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People seem to think of prayer as a means to get things from God. Many teach about how to pray in order to ensure answers, using techniques such as worshipping God first, thanking Him for all His benefits and then asking for what we want. Others tell us to catch hold of a promise from the Bible, hold it before God and then to claim an answer from Him. But all this seems to miss the point of prayer. Of course, in its simplest form prayer is a request to meet our needs (Php.4:6), (and not a demand or claim). Praying in Jesus' name (Jn.14:13,14) is not using a mantra, but recognising the fact that our standing with God is based on Jesus being our Saviour and Lord, and making sure that our requests are in line with His character and will (1Jn.5:14).
But prayer is much more than requests. It is a means of communicating with God and sharing our life with Him that enriches our fellowship with Him. It is when we see prayer like this that we can think about praying without ceasing (uninterruptedly) (1Th.5:17). Think of going through the day sharing all our thoughts, words and deeds with Him. We consult with Him about what we should do, how we can deal with a particular situation, telling Him what we really feel, sharing with Him about the difficulties we face from our self for doing what He wants, asking Him for wisdom and strength, confessing to Him when we fail and asking for forgiveness, thanking Him for helping us to go through situations victoriously, praying for others we see in need, asking for wisdom to do what we can do to bless them, etc. This means we are in touch with Him even as we do our earthly work, eat, travel, relax, deal with other people, etc. As the Holy Spirit convicts us about what we have done wrong, we can learn from Him what exactly went wrong and how we can do things differently next time (He.4:15,16). When we feel overwhelmed by the burdens we have to carry we can lean on Him, share them with Him and find comfort and encouragement (Mt.11:28-30). He brings to our mind the things He has spoken to us earlier (Jn.14:26). We learn to become more understanding and merciful towards others, and can even get the right word from the Lord to bless them with (Is.50:4).
It is as we feed ourselves with the spiritual food of God's word (1Pe.2:2), and draw on His strength through prayer, that we grow in fellowship with God and become mature. This is also how we get to know Him closely and intimately. We can't jump into an intimate relationship with God by acting 'familiar' with God or calling Him 'Daddy'! As we open our life to Him and allow Him to deal with the intimate details of our life we get to know God as holy, righteous, loving and merciful.
When God asked Abraham to walk before Him and to be perfect (Ge.17:1), wasn't He also indicating the way to become perfect, by walking before Him? We can't grow by merely accumulating Bible knowledge (Jas.1:22) or spending long times in mechanical prayer (Mt.6:7).