Prayer is so important to life. All I can say is, that when life gets you down, when you feel great anxiety or fears for the future, when the greyness of existence seems heavy on your soul, prayer is a great relief. There are many forms of prayer. I have never tried meditation in the Eastern style, so my methods of prayer are more from the Christian tradition, but there are similarities between all forms of sincere prayer, regardless of tradition. Prayer to me is more akin to meditation, of releasing your mind, emptying your thoughts, and trying to feel or sense some sort of unity with the Divine. But it also soothes the mind too. There is a certain beauty to prayer. Prayer brings a certain calm and peace. I actually sleep better when I engage in steady prayer.
In this hectic world of ours, setting time aside each day for prayer and meditation can be a great benefit. Spend less time in front of the television, online, on the cell phone, or whatever, and spend more time in some type of contemplative prayer or meditation and your health will most likely improve, both mental and physical.
It is the positive effects of prayer on my mind and life that has always kept me close to God. Religion offers nice structures to pursue prayer, those ancient and contemporary methods of contemplation. If people have been engaging in meditation or contemplation for thousands of years, there must be something to these practices. When I do not pray, or when my prayer life falls off, then I feel the effects in my mind, a lessening of concentration, and deeper susceptibility to the cares of the world, and a distance from God. When I pray I simply feel healthier. In my overly simplistic ways of approaching life, this is more than enough to show me the great benefits of incorporating prayer in my life.