical about praying this way; God hears all believer prayers regardless of format. However, the acronym helps me remember who I am, who he is and what he has already done. This discipline keeps my prayers from turning into shopping lists or gripe sessions.

Adoration: praising God for who he is

Confession: acknowledging my sinful nature and any specific sins that come to mind

Thanksgiving: thanking God for what he has already done

Supplication: general and specific requests to God on behalf of myself and others

The Bible says we should pray ceaselessly about everything, but God has known our wants, needs, thoughts and feelings since eternity past. In other words, we are supposed to talk constantly with him about concerns he already knows.

God answers as we wish only those prayers that align with his plans and priorities, which we never comprehend fully due to our fallen nature and finitude. In other words, he tells us to pray incessantly, knowing that on many occasions we will be disappointed with the result.

Why does God set us up for disappointment by telling us to pray continuously about that which he already knows?

Because the primary purpose of prayer goes beyond the ACTS acronym; prayer is integral to our communion, contentment and conformity.

Communion. God cherishes his relationship with believers. He communicates with us regularly through his Word, the Holy Spirit, nature, other people and our circumstances. He desires reciprocity. His admonition to pray about everything ensures him of our constant contact, in theory at least, even if most of our prayers are self-centered petitions rather than thankful expressions of adoration.

Contentment. God bestows supernatural peace on believers who refrain from worry but instead pray with thanksgiving about all their concerns, needs and desires. He knows constant prayer lays the foundation for our personal contentment.

Conformity. God wants us to love him unconditionally just as he loves us. Our love has the opportunity to become unconditional amid the aftermath of unanswered prayer. If God answered every prayer as we wish, we would never experience misfortune, deprivation or uncertainty, but we would also never learn to love him as he loves us. Unanswered prayer forces us to reconcile our afflictions with his righteousness, which is the essence of faith. Acknowledging and accepting the superiority of his plans when ours go painfully awry conforms our will to his, which is the substance of true love. Praying about everything sets the stage for us to love God unconditionally, which is the apex of our relationship with him.