1) Believing, hoping, or even just wishing that an intelligent higher power exists. No offense to those who have imaginary friends, but I do not attempt to communicate with beings who do not exist, nor do I talk to rocks. I sometimes talk to food when I am preparing it, something I picked up from the late Justin Wilson, but outside of that I reserve communication to living beings with at least a modicum of intelligence. To communicate with God requires some bare belief that some being exists that could be considered God. I believe God exists.
2) Believing, hoping, or even just wishing that this God can hear me. I can try to talk to my dad all day, but if I do not pick up the phone he will not hear me. He lives 700 miles away. I believe that God can hear me and everyone else at the same time. I do not pretend to know how that works, but the Bible and experience tell me it does. I believe God can hear me.
3) Believing, hoping, or even just wishing that this God has the power to answer prayer. This is where things get a little more tricky. Often it is wonderful to just know that God is out there and cares about us, but do we believe he can actually affect our lives and the world? At this point we are taking a leap from the natural laws into belief of supernatural power. Without this belief all we can pray is “Hi.” Some days I am satisfied with the knowledge he is there, but most days I need help. Every day the world needs help. I would not pray to an impotent God anymore than I would ask my dog to mow the lawn (that would be one heckuva trick!). I believe in an all-powerful God.
4) Believing, hoping, or even just wishing that this God has a desire to answer my prayer. This is where revelation is essential. Without knowing of the character of God revealed in scripture and most perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ, God would simply be an unknown entity just as likely to respond with evil, good, or apathy. But through Jesus we know that God is loving and desires a relationship with each of us. We know that the relationship God desires is one of parent and child, not master and slave. Because of this we can trust that not only will God receive us in prayer, but that he will respond in a loving way. This does not mean that we will get what we ask anymore than a good parent gives a child a shotgun just because he wants one. It means that he responds with what we truly need which is sometimes exactly what we want. I believe that God loves me.
5) Admitting that you need what only God can supply. If you think you have it all together and need nothing that you cannot just go get for yourself, then prayer is unlikely for you. But if you are like me, you know without a doubt that you cannot get by without God’s help. Sometimes we just have to be desperate enough to pray. This happens when we run out of options. I admit I need help.
I hope you will make prayer your first option not your last. Trust that God exists, God hears you, God is more powerful than any problem, and God loves you and will use that power for your sake. Give up your fight for independence and surrender to a life of grace.
If you meet these conditions you can then pray in a way that will change your life, the lives of others, and the world.