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Written by Louis Roth
I believe Charles Stanley has it right when he says, “Prayer does not happen by accident.”  We have all seen the TV shows where one person tells another that they have to reconnect with their parents, children, or a spouse after years of no communication. The typical response is, “what will I say?” When you don’t have any contact for one year, then five or more years: no relationship. As time passes, you know less and less about these people. If there was a problem, they have probably moved on. My wife talks to her mother every week. She gets the family gossip, what is the latest on mom’s health, etc. It goes both ways. Stanley makes this same point. There isn’t a relationship with the Lord unless you make an effort to communicate. In this case, the Lord still knows everything about us, but we have separated ourselves from knowing God’s will for our lives when we stop praying.
“Voicing … concern about a problem to a friend is not prayer. Silently wishing something might be so is not prayer. Confessing a fault to another person is not prayer. Feeling a spring in our step as we rejoice in the warmth and beauty of an April day is not prayer.
To be engaged in prayer, we must voice our problem to God … with an expectation that He not only will hear us but will respond to us.” 
A simple definition.
“Prayer. … A classic definition of Christian prayer is “an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies (Westminster Shorter Catechism)…” 
Find a quiet place.
Do you want to know about prayer? Then copy what Jesus did while on earth is the perfect example. The first principle is to find a secluded place to pray. Indeed in Urban settings, this is difficult to carry out. If you have any noise, radio, TV, etc., make solitude difficult as well. Mark 1:35–6 tells us that Jesus made a point to get away from the commotion to pray. At times, the disciples are too much commotion for Jesus (Mark 6:45–47). These passages are perfect examples of intentional prayer focused on the Father.
Who should be in our prayers?
When Jesus prayed, His prayers cover all aspects of His life and ministry. We should all follow this lead. Are you involved in Children’s Ministry? Then pray for your helpers and students. Small-Group leader? Pray for those in your group. A director? Then pray for those in your ministry, Pray for your church leadership! Anybody in your sphere of influence needs your prayer. Pray for those who will come into your life in the future. But this can happen if your prayer life exists and the prayer intentional (John 17:1–26). For a good discussion on this passage see “Nelson’s New Testament Survey: Discover the Background.” Not sure about what to say, not to worry (Rom. 8:26–27). McGee has a beautiful take on this passage:
‘Now, if I go to God in prayer and say, “Look, Lord, I want You to do it this way,” That’s the way I usually do it, and I may not get the answer the way I prayed. But it’s wonderful sometimes to go to the Lord and say, “Lord, I don’t know what to ask for. I don’t know what to say. But I’m coming to You as Your child. And I want Your will done.” And the Spirit of God then will make intercession for us according to the will of God. My, again, how wonderful that is!’
Paul is stating that the Holy Spirit will help with our prayers similarly as He helps with handling life’s adversity. It’s an example of the Spirit’s actively being a part of our lives.
How often should we pray?
Nonstop is the easy answer. Paul talks about “constantly” or “unceasingly” praying for those in his sphere of influence (1 Thess. 1:2–3, 2:13, 5:7, Romans 1:9). When Jesus began his ministry on earth, he prayed: Luke 3:21–23, Matthew 3:13–17, and Mark 1:9–11. Jesus uses the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1–8) to teach that prayer must be frequent and intentional. In this parable, The widow badgers the judge, who is not on her side until he gives in and gives her justice. Jesus finishes by stating that wouldn’t the Father, who is on your side, give you what you need.
1. Stanley, C. F. (1997). Talking with God: Discover New insights to help deepen your prayer life (electronic ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
3. Bailey, M., Constable, T., Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. (1999). Nelson’s New Testament Survey: Discover the Background, Theology and Meaning of Every Book in the New Testament (p. 188). Nashville: Word.
4. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Prayer. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1745). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
5. McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 4, p. 703). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
6. Kruse, C. G. (2012). Paul’s Letter to the Romans. (D. A. Carson, Ed.) (p. 351). Cambridge, U.K.; Nottingham, England; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos.