Prayer is important. No it is not a Means of Grace (Word and Sacraments). We could get into that whole discussion but we won't. Prayer is our talking with God through word or thought. It does not move God to action as some suppose. God is not sitting in heaven waiting for us to pray before He can act in our lives. He acts according to His divine will - with or without our prayers. We can be thankful for that because there are many times we do not pray at all. If God couldn't act in our lives until we prayed to Him, then we would be in a sad state of affair. Then there are times when we don't know what we should even pray for. We are told that at those times, the Holy Spirit prays for us in words that the Father understands. Imagine what would happen if, when we are in the hospital, distraught over the emergency a loved one is going through, not knowing what to pray, and therefore God is unable to act. Eek! That would be terrible. God acts - even without our prayer.
So why pray? Because in prayer we are opening ourselves up to the Lord. We are emptying ourselves of ourselves and saying, "Lord, I am Yours. Let my will be in accord with Your will, my thoughts with Your thoughts, my ways with your ways." Prayer is for us - not for God. Prayer is our coming to Him with open, willing hearts and minds, looking for His guidance and strength. Prayer puts us in a right relationship with Him.
Perhaps that is why the body is so important in prayer. Kneeling before God in prayer says, "I come to You in faith and humility, not in arrogance. I come needing You in my life." Bowing the head in prayer is saying, "I am in need, Lord." Folding the hands or lifting them up is a way of saying, "I am not going to let other things take my life right now. You are all that matters." All right, when you are driving down the road and saying a prayer (which I do regularly), you shouldn't do any of the above. But you can do it in your heart. It is an attitude of the heart. All those outward signs are meant to show what lies inside your heart and what is guiding your soul.
What made me think of all this? In the Gospel reading yesterday, right after feeding the 5000, Jesus sends the disciples away, dismisses the crowd and then goes off by Himself to pray. He knew the importance of being one with His Father. He knew that prayer was this lifeline with the Father. He spend a lot of time in prayer, seeking the Father's will and being guided by the Father. And I thought, if Jesus is in prayer so much, doesn't that tell us something about how much we should be in prayer?