When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7.
There are two kinds of prayer—the prayer of form and the prayer of faith. The repetition of set, customary phrases when the heart feels no need of God, is formal prayer…. We should be extremely careful in all our prayers to speak the wants of the heart and to say only what we mean. All the flowery words at our command are not equivalent to one holy desire. The most eloquent prayers are but vain repetitions if they do not express the true sentiments of the heart. But the prayer that comes from an earnest heart, when the simple wants of the soul are expressed just as we would ask an earthly friend for a favor, expecting that it would be granted—this is the prayer of faith. The publican who went up to the temple to pray is a good example of a sincere, devoted worshipper. He felt that he was a sinner, and his great need led to an outburst of passionate desire, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” …
To commune with God we must have something to say to Him concerning our actual life. The long, black catalogue of our delinquencies is before the eye of the Infinite. The register is complete; none of our offenses are forgotten. But He who wrought wonderfully for His servants of old will listen to the prayer of faith and pardon our transgressions. He has promised, and He will fulfill His word….
After we have offered our petitions, we are to answer them ourselves as far as possible, and not wait for God to do for us what we can do for ourselves…. Divine help is to be combined with human effort, aspiration, and energy…. We cannot be borne up by the prayers of others when we ourselves neglect to pray, for God has made no such provision for us. Not even divine power can lift one soul to heaven that is unwilling to put forth efforts in his own behalf….
As thus step by step we ascend the shining ladder that leads to the city of God, oh how many times we shall be discouraged and come to weep at the feet of Jesus over our failures and our defeats…. Yet let us not cease our efforts. Heaven can be attained by every one of us if we will strive lawfully, doing the will of Jesus and growing into His image. Temporary failure should make us lean more heavily on Christ, and we should press on with brave heart, determined will, and unfaltering purpose.—Signs of the Times, August 14, 1884.