A young man was to be sentenced to the penitentiary. The judge had known him from childhood, for he was well acquainted with his father--a famous legal scholar and the author of an exhaustive study entitled, "The Law of Trusts." "Do you remember your father?" asked the magistrate. "I remember him well, your honour," came the reply. Then trying to probe the offender's conscience, the judge said, "As you are about to be sentenced and as you think of your wonderful dad, what do you remember most clearly about him?" There was a pause. Then the judge received an answer he had not expected. "I remember when I went to him for advice. He looked up at me from the book he was writing and said, 'Run along, boy; I'm busy!' When I went to him for companionship, he turned me away, saying "Run along, son; this book must be finished!' Your honour, you remember him as a great lawyer. I remember him as a lost friend."
How tragic that the man had finished his book but lost his son.
When it comes to prayer, there are plenty of people who get caught up in techniques and principles that would manipulate God to respond thus and so. They are like the judge who wanted to shame the son for not living up to the reputation of his father.
Eugene Peterson’s translation (The Message) frames the words of Jesus in this way:
The judges and shame-teachers sometimes forget that we are like children. The trust and vulnerability we have before a loving father favours relationship with the Father over selfish gain or proving someone’s point. To know the comfort and nurture of a loving father is a deeply personal experience.
Prayer is not about promoting mental techniques, gaining personal power or advantage. It is about being loved and known by the Father.