Once upon a time there was a child of seven who had been taught by his parents to say his prayers before going to bed. One day, his father noticed as he was passing by his son's bedroom that the child pulled out a chair from his desk where he did his homework, then sat on the bed to say his prayers. The father asked his son why he did that. The son replied that he always pulled out a chair for God to sit on when he prayed.
When we pray, do we honestly believe that God is there, beside us, listening to our prayers? Whether we pray to ask, or demand, favours for us or others, or whether we pray to thank God for what He has done for us, do we honestly believe and visualise Him listening to us? Because if we don't then we're either dishonest in our prayers, and we say them just as a routine superstition, or we're deranged and just talking to ourselves.
Unless we truly believe that God is there, listening to our every prayer, then we might as well pray to the universe, the trees, the planet or whatever other concept we believe in just to make us feel better.
Prayer is, and should be, the ultimate act of faith. It says that we believe there is an omnipotent, all-knowing and loving living God Who listens to our needs and responds accordingly in His time and in His way.
There are those who would say that if God is all-knowing and loving, then He knows about poverty throughout the world, He knows about wars, diseases and earthquakes and other disasters. Why should I be praying for these things? Surely He could, or should, be sorting them out without my prayers.
Let us remember that Jesus, the Son of God, prayed too. Before His arrest and crucifixion He prayed that it would all go away. God did listen to Him, yet He did not make it all go away. God, and Jesus, knew the bigger picture. Jesus had to die and be raised again so that God would be glorified and we would have a way back to God through redemption. Jesus accepted that, which is why He prayed "not my will but yours".
It is the same for us when we pray. God is listening. He is seeing the bigger picture for us, for our well-being and that of others we pray for. And He will respond positively in His time and in His way.
Unless we believe that, then we should stop praying and cease our hypocrisy or misguided superstitions.