Prayer is a central aspect in the life of a Muslim, generally in Islam prayer can mean two things; one is the Salaah, this is the ritual obligatory prayer that all Muslims have to perform 5 times a day at various intervals. The second is Du’aa’ which involves calling upon Allah (God) to ask of Him whatever is needed, this can be done at any time.
Prayer is something which is given a huge status in Islam, it has been commanded so many times that it is difficult to enumerate the actual amount, whether that is in the Qur'an directly by Allah, or in the Sunnah (Traditions) of the Prophet Muhammad (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him).
For a Muslim, the word 'prayer' can mean two things: Du’aa’ (Supplication) and Salaah (ritual prayer).
Du’aa’ can be performed at any time in order to ask Allah for what you wish, it is done by simply raising the hands (palms facing upwards) and asking. The one who asks Allah (God) should do so with a sincere heart, with full confidence in the fact that Allah is the One who listens to the prayers and that He will respond with whatever is good. For a compilation of Duas which the Prophet Muhammad (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) made visit www.Duas.com
As for the Salaah, or the ritual prayer, it is both a physical and a spiritual worship, which is performed in a certain way under certain conditions. Salaah can fall under Fard (Obligatory) or Nafilah (Optional). The obligatory Salaah, is the second Pillar of Islam, which is to be performed by Muslims five times a day at certain times (Dawn, Afternoon, Late Afternoon, Sunset and Late Evening). It is performed in a certain manner which starts with Takbeer (Proclaiming the Greatness) of Allah, in which the Muslim says: “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest), and then followed by a series of speech and actions such as bowing, prostrating and sitting while praising Allah and making Du'aa to him.
Islam places a great emphasis on performing the obligatory Salaah correctly and on time, as Allah says in the Qur'an:
“Successful indeed are the believers. They who are during their prayer humbly submissive” [The Qur'an: al-Mu'minun 23:1-2]
“Those who are constant in their prayer” [The Qur'an: al-Ma'arij 70:23]
“Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times.” [The Qur'an: An-Nisa 4:103]
It is also mentioned as the first thing one will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement in the following narration:
The Prophet (May the Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who said:
“Allah (God) says:
'The first of his actions for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable for on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers (Salaah).' If they are in order, then he will have prospered and succeeded; and if they are in wanting, then he will have failed and lost. If there is something defective in his obligatory prayers, the Lord (glorified and exalted be He) will say: 'See if My servant has any supererogatory prayers with which may be completed that which was defective in his obligatory prayers.' Then the rest of his actions will be judged in like fashion.” [At-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah and Ahmad]
According to the narration of the Prophet (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) above, if ones salaah prayers have been performed properly then the rest of one's affairs will be in order, and if there are defects in the salaah then everything else will have defects. This brings to light how important the Salaah is to the Muslim.
For a detailed guide on how to perform the Salaah visit HowToPray.