ACTS: Forms of Prayer
The tradition of the Catholic Church highlights four basic elements of Christian prayer:
(1) Prayer of Adoration/Blessing,
(2) Prayer of Contrition/Repentance,
(3) Prayer of Thanksgiving/Gratitude, and
(4) Prayer of Supplication/Petition/Intercession.
These elements may be easily remembered using the acronym ACTS: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. Praise is the form of prayer that recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what He does, but simply because He is.
In its widest applications, the word “blessing” has a variety of meanings in sacred writings. It can be taken in a sense that is synonymous with praise; thus the Psalmist, “I will bless the Lord at all times; praise shall be always in my mouth.”The prayer of blessing expresses praise and honor to God and is man’s response to God’s gifts.
Repentance is sincere regret or remorse for sin, resolution to avoid sin in the future, and conversion of the heart toward God, with hope in His mercy and trust in the help of His grace. Contrition, similarly, is a sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again. The Catholic Church further provides the sacrament of Penance, by which members may receive forgiveness of their sins by Jesus Christ through His ordained priests, according to the words of Jesus Christ to His apostles, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
Thankfulness is thanking God for what he has given and done.
A prayer of petition is a request to God that asks him to fulfill a need. By the prayer of petition, Catholics acknowledge their dependence on God. This expression is not intended to instruct or direct God what to do, but to appeal to his goodness for the things we need; and the appeal is necessary, not because He is ignorant of our needs or sentiments, but to give definite form to our desires, to concentrate our whole attention on what we have to recommend to him, to help us appreciate our close personal relationship with him. The expression need not be external or vocal; internal or mental is sufficient. The prayer of petition is at its heart an Act of Faith in that the one praying must believe first, in the existence of God; and second, that God is both willing and able to grant the petition. The Catechism states that asking forgiveness, coupled with trusting humility, should be the first movement of a prayer of petition (see Contrition/Repentance above). Jesus said to bring our every need to God in his name and assured us that “whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” (John 16:23) Through petition one can ask for God’s help with every need no matter how great or small. According to Catechism, Christ is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.
Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one Great Intercessor with the Father on behalf of all people, especially sinners. As the Body of Christ, we are also called to intercede for each other and encouraged to ask intercessory prayers of those members of the Body of Christ who has gone before us and is in Heaven as well as of the holy angels. Mary, the Mother of Christ and our Mother is especially looked to for intercessory prayers on our behalf because of her closeness with her Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and our turning to her, to the saints, to the holy angels, and to each other, does not diminish, but enhances, the understanding that Christ remains above all the Head of the Body of Christ and the One, Great Intercessor before Our Father in Heaven.