As we become familiar with God's mind for us we become increasingly aware of spiritual realities. In particular, we will approach Him more effectively the more we realize that He sees right through us.
Spiritually experienced people will pray effectively because they take care of the basic things first, clearing their consciences before God so they can be open and honest with Him.
Unless our lives are involved in an escalating consumption by God's glory in Christ, then we are not really seeking, and our prayers are not sincere. I am not talking about anything predictable nor am I trying to invent another religious standard of measurement. But I am talking about the Spirit of Truth working Himself out in us. I am talking about God's Living Water springing up when we least expect it, in immeasurable quantities from the inside-out. A steadily prayerful lifestyle leads to irresistible consumption by the infectious Spirit of God.
Christ's radical requirements will become increasingly clear to us as we spend more time with Him. There is no such thing as a diligently unrighteous, praying person. Something's gotta give sooner or later. The more time we spend time with Christ, the more we will desire to spend our lives in Him. God's goal for us in Christ is not just that we know Him at a glance, but rather, that we should be entirely consumed by Him.
And, since God does not answer prayer as our puny, natural minds tend to expect, persistent seeking is better than the hit-and-miss mentality. When a man prays and asks God for some selfish thing regularly, he honors God whether he means to or not with his diligence. If the most despicable man in the world persists in asking God for anything, God Himself will bring out and amplify that vital, Godly aspect of that man's praying, which is that he is seeking the Lord at all. In this case God's Spirit will honor Himself by instilling in that man a more profound appreciation of the Almighty.
The Lord will establish any diligently prayerful man in a deeper, stronger Foundation than he could have imagined when he first set out to ask for the "little things." Remember Christ's words, that God grows even a mustard seed of faith into a much larger plant. So drastic and heavenly is His work that it surprises the soil, anyone who was watching and even the seed from which the larger plant grew. This is all to God's glory that He turns a man's little bit into a bigger, unexpectedly powerful, heavenly blessing.
God will not answer our prayers and also leave us just the way we are. His business is to make His people into a heavenly people. Besides, He is too gracious and entirely too smart to leave us to fend for ourselves.
He wants either all or none of us. And such should be our attitude when we pray, that we will have either everything or nothing to do with Him. Our prayers either lead to us further into Him as our life-consuming All or we are praying religiously and our soul-numbing activity is leading us into nothing at all.
For God to give us what we want and leave us just the way we were would be an incomplete answer to prayer. True prayer, or sincere seeking, has this fundamental feature built into it, that it submits to God to bring about His results, in His timing, in His Way. This means, if you are petitioning God in any capacity, then you are also actively surrendering yourself to Him. Why else would you be praying except to submit to God's way of solving problems? Otherwise you might as well pray to yourself, your credit cards or your friends.
Such is the greatness of God in Christ, that He consumes the issues at hand, the words being prayed and the person praying all at the same time. Indeed, it is impossible to pray in the flesh. And it's impossible for us to experience the movement of God and still remain fleshly in our thinking and living.
So let it be a matter of common sense to us that we pray and seek the Lord best when we are consumed and led by His Spirit. How this works out in reality becomes clear to anyone who prays on a regular basis, who is faithful to listen to and follow Christ's direct guidance.