Many Christians that I know will say how much they enjoy prayer in which they feel the presence of God in their lives, whether privately or prayer gathering of some kind. There is something powerfully refreshing about prayer. While on vacation I've been reading Octavius Winslow's The Work of the Holy Spirit. In a chapter on the Holy Spirit's life giving ministry of the new birth, Winslow observes that prayer is a returning of the reborn human spirit to God, the source of its life. Prayer renews in us that feeling that we have come home to our Father in heaven. (Conversely, to never feel the presence of God in prayer is deeply troubling and should move us to seek spiritual counsel if it is a persistent problem.) Winslow articulates the relationship between prayer and new life:
Prayer is the vital energy of a quickened soul, the spiritual breath of one, "born from above." It is the first symptom of sensibility--the first and strongest evidence that "the Spirit that quickens" has entered the soul, breathing over the whole man "breath of life." The pulse may at first beat but faintly, even as the first gentle heaving of an infant's bosom; still it is not less the product of the Spirit, the breath of God. "Behold he prayeth" is the announcement that sends gladness through the church of Christ on earth, and kindles joy among the angels of God in heaven. God the Father hastens to welcome the returning and resuscitated soul, and exclaims, "This my son was dead, and is alive again." Luke 15:24.
It will follow then that the absence of prayers marks the soul yet "dead in sins." What evidence can be more convincing? It is a symptom that cannot mislead. The praying soul is a quickened soul. The prayerless soul is a lifeless soul. The individual that has never truly prayed has never known what one throb of spiritual life is. He may content himself with the external form--he may kneel in the outer court of the tabernacle, and, as the holy Leighton expresses it, "breathe his tune and air of words," and yet continue an utter stranger to true prayer. Are you such a one? Let the voice of tender affection now lead you to a serious consideration of your real state. Do no mistake the outward form for the inward spirit of prayer. The soul may be dead, with all the appearance of life.
But where there is true prayer, there is real life; for prayer is the ascending of the Divine life to God from whom it came. It came from God, and returns to Him again. As the river flows towards the ocean, or as the infant turns to its mother, the author of its existence and the source of its nourishment, as the "well of water" in a renewed soul "springing up" rises heavenwards--so a soul born of God turns to God, its Author, its Sustainer, its Keeper. (The Work of the Holy Spirit, London: Banner of Truth, 1972 , pp. 46-47)