Prayer is more than simply having a conversation with a Being who made us and who oversees our entire destiny. It is an act of worship and reverence. It is a conscious choice to connect "up close and personal" with the One whose very existence is the definition of love, "The one who does not love does not know God because God is love." (1John 4:8).
Prayer is the means by which we acknowledge and strengthen our relationship with the Eternal and seek out His will for our lives. It is the avenue by which we can honestly confess our sins, ask forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ, and cry out to God for help in overcoming them and the trials of life. It is also the way we can petition our heavenly Father for the benefit and blessing of others - even those who use and persecute us (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus himself placed great emphasis on prayer during his ministry. He prayed all night regarding whom should be his inner circle of twelve disciples (Luke 6:12 - 13) and talked to God fervently just before his arrest and death (Matthew 26:36 - 44, Mark 14:32 - 40, etc.). He asked our Father in heaven to strengthen the faith of Peter so that he would not fall into the devil's hands (Luke 22:31- 32) and besought God to give the Holy Spirit to all who repent and obey (John 14:15 - 16).
What is it NOT?
True communion with God is not a religious ritual meant to appease an all-powerful Deity. It is not the means by which we can bargain with or extort from God (as if it were possible) to give us what we want (or demand!). It is also not a sign, of itself, that we are more righteous or better than others.
5. And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, in order that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward (Matthew 6)
Guidelines for Effective Praying
An effective prayer is not a formula but one that comes from the heart and is sincere (Hebrews 10:22). It is not one that is memorized and repeated verbatim such as the one found in Matthew 6 (which Jesus gave as an outline and not as a set formula for talking with God) or memorized and repeated endlessly like Catholics do with their rosary. Such mindless repetitions do not insure God will either hear it or grant what is requested.
7. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that by multiplying their words they shall be heard. (Matthew 6)
Our talks with God the Father should be in the name of Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:6, John 16:22 - 24). While it is good to set aside time every day to commune with God, there is no set period in which prayer is better or more effective to partake of than others. In fact, the Apostle Paul states we should be in a constant state of communicating with our Father (1Thessalonians 5:17)!
Praying in the Old Testament was done through a variety of positions such as while standing (1Samuel 1:26), kneeling (1Kings 8:54) or even lying prostrate (2Chronicles 6:13). Although the posture that "should" be used is not stated in the New Testament, the most commonly mentioned one is kneeling (Acts 7:60, 9:40, 20:36, etc.).
Just like when we study the Bible, our attitude is of tantamount importance when we talk with God. We should come to him humbly, with a child-like heart, and a willingness to not only be totally honest with him but also to seek and do His will.
6. But He gives greater grace. This is the reason it says, "God sets Himself against the proud, but He gives grace to the humble." (James 4, see also Isaiah 57:15)
For prayer to be ultimately effective it must be bold (Hebrews 4:16), persistent (Matthew 15:22 - 28, Luke 11:5 - 13, 18:1 - 7, etc.), sincere (Hebrews 10:22) and have the faith to believe not only that God exists but that he answers those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).