How To Pray — A Simple Prayer Structure by Jen Merckling

Jen Merckling

My prayer life has gone through ebbs and flows over the years.  Somewhere along the way, someone shared a simple outline for personal prayer with me called ACTS.  And while there’s no one right way to pray—I’ve found this strategy really helpful.  My hope is that if you want to learn how to pray, or if you’re seeking to grow in your prayer life, learning ACTS for personal prayer will bless you!


ACTS stands for: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication

And while it may appear a bit cumbersome at first, this structure isn’t rigid.  It’s become a fluid, simple outline that guides my private prayer time.  Remember you can’t mess prayer up!  If it feels awkward and clunky at first—that’s okay.  Keep coming to God…seek Him with all your heart!

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)


“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.  They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness.” (Psalm 89:15-16)

During this time of prayer—focus on the greatness and goodness of God.  Adore him!  For me this might look like…

  • Reflecting on the majesty of his creation—what an awesome God to create such an amazing universe and gorgeous, vast earth filled with unspeakable intricacy and beauty!
  • Remembering the care and love He has for me and my family.
  • Reflecting on the salvation and grace freely given through Jesus Christ.
  • Contemplating the mysteries of God—His all present, all-knowing, forever, unchangeable, faithful, character.


“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Prayer is a time to come to Jesus—to confess and ask forgiveness.  God doesn’t want us walking around with guilt and condemnation—throw it off and receive His mercy and peace!  Often I pray to be cleansed of my sins (and I try to acknowledge them individually), for my heart to be made pure, and for my mind to be renewed.  Jesus is faithful to forgive—and to help us make the necessary changes in our lives!


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Thanksgiving is a key piece of prayer.  Thanksgiving is not only a praise back to God—but a reminder to us of God’s unfailing love in our lives.  It strengthens our trust, our faith in God.  With trust, we can wait with joyful expectancy as He works out His plans in our lives—He is always working for the good of those who love him! (Romans 8:28)

What does this look like?  It can be reflecting on the simple things I’m thankful for—but it can also be thankfulness for a person or situation I’m praying about…For example, when my twins were born dangerously early at 26 weeks, not only did I cry out to God for them—but I also thanked Him for my beautiful girls, that He gave me the desire of my heart (I had always wanted twins), that He had kept them safe, and that He already had a plan for each day and moment of their lives.  I thanked him because He is good—no matter the outcome.


“Cast all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

It is an act of trust and faith to give our cares to God.  He wants to take your fears and anxiety (and for some reason—we tend to cling to them like a security blanket)!  Over and over he instructs us not to worry, not to fear—but instead to trust!  And when we trust God with our troubles—in exchange, we are given God’s peace…which is beyond our understanding. (Philippians 4:6-7)

So ask away—tell him everything!  He understands.  He knows you perfectly.

I ask for help in the big and little things: a safe drive, an overwhelming to-do list, struggles with my kids and problems they’re having, my husband’s job, help prioritizing the day, health concerns, etc…(anything and everything)


It seems like there’s always something competing for our time and attention…getting in the way of personal prayer time with God. Here’s a few things that have helped me:

  • Start the day with God, even if it’s just a few minutes.
  • Use a journal to help stay focused during your personal prayer time.
  • Read the bible—use what you read in Scripture as a jumping place for your prayer time.  Often a passage I’m reading will highlight an aspect of God worthy of praise and adoration. Sometimes it convicts me of sin in my life—leading to confession. It also encourages me to come before Him with thanksgiving and trust that God will hear and answer my prayers.

Let’s keep praying and encouraging one another, Sweet Friends!

With Love,

Jen xo

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