How CATS Revolutionized My Prayer Life
- Do you ever find your prayer life getting out of balance?
- Have you sat or kneeled to pray and just went blank and weren’t sure where to start?
- Do you ever start praying and the swirl of thoughts, scripture passages and prayer requests make it difficult to focus on what you want to say to God and nearly impossible to hear from Him?
If you can identify with these questions, good it means you are human. Every one of us has struggled with these and many other challenges in prayer and while there is no magic formula to make praying easy I discovered a tool a number of years ago that has revolutionized my prayer life. CATS.
One common challenge in having an awesome, God honoring prayer life is balanced. In the 1984 movie The Karate Kid the wise Mr. Miyagi tells his young student, “Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?”.
This applies to karate and in some ways to our prayer life. I’m not saying an unbalanced prayer life is bad. An unbalanced prayer life is FAR superior to no prayer life and an unbalanced prayer life can produce great fruit in our life. However, an unbalanced prayer life is not as powerful and life-changing as it could be. Mr. Miyagi gave his student, Daniel some exercises to practice for improved balance and I am going to share an exercise to improve the balance in your prayer life.
You may be asking, “what is an unbalanced prayer life?” When I talk about an unbalanced prayer life I mean one in which you are stuck in one of the four primary types of prayer. This is an incredibly common challenge and even extremely mature Christians and pastors are not immune to. You have seen it and probably experienced it. Every moment of every prayer you are stuck. Usually we get stuck in requesting, petitioning, interceding a type of prayer we will call “supplication”. If you are stuck in supplication mode, it’s ok. That is not a bad thing, it just isn’t balanced.
Four Types Of Prayer
While attending seminary at Liberty University I learned about these four types of prayer. These could also be considered four components of prayer. Before I continue I want you to understand, I am not giving you a legalistic set of rules for prayer! This is not a checklist to check off these items to please God and if you don’t do these every time you pray or every day you are not a powerful prayer warrior or good Christian. It is a reminder to seek balance in your prayer life. The types of prayer are in no mystical order. I put them in this order because it is easy to remember, C.A.T.S.. I have seen others use, and I have used A.C.T.S.. I don’t believe God is going to refuse to hear our prayer because we didn’t pray in the correct order.
I know some people read the previous sentence and were thinking, “what about Isaiah 1:15-16?”
“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, (NIV)”
While on the surface this seems to indicate you must confess and be cleansed before God hears any of your prayers. I believe this is referring to an extended period of unrepentant behavior and a lack of desire to repent. But if you take this verse as more specific that’s fine “Confession” is first in the C.A.T.S. model.
We are commanded in God’s Word to confess our sins. This is not just a simple listing of our mistakes. Confession here implies repentance. Confession is going to God in brokenness asking for forgiveness and help to turn from your sins. In 1 John 1:9 the Apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (NIV)”. If you have accepted His sacrifice on the cross, believe and committed your life to Him, Jesus will forgive you. Yet His desire is for you to turn away from the sin and not continue to repeat it. When He forgave the woman caught in adultery He told her to “go and sin no more”, meaning don’t do that again.
In this type of prayer I try to be as specific as I can. I’m not doing this for God’s benefit, but for mine. God knows every sin I’ve ever committed or will ever commit. When I confess I am not telling Him anything He doesn’t already know. Specifically naming each sin forces me to face it. It is easy to go through the motions without being broken over your sin when you are vague.
Adoration is praising God for who He is. Adoration is being in awe of the attributes of God. Words fall short of truly expressing this awe, fortunately prayer is more than words. As you pray and meditate about the greatness of God, His Spirit in you will communicate with His Spirit. Through your words, your attitude and the Holy Spirit in you God will be praised!
If you ever struggle to find the words you can go to Psalms and read some of the great songs of praise to God. Praying the scriptures back to God is a powerful way to pray (but it shouldn’t be the only way- remember…balance).
Thanksgiving is not just turkey and football in November. Thanksgiving is an important type of prayer and an attitude which produces great fruit in life. Among other things an attitude of thanksgiving to God produces contentment and joy. Thanksgiving differs from adoration in that adoration is who God is and thanksgiving is what God has done. This is where you thank Him for feeding you and providing you with a job. This is also where you thank Him for the struggles and challenges in your life, because through them you grow and rely more on Him.
Supplication is asking. This includes asking for what you need and want for yourself. There is nothing wrong with asking for God to bless you. There is nothing wrong with asking God for what you want. Jesus asked God for things in His prayers. Supplication also includes asking for the needs of others. Often church prayer groups focus on this type of prayer.
Certain days or even seasons of life you will lean more towards one type of prayer or another. But to help have a more consistently balanced prayer life try to practice C.A.T.S.. When I began using this tool I would write each type of prayer in my journal with some space underneath to write down what my prayer was in each type. As time went on I began just writing CATS at the top of the page. Now it is pretty much a part of my prayer life without the reminders.
My hope and prayer is that you can use this to help you have a more balanced prayer life.