What is the Quickest Way to Improve My Prayer Life?

Dear Roger,

What is the quickest way to improve my prayer life?

Sincerely, Carrie

Dear Carrie,

Perhaps you’ve seen the acrostic “ACTS” which is a simple outline for effective prayer. It stands for “Adoration,” “Confession,” “Thanksgiving,” and “Supplication” (which means, “asking for things”). I personally have used this simple outline in my prayer life often. By the way, the order of these four is important.

Most prayers that I’ve heard start off with the person asking for things and failing even to touch on the other three.

Regarding confession, I consider this to be the lost art of the evangelical Christian church. The purpose of confession is to keep sin from dirtying up our ability to hear and see God (Matthew 5:8).

Of course, when God provides for our needs, it’s critical that we show our gratitude.

Praising God for his stellar character opens in avenue to effective praying. Praising God for his actions in history, as seen in the Bible, gives us confidence that just as he has brought victory to others he can bring victory to us. Praise is thanking him for both.


There are eight Hebrew words for praise used in the Old Testament. Incorporating their meanings into our praying is perhaps the quickest way to improve our prayer lives. Praying best begins with “A”— adoration, which is praise.

1. “HALLAL” is the most common term for praise in the Bible. It simply means bragging on God even to the point of appearing foolish.

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise (Hallal) the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you” (Joel 2:26).

You and I might say that it’s easy to identify those who earnestly love the Lord. They praise him lavishly with a joy filled heart.

We go to a football game and scream and holler and no one thinks it’s abnormally foolish. But, if we scream and holler about God then we are called fanatics! There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s probably a good thing.

2. “YADAH” means “to throw out the hands, to worship with extended hands.”

 “Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord” (Psalm 134:2”.

Our hands are an inevitable part of any response pattern. They are an extension of our personalities.

We use them when we walk, work and communicate.

When we are embarrassed we don’t know what to do with our hands. Should we stuff them in our pockets or hide them behind our backs?

An angry man clenches his hands into fists and threatens to do damage with them.

A worried man wrings his hands together.

A terrified man clenches his hands in fear.

A desperate man tends to throw up his hands in resignation.

A puzzled man holds out his hands with palms up in wonderment and dismay.

We use our hands to welcome and invite.

An accusing man points a finger..

The raising of the hands is an international symbol of surrender. Unfortunately, that really doesn’t capture the essence of the meaning of this kind of praise. When my children were younger they ran often to me with hands outstretched. Outstretched hands are the age-old gesture which everyone recognizes as a cry for help--or expressive joy.

The word “Yadah” is used over 90 times in the Old Testament. The root word for “Yadah” is, “yad”, which means, “hand”. The lengthened form means “to cast” or “throw out”.

Many of us today are greatly in need of help. It’s time to lift our hands in submission to God. After all, God only response to those who are willing to admit that they are in need of help.

3. “BARAK” means to kneel, bless or salute. It suggests the transcendent privilege of blessing the Lord.

“And Job said,’ naked I came from my mother’s worm, and naked I shall return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord’” (Job 1:21).

4. “TEHILLAH” is used over 50 times in the Bible. Its accepted meaning is the singing of “Hallals”.

Tehillah involves music and especially singing. Singing is vital to the worship of God. There are over 300 biblical mandates to say.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to grant comfort to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise (Tehillah) instead of a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61:3).

God is your praise (Tehillah) suggests that God himself is a song of praise. This corresponds with Exodus 15:2 and the song that Moses sang. God is our song.

Incidentally, it appears that atomic particles are vibrating “strings”. Different frequencies produce different particles.

5. “ZAMAR” is used almost exclusively in poetry. It literally means to pluck the strings of an instrument, to sing or praise.

Zamar speaks of using every available instrument to make music and harmony before the Lord!

It is God’s will for us to be filled with joy! Nehemiah (8:10) declares that: “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Use Zamar when you are rejoicing after God has done something great for you.

Zamar is our basic New Testament word for singing. It is translated into the New Testament as Psalms (“psallo”).

Paul mentioned in Ephesians 5:19 that when we gather to worship we are to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Psalms, of course, are the Psalms in our Bibles. Hymns are songs that are based on Scripture. Spiritual songs are based on personal testimony or on singing from the innermost human spirit.

Each winter we had an influx of Northerners who left the bad weather to come and enjoy the delightful Tucson winter climate. We call them Snow-Birds. One Snow-Bird, leaving to go back home in the North, shared with me about the music wars going on in her church back home. Organs and pianos were in. Drums, guitars and horns were not. She told me how she intended to work on the leadership to help them make the music more appealing to those who were younger.

The next January she returned to Tucson and she was so excited: “the church leaders finally let us put an electric guitar on the stage,” then she paused and said, “and maybe someday they’ll let us plug it in!”


6. “TODAH” also refers to throwing our hands; but it goes a step further. It includes an attitude of gratitude for God’s promised salvation and deliverance.

Todah praise is given while we are still in danger. It is a Thanksgiving offering that is given to God as we give him thanks even before he’s helped us. Todah is the type of praise which is yet to see victory, but feels confident enough to thank God before victory has even come

In Psalm 56 while David was trapped by the Philistines in Gath, he gave thanksgiving and offered Todah praise fully expecting Gods deliverance.

An interesting combination of the Hebrew words for praise is seen in Psalm 100:4:

 “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving (Todah) and into his courts with praise (Tehillah); give thanks to him and praise (Barak) his name.”

Notice the parallel with our “ACTS” acrostic. We must come into God’s presence with praise and thanksgiving if we intend to make our prayers effective. Once we are in the courts we humble ourselves with confession and may then proceed to lay out our needs before God.

7. “SHABACH” means , “to shout or to address in a loud voice.”

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was struck insane by God for his wicked pride and arrogance. He became like an animal, living outside the city, eating bugs and surviving as a madman. After seven years God brought him back to his senses. He recognized his antagonism toward the Lord God Almighty. He repented, and God restored his sanity. Nebuchadnezzar used the term “Shabach” in the following soliloquy. He shouted out to his subjects:

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise (Shabach) and extol and honor the King of heaven; for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37).

8. “HALLELUJAH” is the premier biblical word for praise. Hallelujah is the spontaneous outcry of one upon whom the consciousness of the Majesty of God has just dawned.

“Hallal” is the word for praise while “Jah” is the shortened form of the name for God.

The word “hallelujah” is used only 24 times in the Old Testament— all between Psalm 104 and 150. It’s used seems to be reserved for times of extreme exultation.

“Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless (Barak) the Lord, O my soul! Praise (Hallelujah) the Lord” (Psalm 104:35).

In the New Testament the word, “Hallelujah,” is used even more sparingly. All the “Hallelujahs” of the New Testament are found in Revelation 19.

Against the background of God’s victory over the forces of evil as described in the book of Revelation, John recorded how God’s glory is manifest in his salvation work. We win because he wins! Hallelujah!!!

The final hallelujah of the Bible is reserved for the Second Coming when Jesus’ enemies are completely defeated and he reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Carrie, I hope that you find some thoughts in my answer which will help you as your prayer life continues to grow and mature.

Sincerely, Roger

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