(Pr. Duncan wrote this in response to a question about the understanding of prayer is for a Christian believer):
First of all, how we think of prayer is directly related to our understanding of God. If we see God as a "Santa Claus" or a Vending Machine or a Master Puppeteer or a distant omniscient God then it will affect how we shape our prayer life. I am not being flip. The fact is that way too many have such very limited and one dimensional understandings of God / Jesus. But God transcends all of our imagination and part of the challenge is for us to discard our way too simple ways of understanding who God is and open our minds to embrace a God that is way beyond our comprehension but still accessible through Jesus, the one who is God incarnate.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that we modern Christians tend to be very cerebral about our faith and our prayer. For many of us it is all about thought or thinking and often too rarely about action. In the ancient world it was the opposite. The language itself (Koiné Greek and Biblical Hebrew) presume an activity level which English transforms into passivity and consequently we tend to be rather passive in our faith and discipleship. Prayer should bring us the strength and insight to act. Of course it is way more complicated than all of that and I don't have the time or space for to be comprehensive. But ultimately it comes around to the question of what is prayer? It is a way of our communicating with God and it should be two way not just one way. But for many of us our prayer life consists in doing all the talking. I believe that from the moment of our Baptism God is present and communicating with us, through everything. One of the challenges of a life of faith is to find ways of listening. Sometimes this can be done in quiet contemplation but sometimes we need to be engaged with others - active and caring for God's children and God's creation.