I chose this image because my wife appreciates flowers, especially this
orchid given to her by one of our daughters. Photo by Art Fabian
Traditionally, prayers are often described using the acronym A-C-T-S.
Adoration is worshipping a person, place, or thing. In prayer, it’s almost always directed upward to a being who’s higher in power than we are. Generally, it reinforces our inequality.
Confession is admitting we’ve fallen short of where we want to be. That’s not a bad thing, but for much of Christian history it’s been based on original sin. That is, it’s impossible to be worthy of God’s love without an intermediary. While recognizing our short-comings is very valuable in many ways, it’s too often grounded in a belief of a sinful nature which we can’t change, rather than our human nature within which we can change.
Thanksgiving or gratitude is super important, and I’ll express it another way shortly.
Supplication is asking for divine intervention. In my previous blog, even though I proof-read it several times, I didn’t catch that I said, “progressive Christianity generally doesn’t believe in an interactive God.” I meant to say “intervening” because that term implies a being who chooses when and how to alter a situation down here on Earth.
Since parts of Adoration, Confession, and definitely, Supplication, are troublesome to progressives, I’m sharing some elements of prayer in a different light.
First, there’s a shift in what we want to accomplish through prayer. We traditionally think of the purpose of prayer as speaking and relating to God. The process (A-C-T-S) generally goes: being worshipful toward God, admitting we don’t measure up (for various reasons), being thankful for what God’s given us, and asking him to do some favor for us or others.
But prayer can have a different purpose. It should cause us to change—for the better! And through those changes, we can create more wholeness in ourselves, in others, and our portion of the world.
Remember that prayer is C-A-R-E.
We need a different frame of mind than just asking Somebody-Up-There to take care of a situation—whether involving us or others. I feel caring is our responsibility. That’s why Centering comes first in C-A-R-E. It gets us mentally and physically ready for accepting the changes we’re responsible for.
Prayer is built on Appreciation
Then, as I suggested above, being grateful is critical to affirming our current state and building on that foundation. However, instead of the term Thankfulness, I prefer Appreciation because it has some subtle enhancements over other terms.
Appreciation connotes respect, enjoyment, and understanding of a situation. That means one has internalized it, contemplated it, and it has caused a change in them. Now, I won’t quibble with someone who feels that being thankful or grateful is synonymous with appreciation. However, for my acronym to work, I needed an A-word.
According to the dictionary, thankful often has an undertone of relief. That is, we’re relieved that something didn’t happen. Whereas appreciate is usually used as recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something
But what conditions should we especially appreciate? Obviously, there are a gazillion possibilities. I’m sure each of you could quickly name dozens of examples. Two of my biggest ones include being alive and recognizing my interconnectedness with every particle of the universe. Of course, I also appreciate my wife of 51 years, our family, ancestors (they’re why I’m here), and our potential to make a worthwhile difference. Plus, I appreciate having nice folks read this blog.
The important step here is to stop and think: What do I appreciate? The process of contemplating our gifts, our many positive situations, our potential, the people who relate to us, helps to change us. I believe that’s the huge value in prayer. It can transform us!
If you want to recognize your shortcomings, you might call it confession. But it’s always appreciating—internalizing—where you are. A simple way to meld confession and gratitude is to say: Here’s where I am. Maybe it’s not yet where I want to be, but I appreciate having gotten this far.
Go deep, not up!
We don’t need to pray “up” to a god, but we need to go inside and remind ourselves how much we are equally divine with everything. Taking time for thoughtful prayer deepens our appreciation. Appreciation is both a type of self-love and an active love for others. It triggers a holy, emotional reaction within you. It causes you to resonate with the divine of creation.
When you truly contemplate some of the things you appreciate, you understand your value differently. And that’s the power of prayer—life transformation!
So, C-A-R-E starts with Centering and Appreciation. What do you guess R and E stand for? Stay tuned for the next elements of prayer.
_____________________________ Art Fabian — January 31, 2019
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Art Fabian is on a spiritual journey to enjoy more aliveness and to share the goal of wholeness with others. He has no special training or degrees in this field. He’s not a religious scholar or theologian. However, he hopes you might also enjoy walking towards a richer life that benefits us, our neighbors, and all creation.