Prayer is like a ladder, an ascent to God, step by step. This imagery can show us where prayer begins and to what heights it is capable of rising.
Step 1: Emergency prayer. Prayer commonly begins with the cry of escape. The lowest step on the ladder of the soul is the cry wrung from disaster or adversity.
Step 2: Confession. The next step of the ladder is the stage when prayer for outward help becomes a cry for deliverance from sin. Initially there is no thought of anything but the calamity which has befallen us. But slowly, as a person prays for help, there steals on him the strange conviction that he needs something deeper than assistance and that he is a sinner. So we cry out for a clean heart and right spirit.
Step 3: Request for personal virtue and grace. Deliverance is not everything if our walk is to be well-pleasing before God. We must become something, something in the image of Christ Himself, full of patience and courage and control. This can only happen through grace.
Step 4: Real submission to God’s will. We have to learn to get to the place where we can honestly trust God with the phrase, “Thy will be done.” This is the point at which we can have joy in prayer. Most people pray out of duty and not joy. Joy can’t be found in prayer if we come to God demanding our own way. Joy is born when we come to God wanting nothing but God and His ways