“Ask and you shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened to you….” These words are among the more unpleasant ones ascribed to Jesus Christ. - Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way
These words tell us that we are responsible for taking action. That we cannot sit there and day dream, hoping one day things will be given to us. That our dreams will somehow magically come true. I call this "some day my prince will come" attitude and is one of the harmful narratives told by fairy tales and simplified religion.
Conversely, we are at the same time also told an equally harmful narrative. That if we try, we can make anything happen. That through our mere actions we can bring about a specific result. Only if we work hard enough. Is this not equal in its folly?
We can only control our actions and commit to a process. The result depends on a huge number of things outside of our control. Things such as other people's actions, both close to us and on the other side of the world (think of chaos theory and the flapping of a butterfly's wing). And luck. And innate uncertainty in the world, which is written into the fabric of our universe.
Prayer is about process. Our choices and actions are the active parts to prayer - an action. Humility and submission are the other half of prayer.
We pray and promise that we will commit to a process for our deepest dreams and hopes. At the same time we submit the future outcomes to Divine Will (by which I don't mean a particular god of any faith, don't get me wrong). We submit in faith that the world is good and is founded on love. That there is a direction in the universe and it bends towards love and goodness. So we trust in the process. And pray.
The prayer of serenity comes to mind. "God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference."