The practice of prayer is a very personal thing. Each of us has our own unique experience of communication with God, and our prayers change in style and content as we learn more about our God and his will.
All of us have a starting point in our Christian lives, and as a result it is only natural that our first prayers are simple. In my experience, prayer initially took the form of a ‘shopping list’ of things I wanted. My prayers were dominated by the things immediately affecting myself, rarely reaching further in scope than the things I needed or wanted. And whilst occasionally I would dutifully remember to thank God for the good things in my life, my prayers were mostly short and simple requests.
With time, I learned that prayer was not simply a matter of alerting God to what I wanted, but rather an expression to God of my innermost thoughts and feelings. At this stage, I would often structure my prayers around the acronym ‘A.C.T.S.’, which I still find to be very helpful:
Adoration: acknowledging who God is, his greatness and goodness
Confession: telling God the things I’ve done wrong
Thanksgiving: thanking God for the good things he has given me
Supplication: asking God for things
In recent years, I have started to realise that one of the primary purposes of prayer is to align my will with God’s (not the other way around!). We know that our prayers are powerful and can change things (James 5:16), but when we pray, we increasingly focus our thoughts on God, and the practice of prayer becomes something that transforms us. With time, we become more able to express our deepest desires and thoughts to God, and we find that our desires start to naturally conform to his will.