Some large number of years ago, actually, a very large number of years ago, I recall watching a late night TV show and one of the guests was the then president of the Screen Actors Guild ( SAG ). The host was most likely Jack Parr ( which is a clue as to how long ago the program was ) and the discussion turned to the number of plot lines in the movies.
Thousands of Movies, Only a Few Plot Lines
The guest indicated that there were in the order of under a dozen different plot lines for the tremendous numbers of movies which had been made. The most popular plot lines seemed to center around the following few:
Man or woman against nature,
Man or woman against the supernatural,
Man or woman against themselves, and
Man or woman against technology.
I was thinking of this recently due to the number of remakes that seem to be hitting the screen over the most recent few years. I decided to explore other media to see if they also had the same limited number of themes.
I located a book by Ronald B. Tobias, titled 20 Master Plots.( Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1993. (ISBN 0-89879-595-8) ). This book holds that there are essentially 20 themes in all of literature:
- The Riddle
- Forbidden Love
- Wretched Excess
Looking back as far as I could, it became rather easy to see how the hundreds, or thousands of books which I had read or to which I had been exposed fell into these categories. Horatio Alger, Zane Grey, Cervantes, and hundreds of other authors could have their works easily fitted into these categories.
How Many Kinds of Prayer?
That which represents itself as my mind then asked the question, “If there are that few number of plot lines or themes, how many kinds of prayer might there be?”
The act of praying has long been categorized using an acronym, ACTS of prayer. When the disciples asked Christ Jesus to teach them to pray, his response was the Our Father, and it is the pattern for the ACTS of prayer.
The “A” in ACTS is for Adoration, which is simply to acknowledge the greatness of God and His relationship to the universe He created. “Our Father, Who art in heaven hallowed be thy name…”
This rather simple opening phrase helps put us in the right place in our relationship with the Father. It reminds us that He is in charge and we are His creation, not His creator.
The “C” in ACTS is for Contrition, which helps us to see our transgressions, and in effect to agree with God about those things we have done which are less than ideal. “…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
Taken literally, this means that we are to be accountable to one another as well, making amends for transgressions against others, forgiving those who have harmed us, even if that harm is physical.
The “T” in ACTS is for Thanksgiving. The portion of the Lord’s Prayer where this is easiest to see is during Mass, during the Communion Rite when the congregation has just concluded the main portion of the prayer.
Priest: Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
All: For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.
This also appears in the King James Version of the instruction Christ gave to the disciples when they asked Him to teach them how to pray, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
This, once again, helps keep us in a proper perspective, we are to be grateful for all He has done for us and we are to stay mindful of our continuing need for His love, generosity, and faithfulness to us all through the typical day.
The “S” in ACTS is for “Supplication”. The standard dictionary definition of supplication is it is a humble petition to God for something. One of the most interesting definitions to supplication that I have encountered was from an evangelical minister who said that supplication was asking for something to which we had a right, essentially as a child would ask of a parent. “Give us this day our daily bread … and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”
Is That All There Is?
The ACTS of prayer would seem to cover almost all of the various categories of prayers, but rather much as with a Peggy Lee song ( written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller ), I found myself asking, “Is that all there is?”
A review of the sorts of spontaneous prayers I use during my daily life led me to a glorious form of prayer not accounted for in the ACTS acronym.
The form of prayer which I use all too infrequently would be categorized as “Wonderment” or amazement.
Each morning, I take our dog out for a walk. He appreciates it as it allows him to explore the neighborhood, as well as attend to some rather pressing needs. I use the time for prayer and meditation and to chat about what is going on with “The Big Guy”. During this quiet time, I will review the previous 24 hours, get ready for this 24 hours, and express any concerns I may have which may require some particular attention from Him.
A few days ago, if any of the neighbors had been looking out their windows, they would have received confirmation of their beliefs that I may be a bit weird. As my dog and I were walking along the creek in our neighborhood, my mind was going over the concerns that I had raised a few days previously.
From my perspective, the item(s) I had expressed concern over were comparable to either a mosaic which had hundreds of pieces all simply scattered about, or perhaps a tapestry I was viewing from the opposite side of the pattern, complex and without discernable design.
Reviewing the original issue, it appeared He had taken somewhat random threads from the tapestry and created a glorious solution to the issue, to the point that as my dog and I were walking along, I was forced to stop, look up, and give a heartfelt thumbs up to the Father of the Universe.
When you find the Hand of God at work in your life, stop and give thanks from a sense of awe and wonder, it will help you stay focused on the proper relationship with “The Big Guy” and it will make you much more attentive to His operating in your life.