Prayer is the word commonly used for all interaction with God. But it should be kept in mind that the word prayer covers and includes three different forms of discourse with God. All prayer grows up through, and ever continues in three stages.
The first form of prayer is communion. That is simply being on good terms with God. Communion involves my coming to God through the Lords Jesus Christ. Communion is fellowship with God. Not request for some particular thing; not asking, but simply enjoying and abiding in Christ, loving Him and thinking about Him. Thinking how beautiful, and intelligent, and strong, and loving, and lovable He is – just fellowshipping with Him without words.
That is the truest worship, thinking how worthy He is of all the best we can possibly bring to Him, and infinitely more. Communion has to do with God and a man being on good terms with each other. Of necessity it includes confession on my part, and forgiveness on God’s part, for this is the only way we can come into true fellowship. Adoration and worship belong to this first phase of prayer. Communion is the basis of all prayer. It is the essential breath of the true Christian life. It concerns just two, God and you alone. Its inferences are directly subjective. It affects me.
The second form of prayer is petition. And I am using that word now in the narrower meaning of asking something for oneself. Petition is a definite request of God for something I need. A man’s whole life is utterly dependent upon the giving hand of God. Everything we need comes from Him. Our friendships, ability to make money, health, strength in temptation and in sorrow, guidance in difficult circumstances, and in all of life’s movements; help of all sorts-financial, bodily, mental, spiritual-all come from God, and necessitate a constant touch with Him.
There needs to be a constant stream of petition going up, and often this is expressed without words. There will be a constant return stream of answers and supply coming down. The door between God and one’s own heart must be kept ever open and the knob to be turned is on our side. He opened His side long ago, and propped it open, and threw the knob away. The whole life hinges upon this continual connection with our wondrous God. This is the second stage or form, of prayer. It concerns just two – God and a man dealing with each other. It is subjective in its influence and its reach is within.
The third form of prayer is intercession. True prayer never stops with petition for oneself. It reaches out for others. The very word intercession implies a reaching out for someone else. It is standing as a go-between, a mutual friend between God and someone who is either out of touch with Him, or needs special help. Intercession is the climax of prayer. It is the outward drive of prayer. It is the effective end of prayer outward. Communion and petition are upward and downward.
Intercession rests upon these two as its foundation. Communion and petition store the life with the power of God; intercession lets it out on behalf of others. The first two are necessary for self; this third is for others. They ally a man fully with God; it makes use of that alliance for others. Intercession is the full-bloomed plant whose roots and strength lie back and down in the other two forms. It is the form of prayer that helps God in His great love plan for winning a planet back to its true sphere.
Reference: Quiet Talks on Prayer by S. D. Gordon