If one becomes advanced in meditation, prayer is not necessary. At that time we will realise that God always knows our needs and cares for us infinitely more than we care for ourselves. Prayer is not necessary, because we belong to God and are His property. When we renounce our personal claims and surrender ourselves completely, at that time God claims us as His very own and makes us His chosen instruments.
But until we become very advanced in the spiritual life and feel our oneness with God, prayer is necessary. If we get something through prayer, we can tell the world, "I prayed for it; that's why I got it. Look, I have this kind of closeness with my Father!" We are like children who are hungry. We ask our mother for food, and she feeds us. Yes, she would have fed us on her own, but the fact that we ask for food and our mother listens to our request gives us joy. It convinces our minds that she really cares for us. Because of our inner connection and closeness with our mother, we can ask her for whatever we want.
God could do everything for us unconditionally, but this would not give us the same kind of satisfaction. In a race, if you run the whole course, then you will be delighted if you receive a trophy. You ran very fast and finished with so much trouble, and you feel that you have earned the trophy. But if somebody who has just been a spectator gets a trophy, that person will not feel satisfied, because he has done nothing to earn it. God can give everything unconditionally, but we get more satisfaction if He gives us something after we have prayed for it or worked for it.
What my prayer needs is a patience-tree.
What my meditation needs is a gratitude-flower.
We have to know, however, that when we pray we feel that we as individuals are separated from God. We feel that He is at one place and we are somewhere else. At that time we are not in our highest consciousness where we feel that we are one with God. If we feel that we and God are one, then the question of prayer does not arise, for at that time our needs are His needs. Prayer, we can say, intensifies our intimacy with the Supreme, whereas meditation increases our oneness with the Supreme. First we have to feel that we and God are intimate friends; then we can realise our oneness-reality with God. Before we meditate, if we can pray for a few minutes, we can develop our intimate connection with the Supreme. Then we can meditate to become one with Him.
In the highest spiritual life there is no comparison between meditation and prayer. Meditation is infinitely deeper and wider than prayer. In the West, prayer is used by seekers with considerable efficacy. But a real seeker who wants to go to the Ultimate Beyond must feel that meditation is the higher rung in the ladder to God-realisation. When we meditate, we see, feel and grow into the entire universe of light and delight.