"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." - Matthew 6:33
God made reality with prayer in mind. It's an essential part of the infrastructure of everyday life. In fact, prayer is as much (and more) a language of reality as mathematics, chemistry or physics. The supernatural and the natural are not separate in Christ - for all reality is His reality. As such, God invites us to pray about everything, not as if it were so, but because it is so.
Prayer may seem otherworldly, but it is decidedly thisworldly. If it weren't, St. Paul wouldn't tell us to "pray without ceasing," or to "pray in the Spirit at all times," and to "devote ourselves to prayer." It is a reliable resource in so far as we rely on God.
A rich prayer life - or rather, a life of prayer - is not the pinnacle of devotion. It's the foundation. There isn't a saint who's known for not praying, or an awakening that began without it. So we can't expect to progress far without substantive prayer. But we can't all be saints, right? But then again, we can't exactly set the bar lower: Christ, whom we're to imitate, rose early and often to pray earnestly and in solitude.
Prayer is only so good at getting what we want. But if we trust God, we're assured we'll get what we need, "For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." Prayer, on the other hand, is excellent at getting what God wants. As 1 John attests, "This is the boldness we have in God, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." So progress in prayer isn't necessarily when we get what we ask for, but when we trust God enough to ask Him for whatever He wants.
Prayer doesn't exclude personal requests, but they aren't its essence. At the heart of prayer, or in the heart of whoever prays, is a crossroads. To the left, we try to change God, and get Him to do things; to the right, we seek to be changed by God, and to do things for Him. One is the way of discipleship the other isn't. That's not to say we can't ask God for things! Jesus invites us to, and says, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." But for who's name are we asking? Do our prayers flow from loving God before ourselves, or simply for ourselves?