How to Pray In 4 Easy Steps

prayerbeginnersIn the last few weeks, I’ve experienced a truly amazing grace in my prayer life, and it stems from an efficient little book I stumbled upon several years ago called Prayer for Beginners by Peter Kreeft.

The first time I saw the book was during a silent retreat back in 2006, during a similar time when my prayer felt dry and ineffective.  I knew God was listening, but it didn’t feel like He was.

I managed to read the entire book during the retreat, but one section stood out in particular.  Unfortunately, as is often the case after a retreat, I forgot 95% of the lessons I learned as the reality of life took over once again.

Then just a couple weeks ago, for no apparent reason, Kreeft’s simplified lesson for prayer popped back into my head.  It started with an acronym that worked as an outline for how to approach God in prayer.

The secret, says Kreeft, is the word RAPT, as in, “when you pray, do so with rapt attention.”

The acronym stands for Repentance, Adoration, Petition, and Thanksgiving.

On a fluke, after all these years I decided to try it a few times, starting privately, and then explaining it to my children, and then even sharing it with co-workers.   But even with it’s simplicity, I find that explaining the acronym is still confusing, but when you actually model the praying technique, people are amazed!

So below I want to briefly explain how I have implemented those 4 steps, and provide an example of how you might use this is in your own prayer life.

Repentance
This has been one of my favorite aspects of the prayer.  I’m the kind of person that wants to rip off the Band-Aid quickly, so jumping right to acknowledging my own stupidity and inadequacies has been enormously beneficial.  When I use this method every day, this acts as a reminder for a daily examination of conscience.  What have I done (or thought or failed to do) in the last 24 hours?  I simply recall all of these things, summon up true contrition, and bring these things to God in prayer.  I’ll still bring these to Confession at a later date, but a daily examination of conscience allows me to allow true contrition to keep me in alignment with the will of God.

Adoration
For this part of the prayer, I take a moment to slow down and acknowledge the sovereignty of God.  I stop and think about God the Father, the creator of heaven and earth. I think of Him truly as my father, and I put myself in His presence, approaching Him as His child.  He cares about me.  He loves me.  He wants to hear from me.

I then acknowledge Jesus Christ, my brother and my king, who loves me so much He allowed Himself to be put on the cross and killed for me.  And I think about my love for Him.

Lastly, I think about the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, and how dependent I am on Him and the graces He delivers into my soul through the Sacraments.

Petition
I love that before I start asking God for stuff, and tossing a litany of wants and needs at Him, that I’ve taken the time to apologize and acknowledge Him as the One in control.  Having done so, I’ve actually found that my petitions are harder to formulate, because I’m more cognizant of my own failures, as well as how much better God is than me at determining true needs.  I’ve also found this method makes it easier and more natural to pray for others, because I’ve already removed myself as the center of prayer.

Thanksgiving
Being thankful is tough for me.  I’m the kind of person who as soon as God answers one prayer, I’m already focusing on the next “need.”

Consciously taking time to be thankful has made a huge difference.   Just as in repenting, with this last step I stop and think about all the ways in the past 24 hours that God has been there for me.  All the small ways (like getting me home without bad traffic) or the big ways (good health reports or answers to past prayers).  I try to think of every single good thing that God has done in my life since the last time I prayed this RAPT prayer, and the peace upon completing it is undeniably evident.

You can make this prayer last as long as you want, but can also pray it in just a minute or two.  With your family, I recommend pausing after each step, allowing each person to silently ponder these things in his or her heart.

So now here’s a short example of how this would all play out (I’ll put the steps in brackets, but that’s not necessary to do when you do this prayer yourself):

Dear Lord,

[R-Repentance] I am sorry for not taking more time to talk with you yesterday, and for allowing the busy-ness of the day to take over.  I’m sorry for yelling at my kid, and for being so angry inside afterward and for not immediately showing forgiveness.      [A-Adoration] You are God my Father, who made me and everything around me.  Everything in my life is a gift from You.  You are Jesus Christ my savior who loves me so much You died for me.  You are God the Holy Spirit, the shared love of Father for the Son and Son for the Father, who inspires and directs me in my life. [P-Petition] I ask you to help me be a better father.  Please help me understand how best to be like You.  Please help the people in my life who are suffering.  [T-Thanksgiving] Lord, I am so thankful for the fact that You hear my prayers.  I thank you for the way things have been going at work, and I thank you for the ways you’ve been blessing my family, and for keeping us healthy and safe.  I thank you for being my God, and I offer up my day – both the good and the bad — to You.  I love you, Lord.  Thank you for everything.  Amen.

It’s as simple as that!

After you’ve tried this, leave a comment below to let me know it worked for you!

 

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About the Author
Greg is married to Jennifer. They've got five kids.

12 comments on How to Pray In 4 Easy Steps

  1. rev. charles cummings says:

    Nothing new. 1954 sr. Mary At st joseph school, ACTS, adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication essential to all our prayers.

    1. Greg Willits says:

      Father – As they say, it may be an oldie, but a goodie. And classics never go out of style. But from time to time, they need to be brought back out and shared. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. rev. charles cummings says:

        You are right. Using RAPT or ACTS, let us pray for the world and each other.

    2. Gregg the obscure says:

      I was taught “ACTS” in the middle of the last century too. Glad to see the general concept getting some attention. It’s too easy to focus on just one of those components – be it C or S depending on the day.

    3. mark says:

      Good review. I read this book earlier this year, loved it and have been using RAPT as the framework for my morning prayer since. One issue I did have it , though, is the Adoration section. In his book Kreeft calls Adoration the most important part of your prayer, to wich i agree.. But he gives the least amount of guidance on HOW to Adore Christ in prayer. So I came up with my own way. Thank you for sharing YOUR way of adoring the Holy Trinity . I might add it to my own. Long time listener to you podcast…..God Bless!

  2. Jacqui K says:

    Perfecto Greg – thanks for sharing something I will take home to my family tonight!

    1. Greg Willits says:

      Jacqui – I’d be curious to know how your family likes it.

  3. Laura says:

    My all time favorite book on prayer. I’ve had my copy since 2006 or so (with original monastery price tag 😉 ) and it’s traveled the world with me. I love the best-decade of notes I’ve made in the margins as I reread it frequently.

    1. Greg Willits says:

      Laura – Like me, you probably appreciate those random times when you stumble upon a Monastery price tag. I miss being able to drive over there on days of greatest need.

  4. Ana says:

    I really like this. I’ve been trying to use this since you posted it. Thank you.

  5. Steve Mehal says:

    Hi Greg! I thought I was doing pretty well with praying and then I read this article. One word sums it up- FANTASTIC! I found that I can go much deeper in prayer and it feels more complete. Thank you for posting this!!!!!

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