Jesus spends a lot of time in the Gospels not only teaching His followers how to pray, but also teaching about how not to pray.
Prayer is absolutely very powerful. I have experienced the awesome power of prayer first hand, and it totally blows me away every time.
But following right on the heels of experiencing that totally awesome power – for me anyway – is always the temptation to think of God as being like a magic genie, ready and able to grant my most heartfelt wishes. I think the correct term for that is “sin.”
The prayer mistake I keep finding myself tempted to make (the “magic genie” mistake) is that of asking God to help me realize MY will rather than asking Him to give me the wisdom and skills and resources to be an effective instrument of HIS will.
I think it is the latter of these two kinds of prayerful requests that He assures us He will always grant (Matthew 7:7-8). I also think that as I study and grow and mature as a Gospel-led Christ-follower the difference between those two different things will continue to shrink … not because I influence God’s will, but because God influences my understanding and desires.