Many times people equate prayer to asking God for stuff. It is not surprising given that our English word pray means to ask earnestly or entreat. The original word in Hebrew is tefilah (teh-fee-LAH) and its root is from the word to judge. So the way Jesus and the disciples understood prayer was to judge oneself. It is from this basic position that we will begin to understand prayer in a more thoughtful way.
The one essential element to prayer is to pray like you mean it. That means to pray with focus, concentration, and devotion. You must pray from the heart. Prayers cannot just become something that you say, or something that you do, they must convey the deep sense of your inner being to God. Without this why should God take notice? If you do not mean what you pray should God take it seriously? To pray from the heart is to access the throne of heaven.
A Heavenly Ladder
Prayer is like a ladder that connects earth with heaven. On the first rung of the ladder is the rung of self-evaluation. When we pray we must examine ourselves. When we ask God to look after our general welfare and provide for our daily needs we must take time to examine our own lives to see if we are living according to His instructions. If He is our heavenly Father and we are His children, then are we obedient children or are we difficult children? If we are obedient we can expect that he will bless us, and if we are difficult we can expect corrective measures done out of love, and in our best interests. When we take time to judge ourselves we begin to see that we are in need of God's grace because any right judgment gives us a spirit of humility before God. We know that there is always room for improvement so we do not go around with a prideful self-entitlement attitude with God. This leads to a confession of wrongdoing (sin), and asking for forgiveness. In this we resolve to do better and our walk with the Lord improves.
On the second rung of the ladder prayer becomes a personal worship service. The Hebrew word for service is avodah (ah-vo-DAH) in English this is where we get the word devotion. This devotion becomes our service of worship. The Bible speaks of us as being refined by fire, to take out the impurities of our character. This is what the work of worship does, it purifies our souls before God giving us a clean feeling on the inside. We become generous instead of stingy, we become patient instead of impatient, we become gracious instead of ornery. This is what makes us holy, set apart from the world. We refine ourselves making our lives acceptable and pleasing to God.
The third rung of the ladder is attachment. We want to become attached to God through His commandments. One of His commandments is to pray, however we see the word commandment as a hard unyielding word when in actuality it is a life-saving word. When we give commandments to our children it is for their protection and benefit. We command them not to run into the street without looking, we command them to clean themselves, we command them to eat the proper foods. We do not do this because we want to rule over them, we do this so that they may grow to maturity, happy and healthy. It is the same with God. When we do his commandments it helps us grow into mature people. We attach ourselves to Him in this way, and one of the main commandments for us is to pray to Him. Not for His benefit but for ours. When we do this our spirit becomes attached to His spirit proving that we are His children, because we follow His instructions. When we attach ourselves to Him we become one with Him.
A Simple Order of Daily Prayer
PRAYER UPON WAKING
THE FEAR OF THE LORD
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
THE ARMOR OF GOD
THE LORD'S PRAYER
PRAYER FROM THE HEART
After the preceding prayers (which are all Bible verses) pray for requests and whatever God puts on your heart.