I think that when one touches on the subject of faith, it is always a necessity to mention prayer. Prayer is a dialogue with God. Just as we need dialogue with each other, so too do we need dialogue with God. Prayer is much more than formal recitation of rote prayers. It is indeed a conversation, and as in all conversations, two parties speak. Many of you are probably thinking, "When I pray I'm the only one talking". Ah, but there you are wrong, you have to listen as well as speak. It has been said that God speaks in the silences of our hearts. This, I believe is quite true. One who wants to obtain a rich prayer life must indeed know how to listen.
Listening to God is not the same as listening to one's friends or siblings. Simply because God is infinite and eternal. He is all knowing. So, you say, "If God is all knowing He already knows what I will say". To this I say, true He does, but we don't pray to tell Him anything that He, in His infinite wisdom doesn't already know. Prayer is really for us. It is to open our hearts to His love. Through prayer, we allow Him to work in us and through us. God can do all things, but He has deemed to let us collaborate in His awesome work. To be prepared for such a noble and awesome task we must draw strength from Him who is the source of all strength.
Now that we know why we must pray, let us try to learn how to pray. Scripture offers us some valuable examples as to how to enrich our prayer life. It is important to note, that in the Gospels, Jesus prays almost constantly. We are told that He prays in "a secluded place" most nights. He prays before every major event in the Gospel, certainly before performing any works (miracles). Jesus prays to the Father that we will be One just as they (Jesus and the Father) are One when He institutes the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. It is also important I think, to mention that everything that Jesus did during His public life was an example, a lesson to those who would follow in His footsteps. If Jesus felt the need to pray, shouldn't we also feel we are in need of prayer? In Scripture we are told to "pray always". Many people think that this is impossible. What they don't understand is the simple fact that prayer, is a communion with God. It is not a set mode of communion, or communication for that matter. It can take the form of a job well done, offered to The Father in gratitude for the talents that He has given us. It can take the form of reflective silence in front of The Blessed Sacrament. Meditation on events in the life of Christ is a most fruitful form of prayer. The Rosary is precisely that. Formal prayer is always a good way to train the mind. I say train the mind because, if you are like me, meditation is not an easy art. Distractions are one thing of which there is never any shortage. Saying formal prayers like The Our Father and The Hail Mary helps us to focus our minds on God.
Many people prayerfully read Scripture. This is I believe, a form of prayer. When the mind and heart are open to the workings of the Holy Spirit, that is prayer. The discipline of formal prayer is also a training of the will to ascend to God. It is important here to interject that the Rosary was the prayer that was most effective in my early re-conversion. I still pray the Rosary daily and it has grown into a quite fruitful prayer regimen. If we look at the Rosary as a true prayer of the Gospel, we can begin to interiorize the Gospel and indeed Christ Himself. Our Lady is the fastest and most effective path to Jesus. Since the incarnation, her one goal has been to bring Jesus to the children of God. In praying the Rosary faithfully, we empower Our Lady to lead us to a fuller communion with Jesus, her beloved Son.
In conclusion, I would like to state most emphatically that prayer is a very personal thing. There is no right or wrong way to pray. The ultimate goal is always a deepening of our spiritual relationship with God our Creator. Different people will find different prayer programs the best way to attain this goal. That being said, I must stress again, that all prayer must be open to what God is telling us in our hearts. Listening to God's still silent voice is a skill that must be practiced before it is realized.