I had been involved in ministry for over 25 years when I admitted to God that I didn't understand prayer. Involved in the prayer summit movement, I spent days at retreat centers with pastors of almost every denomination. We prayed morning, noon and night. We encountered God. I was immeasurably enriched and forever changed. I had found the heart of ministry --the pursuit of His presence. Still, I longed to understand the workings of prayer.
My quest ultimately sent me back to Scripture; specifically, to the prayers of the Bible. Those prayers provided insights that radically changed my perspective. Prayer, I discovered, wasn't fundamentally "asking of God"--petition. Nor was the center of prayer passionate intercession. It wasn't simply "talking to God" or engaging in any one of a host of other valuable prayer functions--meditation, supplication, beseeching, crying out, petition, adoration, confession, thanksgiving, praise, supplication and more. Prayer involves discerning, wrestling, resting, pulling-down, rooting-out, warfare, reconciliation, agreement, watching, resting, hearing and obeying. It encompasses all of these, but it is more than even the sum total of these components.
We see prayer as us pursuing God. We pray--and wonder where He is. We ask, and wait, for answers that don't readily come. But, in truth, we're not the chasers--God is the real chaser! In Genesis, God pursues, God talks, God blesses, God sets boundaries, and then He acts to redeem, saving the relationship.
He wants a relationship with you, more than you want one with Him. Remember, God is not so much disappointed with you when you fail to pray, as He is disappointed for you!
When we go to our secret place, God races there ahead of us. Sometimes He doesn't even disclose His presence. Jesus notes, He that "sees in secret" will "reward openly." God hides in our prayer closet and then manifest Himself in the public square. The private moments of surrender translate into public God-moments punctuated with His Presence.
As we seek to please God, live in His love, refuse to doubt His character, wade through the pain of life with a certain resilience from above--God rewards us. And the rewards of praying are greater than the answers to prayer.
Establish a new benchmark for healthy prayer--"Father, I know that You love me, and I love You with all my heart, soul and might and I want to please You!" Meet God in prayer, when your only desire is to be with Him.
 For an extensive listing, see Lockyer, All the Prayers of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1959).
 See The Praying Church Resource Guide, Section 3 for definitions of each of these prayer functions. P. Douglas Small, The Praying Church Resource Guide (Kannapolis, NC: Alive Publications, 2013).
P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer's Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.
Dr. Small serves as a member of the board of trustees of Holmes Bible College in Greenville, SC.