I've been thinking that perhaps we need a new definition of Faith, because the one in the Bible lacks clarity. According to the Bible faith is "the assured expectation of things to come, though not beheld." In other words I believe it will happen even though I lack evidence for it. This isn't MY definition of faith at all.
I see Faith this way:
It's like a credit and debit balance one has with their bank.
I take out a loan from the bank (God).
I also keep my own personal journal (checkbook) to keep track of what I have deposited.
I deposit money (prayers in accordance with right action) in my bank account which is held by the Bank (God).
This money (prayers/right actions) is used to pay off my bills (troubles in my life).
I don't have direct deposit, that is to say money (prayers/right actions) isn't automatically deposited every week without me having to think about it. I have to put some effort into it.
So I look at my life and notice that certain bills (troubles in my life) have been paid.
I go back to my checkbook (a record of the prayers I have made regarding my life and the actions I took which are in harmony with those prayers) and look at my payments (prayers/right actions).
I see what I have paid (prayed about) and take note of the loan being paid (prayer being answered).
With that in mind I can have faith (assurance based upon real life action) that my bank (God) is taking my money (listening to my prayers) and paying off my loan (my sinful nature).
Now if I don't make any payments (prayers) obviously my loan (my sinful state) isn't going to be paid.
I can't expect the Bank (God) to simply make my payments for me. Such would be irresponsible on my part and not part of our initial agreement.
He might give me an extension (benefit of the doubt) on my loan or even give me a monetary credit (fix a problem that wasn't prayed upon) because I have been such a valued customer. But eventually I'll either make my payments (prayers in harmony with God's will) or I will default (end my relationship with God). But all is not lost. The Bank (God) gives me a good "credit rating" and so if I ever want to take out another "loan", He'll gladly extend me a line of credit but lower the payments (expectation of me) until such time as I have proved myself capable of handling it.
Since so many people like the scientific method I'll give you a way in which you can "test the inspired expression to see whther it originates with God."
Keep a journal of your daily life. Most importantly note the troubles in your life. Show this journal to no one but after making an entry pray about it. Then put your journal away. As things happen in your life, troubles go away or you gain some unexpected reward, go back to your journal to see if you actually prayed about this particular matter. Usually the time between an initial prayer and it's fulfillment can be anywhere from a couple of days, weeks or months. I suspect God is using dial-up (which explains the slow response) OR He has so much spam (prayers that people don't really mean) and has to sort through them before He gets to yours. You'll notice a consistency. Prayers are being said and they are being answered. Of course there is more to it than just that. We have to work in harmony with those prayers. We might pray for a new car. Someone else might pray to God that they might be able to sell their car. So if we sit at home then neither prayer can be answered. But if we go looking for another car we may stumble across this other person who wants to sell theirs (never knowing that they have prayed about it).
We often discount the things in our lives as having God's hand in it because we never bother to ask. We don't ask God for a sign that He's in our life, nor do we ask the other person involved (if any) whether they prayed that this particular event would be fulfilled.
Prayer is like an e-mail. God will get your e-mail (prayer) but it might not be answered right away. It depends on many factors such as it might not be the right time to answer it, or He's going to answer your prayer by answering someone else's at the same time (that is to say you may have prayed about wanting a marriage mate, so obviously in order to answer that prayer He would be answer your prospective mate's prayer at the same time and they may not yet be ready).
So to me Faith ISN'T belief in something I cannot see, but rather it's experiences I've had over a period of time that repeatedly reinforce each other. I may not understand exactly what is going on but when I act in harmony with these experiences I gain more trust in them. The more I act on them, the more experience I gain. This experince gives me proof that God is acting in my life. It's not just my own actions, but something outside of myself that is having an influence on my life. I might discount it but it's still there. I can assure you that God is acting in everyone's life (whether they know it or admit it or not). It's just that we have failed to take notice and so by our own failings we attribute a lack of evidence for God's existence. We say "If he is real then there would be more evidence in my life of his existence." What more do you want? Want God to smack you across the back of the head with a clue by four? He'll do it (God does have a sense of humor) if you ask, but don't you dare whine about it when it happens because YOU did ask for it.
So faith can be better summed up as "the assured expectation of things to come, based on past experiences and irrefutable proof."