In Matthew 14, we find the familiar story of Jesus feeding 5,000 men plus their families with just five loaves of bread a couple fish. A detail that often gets overlooked is found in verse 19. The disciples report that they only have a small amount of food. Jesus tells them to bring the food to him and then "He commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass" (HCSB). At that point, I'm sure the disciples must have thought that he was crazy. All he had was a few loaves and fishes and he commanded five thousand men with their families to sit down and get ready to eat! What in the world was Jesus doing? Jesus was getting ready to swing before he put his money in the batting cage.
Jesus knew what he was going to do. He knew the miracle he was asking for and which would surely come and he prepared for it. He acted as if he already had the food on hand and was simply distributing it. Many times throughout scripture we see this same M.O.. Ten lepers came to Jesus to be healed and he instructed them to go show themselves to the priests (who could verify their healing) but they weren't healed until they actually headed on their way to the priests (Luke 17:11-19). Elijah asked a woman who had just enough to feed herself and her son to first make a meal for him and that God would provide for her, but it wasn't until she actually made Elijah's meal that she could watch God keep her containers from emptying out. (1 Kings 17:8-16)
Quite often we ask God to provide, we ask God to do big things in our lives, but then we go on living as if nothing has changed. Instead, when we ask God to provide, to meet a need, to do something big in our lives, we should demonstrate the faith to live like God has already provided, we should prepare to receive what God is going to send our way. If we are praying that God will send us someone to share our lives with, we should be preparing ourselves to be the most stable, mature and godly persons possible so we are ready for their appearance. If we are asking God to send young families to our churches, we should prepare our facilities and our classes for them so that we are ready to welcome them and send the right messages when they come. If we are praying that God will bless us financially, we should be making sure that our financial house is in order so that we are ready to handle that blessing well.
Part of having faith is preparing to receive the things that we are praying for. If we don't, it's like trying to stretch after putting your money in the batting cage--we may miss it entirely or, worse, get hit in the head.