One of the more subtle mistakes we make in our spiritual lives is to substitute polite conversation for heartfelt prayer with God. Polite conversation tends to review the things we know God likes to hear; praise for His kindness, petition for our needs, a reference to others and their needs.

It's neat and orderly, all the bases covered and when it's over you feel that a duty has been done and you can go on with the rest of your life. Polite conversation tends to hear polite responses. You tell God that He's OK and He tells you that you're just fine, your prayers have been heard and that He will take care of everything.

Heartfelt prayer, on the other hand, is messy. Sometimes there is no room for niceties and a review of blessings. For the most part, it's a cry for help or the sudden realization that you've acted hypocritically as God reveals you to yourself. Heartfelt prayer lasts only for a moment at times, when the certainty of His presence overcomes you, not as a thought but as a total awareness – like awakening from sleep.

There are moments when heartfelt prayer leaves you only with a question to ponder or an expression of love from the heart. Sometimes it's a sudden insight about how His word relates to your life or simply an expression of thanks wrapped sincerely in hushed tones. Polite conversation is talk when there's nothing to say. Heartfelt prayer is the overflow that comes from spiritual living.

It's OK to have polite conversation, it keeps the line of conversation open and maintains familiarity. But the kind of spiritual growth that will move us to die for Christ only comes through prayer where both parties share what they honestly think and feel.