During the first couple of years I walked with the Lord, my prayers went something like this:
"God, help me to get that job."
"Jesus, please heal my throat."
"Lord, send enough money to pay these bills."
"Father, take away my fear."
It took me a while to realize that those spur-of-the-moment prayers were not accomplishing much. I guess I thought the idea was to do the best I could on my own, and then if I needed a lifeline from God, I grabbed for it. The only problem was I needed a lifeline every other minute.
I loved the Scripture that says, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matt. 7:7). I took God at his Word and was asking, seeking, and knocking on a pray-as-you-go basis. I also took to heart the Scripture that says, "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2). Great! I can easily remedy that, I thought, and I proceeded to ask for everything. But I was still not happy, and I didn't see the kind of answered prayer I desired.
One day as I was again reading that same verse, my eyes were opened to the next verse, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3). Could it be that the "God give me this, do that, wave your magic wand here, get me out of this mess" kind of praying was not what God desired for my prayer life? In utter frustration I said, "Lord, teach me how I'm supposed to pray."
He did exactly that!
I came to understand that prayer is not just asking for things—although that certainly is part of it. Far more importantly, prayer is talking with God. It's getting close to and spending time with the one you love. It's seeking him first, touching him, getting to know him better, being with him, and waiting in his presence. It's acknowledging him as the source of power upon whom you can depend. It's taking the time to say, Speak to my heart, Lord, and tell me what I need to hear. It is partnering with him. It is aligning our spirit with his to see that his perfect will is done. It is establishing ourselves and our lives as being connected to God.
We can't receive God's best for our lives, and we can't push back the things that were never God's will for us, except through prayer. We can't leave our life to chance. We have to pray about everything all the time, not just when things go wrong. We have to pray over anything that concerns us, no matter how big—"With God nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1:37)—or how small—"The very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matt. 10:30).
Without reducing prayer to a formula in the book 7 Prayers That Will Change Your Life Forever, I have outlined seven basic types of prayers that can bring lasting peace and positive change to your life: confession, salvation, release, submission, praise, promise, and blessing. But please don't be inhibited by these categories. They are just that: categories and suggestions.
And don't be concerned about prayer talk or church talk. The Bible tells us the basic qualification for prayer: "He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
The more you pray, the more you will find to pray about, and the more you'll be led to pray for others. Don't allow discouragement over unanswered prayer to cause you to doubt that God has heard you. If you have received Jesus and are praying in his name, God hears you, and something is happening whether you see it manifested in your life now or not. In fact, every time you pray, you're advancing God's purposes for you. Without prayer, the full purpose God has for you can't happen.
Excerpted from 7 Prayers That Will Change Your Life Forever, by Stormie Omartian (J Countryman), used with permission.