Prayer is fruit. Prayer is not root.
"God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).
I grew up in a spiritual tradition and teaching that emphasized prayer as the primary spiritual dynamic by which the reality of God is known in our lives. If only we pray more and better, the teaching affirmed, we can live lives of better and more genuine faithfulness.
Surely we should hope that our life of prayer will grow in devotion, practice and effect. However, I found viewing prayer as the root of godliness to be frustrating at best, and futile at worst. Indeed, it seemed the more I sought to pray, the more prayer became merely a rote expression of vain repetition. And the better I sought to pray, the more such prayer loomed before me as a summit to which I could never ascend.
I wrongly viewed prayer as root rather than fruit. I still find myself strongly tempted by the enticement to make apples, as it were, apart from planting, nurturing and cultivating apple trees. During autumn, for example, McIntosh apples become available in local stores. Few creations of God more declare His existence, reality and beauty to me. I do not see how anyone who has caught a whiff of a McIntosh can fail to believe in God. Nor do I understand agnostism or atheism in those who have tasted this fruit upon which our Heavenly Father must have spent much consideration and thought in creating. I won't even go into the texture and beautiful appearance of the McIntosh. Suffice it to say that somebody, Somebody, had to have imagined and originated this sublime wonder, somebody so beautiful of heart that words fail to express His sublime wonder.
Interestingly, I have never seen a McIntosh apple tree, at least not in person. I live in the subtropics of the Deep South of the United States, where peach, pear, fig and other fruit trees grow in blessed abundance. Our climate is far too warm, however, for most varieties of apple trees to flourish and survive. My experience of the McIntosh apple, therefore, exists solely in the fruit. I don't actually think much about the trees that produce this gift of God. Indeed, if I didn't know better, I might think that the apples simply of their own accord popped out of the ground.
Similarly, if we view prayer as self-originating, we miss a blessed and necessary truth that enhances our experience of so great a gift. True prayer begins in God as His indwelling Spirit moves within those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to commune with our Heavenly Father. We would have no interest or capacity in prayer whatsoever apart from the desire of God for Heart to heart fellowship with us. "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8). The Holy Spirit draws and enables us to pray as we trust God, submitting ourselves to His motivating presence within us. All glory for true prayer thus flows to the Lord Jesus, even as we actively respond to His overtures of grace.
Prayer known as fruit rather than root opens new windows into spiritual reality. Most importantly, we increasingly discover the intensity of desire and delight in God for our fellowship. Of all the wonders of His nature, character and disposition, none should more fascinate and thrill us. The thoughts of our hearts and the sound of our voices are sweet to Him, so much so that He gave His Son to the horror of Calvary in order to make possible the fellowship of communion with many sons and daughters. Furthermore, He gave the Spirit of His Son to inhabit believers in order that prayer might grace us as fruit borne upon the branches of our hearts, minds and lips. Yes, prayer is fruit, the fragrant and beautiful fruit of the Holy Spirit revealing within us the "Abba Father" of the Lord Jesus who ever seeks the face His Father, and our Father.
"The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."