I think it started back when I was eighteen, this journey He's taken me on.
I began reading "The Necessity of Prayer" by E.M. Bounds in January 2009... I caught glimpses of the power, the importance and the beauty of prayer. In spite of seeing those things, however, prayer had still not become a crucial part of my life. I would easily skip praying for days on end... of course, when I realized it had been a while, I felt bad and tried to get back to it again. Still, however, it was more of a nice idea than a reality in my life.
Not long afterwards, Pastor Mark preached on prayer and challenged us to spend a minimum of ten minutes in prayer daily. I decided to take up the challenge: didn't always make it to a full ten minutes every day, but I tried. And through this practice, I became more and more consistent.
In May of 2010, God started impressing on me strongly the need to pray for one person in particular--so I started doing that.
God was drawing me steadily nearer to Him... through many sermons, books, and so forth. The days when I did not pray became fewer and fewer and farther in between.
In January of 2011, I read the book Forgotten God, along with several other fantastic books: God Smuggler (Brother Andrew), Brucko, The Hiding Place, and more. I also refrained from internet use (for the most part) for the entire month--which meant more time to pray and think. Something happened that month. I am not sure how to describe it, or what it was. But something is different.
In June I read the book "Wrestling Prayer"... wow. I highly recommend it. In that book, it mentioned a book called "Intercessor". I was just going to read the other two books it mentioned, since I had those. However, a friend of mine mentioned Intercessor and said I must get it. Since I had the money in the bank, I ordered it that day-- and got it two days later which was... crazy.
I finished Intercessor in July and was moved by it in many ways. I "happened" to be reading it during a time when a group of people especially need powerful prayer... which worked out really well.
I have since read "Prevailing Prayer", "The Power of a Praying Woman" and very recently "Why Revival Tarries"... each one broadening my understanding of prayer and of God and increasing my delight and awe in it... and Him.
I am very excited to see where He takes me from here!
I used to hear people saying that prayer was like a conversation. I wondered if it were really true. I never experienced it like that... But now--I have.
I used to read about people praying for hours and wondered how on earth they could keep praying for THAT LONG. Now... I understand. I still don't do it, at least not regularly... but I'm beginning to see how that works.
Now... I don't know what it is to go a day without prayer. I don't think I could do it if I tried--God has made it so much a part of who I am that I do it without even realizing at times. Sometimes I will be in the middle of something--anything-- and I suddenly know I need to drop everything and go pray.
I've experienced His presence in awesome ways... seen Him do so many incredible things, big and little, through my (and others, I'm sure) prayers... grown to know and love Him like never before.
Why do I tell you all of this? To brag on how wonderful my prayer life is? No... not at all. There is so much to be desired in my prayers. There are still many days when my prayers are brief and lack passion. There are still days when it feels like a chore. There are still so many more "levels" of prayer that I have not yet attained.
Rather, I want to encourage you on in your own prayer life: just DO it. Make yourself take that time every single day to spend 5-15 minutes in concentrated prayer. After awhile, it is no longer a chore: it becomes a joy and a privilege.
There is simply nothing like knowing that your prayers affected eternity... that God used you and your words to bring about something amazing. It never ceases to amaze me how much God cares about the little things: and then, on the other end, how He effortlessly makes impossible things happen. It's so, so important to always remember that no prayer is too small: and no prayer is too big. (provided, of course, that you are praying according to God's will and character.) God is all powerful: thus, to God, there is no real difference between what we as humans view as "hard" and "easy". Don't belittle God by not asking for big, "hard" things!!
The fact that we can talk to God is... mind blowing. It's one of those things, I think, that is so beyond our comprehension that we barely even realize how very awesome it really is... And then... not only are we allowed into His presence in this way... but He listens to US! To us! Remember who we are? We are indescribably small and horridly wicked... and yet... He not only allows us to come before Him: He longs for us to do so!!!
Oh, there is so much to say on this topic... all I can really hope to do is get you excited enough to learn about and experience prayer for yourself.
In closing... a few quotes from some of the books I mentioned.
"O brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper--and sleep too--than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest. The Lord is near. He comes softly while the virgins slumber."-- Andrew Bonar
"...remember, God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ask or think. When we pray things that are on our King's heart, no matter how outlandishly audacious your prayers might seem to your own ears, they are nothing in light of God's willingness and ability to answer them." --Eric and Leslie Ludy, in Wrestling Prayer
"The potency of prayer hath subdued the strength of fire; it hath bridled the rage of lions, hushed the anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. Prayer is an all-sufficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine which is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother, of a thousand blessings." --Chrysostom
“Let our prayers, then, be for Christ’s sake. If we want our sons and daughters converted, let us pray that it be so for Christ’s sake. If that is the motive, our prayers will be answered. If God gave up Christ for the world, what will He not give up for us? If He gave up Christ to the murderes and blasphemers, and the rebels of the world lying in wickedness and sin, what would He not give to those who go to Him for Christ’s sake? Let our prayer be that God my advance His work, not for our glory--not for our sake--but for the sake of His beloved Son whom He hath sent.
So let us remember that when we pray we ought to expect an answer. Let us be looking for it.” --D.L. Moody, Prevailing Prayer