Prayer is a basic ingredient of the Christian faith, and faith is the power that makes prayer work.  So then, how does faith work?  Well, for some, not too well apparently.  We go through the motions of praying as our particular denomination has taught us, some begging, some declaring, some even commanding, some asking over and over and over again.  There are as many methods as there are denominations.  Everyone thinks they have the answer, but do they?  After all, the proof is in the results as they say.  There is a right and a wrong way to cause our faith to work, and the Lord Jesus gave us some valuable insight regarding faith in Matthew 17:14-21:

Mat 17:14  And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
Mat 17:15  Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
Mat 17:16  And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
Mat 17:17  Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
Mat 17:18  And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
Mat 17:19  Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
Mat 17:20  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Mat 17:21  Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

    Much to my surprise, even the disciples had problems sometimes getting their faith to work.  You would think of all people, their prayers would always be effective.  Not so.  By what we see above, this man brought his son to the disciples for a cure, and they couldn’t deliver the goods, even though they were in Jesus’ presence every day.  That tells me something; just being with Jesus doesn’t make your faith work, any more than just going to church makes you a Christian.  You have a part in the process, and you can’t expect God to do it all for you.  Oh, He will give you the tools to do everything you need to do in this life, but it’s your job to put the tools to work.  For example, I can give you a shovel, but it won’t dig a hole without your work behind it.
   Prayer is the same thing, you can pray all you want, but it won’t do a thing without faith backing it up.  As the Lord Jesus said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.  For a time, the Lord leads us by the hand, showing us how to do things.  But there comes a time, just as it came with the disciples, that He would not there to do everything for them, and He expected them to carry on the works as He had personally taught them. 
   In the above example, the disciples failed to cure the boy, and later they asked Jesus privately why they failed to cure him.  Jesus didn’t beat around the bush, but got straight to the point, and said; Because of your unbelief.  There are times we need answers, and right now, and not a bunch of theology.
   Now, I’m going to help you here: you can’t expect million dollar miracles on fifty cent faith.  I said, you can’t expect million dollar miracles on fifty cent faith!  The Lord Jesus went on to say; for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 
It is written in Mark 4:30-32:
Mar 4:30  And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
Mar 4:31  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:
Mar 4:32  But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
   Faith is like a muscle, it has to be developed.  You aren’t just going to wake up one day and be a faith giant.  The way a weight lifter gets big muscles is by exercising the strength he does possess to its fullest potential.  The next time he works out, he will be able to lift a little more,  Big muscles don’t come overnight, and indeed, it takes much diligence and effort to develop them.  It takes much discipline for bodybuilders to be successful.  They don’t get big muscles by sitting in front of the TV and eating cheeseburgers and fries, nor by sitting around looking at pictures of bodybuilders with big muscles.  They gain muscle by DOING what other bodybuilders do.
   No doubt the disciples were amazed at the miracles they saw the Lord Jesus doing.  I know I would have been. But He wasn’t doing miracles for entertainment.  He was teaching His disciples the principals by which He himself did them, so they could go out and do them, too.  You see, many go to church just to listen to the preacher, never thinking the day will come when they will be called upon to perform a miracle or heal someone.  But isn’t being a disciple of the Lord Jesus training you up to do what He did?
   As I said earlier, you can’t expect million dollar miracles on fifty cent faith.  But you CAN expect fifty cent miracles on fifty cent faith!  In other words, use the faith you DO have to its fullest potential, and it will grow, guaranteed!  What I’m saying is this: you may want a new car, and the tires on your old clunker are bald.  Be honest with God and yourself.  If you don’t have faith for God to supply you with a brand new car, do you have enough faith that God will provide you with some new tires for the car you have?  Then go for it!  After you’ve believed God for new tires and received them, believe Him for whatever other repairs it needs.  Work your faith like you would a muscle and watch it grow.  Fix that car up by faith until it’s all fixed.  You never know, the Lord might be having you fix that car up to sow as seed for your new car. 
   Now, don’t go nuts and give your car away just because I said that.  One time a fellow I knew gave his car away because I gave mine away.  He ended up losing his job because his job required he use his car.  Next he lost his apartment, and ended up homeless.  That isn’t faith; it’s foolishness and presumption.  Faith is also hearing from God and obeying His voice.  The Lord told me to fix my car up and give it away, and who to give it to.  Since then I’ve given away a total of six cars.  And they weren’t junk either, because the Lord had me fix every one of them up as best as I could make them.  And every time I’ve needed another vehicle, the Lord has provided a better vehicle than I gave away.  That has been a journey of faith-building for me.  I’m getting a Mercedes ready to give away right now, but the first one was only a Dodge.
   You have to develop your faith in steps.  How do you do that?  Depends what your need is.  Are you facing death in a few days or weeks like I was in 1993?  Then you’d better get to work like you mean it.  I started with two simple verses the Lord gave me in Psalm 103:2-3.  Oh, I guess I like to wear those verses out, but they were life and healing to me, so here they are again for about the hundredth time:  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
   I took those words as from God to mean exactly what He said, and doubted not.  After all, it is written in Hebrews 6:18 that it is impossible for God to lie.  Faith starts with the knowing that God is good for His Word, period, no matter what it looks like, what it feels like, what YOU feel like, or any other thing.  Faith and doubt are two opposite directions.  Just like in a car, you can’t go backward and forward at the same time.  Doubt will stop your faith cold in its tracks every time.  God will perform His Word, end of discussion, so give doubt the boot every time it tries to creep into your mind.  The Lord Jesus told us faith works if we doubt not, and yes, it’s really that simple!  I used those two verses to regain perfect health and keep it to this day, and nearly eighteen years have passed since I was supposed to die of cancer.  No treatments, just the Word of God.  And I kept exercising my faith for bigger and more urgent things than just my own needs.
   How many of you realize it isn’t all about you?  God has a reason for giving you the measure of faith He gave the Lord Jesus.  Yes!  You have the same measure of faith that was given to Jesus!!  He came to earth as a man, and it is written in Romans 12:3; For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.   There’s only one measure, and you have it, but you have to use it!
The Lord Jesus said you would do greater things than He did!  It isn’t just to believe God for a refill of your coffee cup and another donut.  God has a job for you that will require more faith than you think you have right now.  Listen, if you had enough faith to do what God wants you to do right now, you wouldn’t have to believe for it, would you?  No, He will always stretch your faith like a rubber band to where you think you’re about to break. But you won’t.  You’ll get stronger instead.
   Don’t be ashamed of small beginnings.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Why, I heard it took all weekend…Learn to believe God in spite of any circumstance you are facing.  My situation in the beginning basically required me to stop a speeding freight train in a couple hundred feet, but faith worked for me, and I’m still building it to this day.  Faith will work for you if you will work it.  You may argue with me about that, and that’s your right, but I’m living my faith, are you?  I’m pushing it hard to the limit every day, but the Lord is showing me there’s a lot more where that came from, and my faith tomorrow will be greater than it is today. It’s called mustard seed faith. How about your faith, are you forcing it to grow?.  Are people are being saved, healed, filled with the Holy Spirit every day because of your faith?  They should be!  Faith is your servant, and God gave it to you to not only have your own needs met, but to build the Kingdom of God here on Earth.  Don’t let your faith take a vacation, work it hard and make it grow, because you’ll never get million dollar miracles on fifty cent faith.