Onegaishimasu, prayer is a form of meditation, that is why I think the two words are linked together so much. The basic requirement for seriously getting into it is sincereity, a real desire to know what it is and practice it. Body english could be as simple as keeping your back straight, your chin in.
It appears the scientific study on prayer and its effects on health (heart patients prayed over, etc.) have all been mixed. It also appears the studies on meditation shows in the brain scans true long term neurological, cognitive and emotional changes.
Given that in drug study the placebos work 50% of the time awareness of being prayed over no doubt could be beneficial at least that much.
In the Buddhist context we speak of view, mediation and action as being the pillars that need to be observed and used by the practitioner in order to progress. Prayers are there to strengthen our will, our determination, our view and sacred outlook and are hence a means to build the basis for our meditation and our actions. They soften the ground for the seed of wisdom or genuine love in our hearts to unfold. We open our hearts for the Enlightened Ones and at the same time for all sentient beings. That's quite a task to be upgraded constantly. It's not like a kindergarden practice, prayers accompagny us along the entire spiritual journey! And they become deeper, more pure and fuller through engaging in all pillars.
Meditation puts our sacred outlook into action, it comes on the basis of "may I for the benefit of others become (like the) Buddha" (prayer) in applying a particular method to transform our disturbing emotions into their essence, pure wisdom, sacred love. There are so many forms of meditation: silent meditation with its uncountable methods, recitation, visualisation and ritual. It's all different forms of meditation. On basis of our altruistic motivation (prayer), applying meditation methods, our actions will be of benefit to ourselves and to all others. In that way, the 3 pillars are practiced in union. That is how we look at the subject from the Buddhist point of view. with prayers, lama palmo
The nit-picky law school student in me immediately jumped to "how is prayer defined? How is meditation defined?"
I also hesitate to compare Buddhist notions of prayer/meditation against prayer/meditation as known in other traditions because religious systems need to be understood in totality before a comparison can be made. And even then, you run into difficulty because within a religious tradition, you have a bewildering array of diversity. For example, I have been to a Catholic mass performed in pre-Vatican II style, with the priest looking to the altar and the service conducted in Latin. It's stirringly beautiful. But I'm also a member of a Quaker Meeting and attend regularly. The room is spare but beautiful, members face each other, and the "service" is conducted in silence unless someone is moved to speak.
i found a nice article on the subject on the net which i would like to share with you, dear friends: http://enlightenmentorsalvation.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/the-christ...
with prayers, lp