Prayer Is: A Conversation
This post is the first in a series on the nature of prayer.
We often define prayer as "talking to God" when teaching children, yet we all-too-often practice prayer as if it were a pre-defined set of steps and practices to be followed (A.C.T.S., prayer lists, etc.). Such practices can be wonderful tools as long as they are used to develop within us a real communal relationship with God. There are numerous "elements" that go into a healthy prayer life—indeed even elements prescribed by Scripture itself—yet we must remember that prayer is not the sum of these parts. If prayer is nothing more than the recitation of words and phrases in a set pattern, we might be guilty of "vain repetitions." By all means, use the A.C.T.S acrostic, refer to prayer lists, even pray the written prayers of other saints who have come before you. But don't stop until you have truly communed with God. Don't stop until you have found delight in His presence (Ps. 16:11). Don't stop until you have broken through the ritual and found real conversation. The Puritans had a phrase that summed this up: "pray until you pray."
 D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1992), 35–36.