The excellence of Prayer
The Prayer is the first pillar of Islam that the Prophet mentioned after that of uttering the Testimony of Faith, by which one becomes a Muslim. It is a form of worship consisting of specific statements and actions. It begins by pronouncing the Greatness of Allaah (Allaahu Akbar), and is concluded with salutations (As-Salaamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullaah).
The Prayer was the only order that was commanded by Allaah directly to His Messenger during his night journey. Allaah Says (what means): "Exalted is He who took His slave [i.e. Prophet Muhammad] by night from Al-Masjid Al-Haraam to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing." [Quran 17: 1] Prayer was also obligatory upon all the prophets, may Allaah exalt their mention, and their nations.
Additionally, it was the first act of worship that was made obligatory by Allaah on every believer.
The status and virtue of the Prayer:
The Prayer has a great status in Islam; a status which no other act of worship holds. It is the spinal cord of the religion, without which the religion itself cannot be established. The Prophet said regarding it:"The head of the matter is Islam, its spinal cord is the prayer, and its highest pinnacle is 'Jihaad' in the way of Allaah." [Muslim]
In the Quran, Allaah ordains us hundreds of times to establish the Prayer. Allaah Says (what means): "…Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times…" [Quran 4: 103] And (what means): "Establish the Prayer, and give Zakaat (poor-due) and bow with those who bow (in worship and obedience)." [Quran 2: 43]
The Prophet said: "Islam is built upon five pillars: Bearing witness that none is worthy of worship but Allaah and that Prophet Muhammad is His Messenger, establishing the Prayer, paying Zakaah, observing Fast in Ramadhaan and performing Hajj." [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
The significance of Prayer is so great that one is ordered to observe it whether traveling or not, in safety or in fear. Allaah Says (what means): "Be guardians of your prayers, and of the midmost prayer, and stand up with devotion to Allaah. And if you go in fear, then (pray) standing or on horseback. And when you are again in safety, remember Allaah, as He has taught you that which (heretofore) you knew not."[Quran 2: 238-239]
Moreover, it is the first act that the person will be held accountable for on the Day of Recompense. The Prophet said: "The first act that the slave will be held accountable for on the Day of Judgment will be the Prayer. If it is good, then the rest of his deeds will be good. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad." [At-Tabaraani]
The Prayer is the best and most noble of deeds. It is the link between the believer and his Lord. Through the Prayer, the slave communicates with his Lord five times a day. To demonstrate the greatness and virtues of performing prayer, the Prophet said: "If the time for a prescribed prayer comes, and a Muslim performs ablution properly, (and then offers his prayer) with humbleness and bowing (to Allaah), it will be an expiation for his past sins, so long as he has not committed a major sin; and this is applicable to all times." [Muslim]
The Messenger of Allaah beautifully gave a similitude, to the one who performs the Prayer in the prescribed manner and time, by these great words: "The five daily prayers are like a deep river flowing by the door of any of you, in which he bathes five times every day." [Muslim]
The Prayer is the last thing that the Prophet reminded his nation with before he died, saying: "Guard your Prayer, guard your prayer and fear Allaah regarding what your right hand possesses (i.e. slaves)." [Imaam Ahmad]
The impact of praying:
The relationship with Allaah is demonstrated and put into practice, as well as improved and increased by the prayer. Therefore, if the prayers are sound and proper, the rest of the deeds will be sound and proper; and if the prayers are not sound and proper, then the rest of the deeds will not be sound and proper.
The spirit of the Prayer should be sincerity, devotion and contemplation. It is meant to strengthen the faith, purify and chasten the soul, qualify the believer for salvation in this life and the Hereafter and to make him shun immorality and evil deeds. Allaah Says (what means): "Recite [O Muhammad] what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish the Prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allaah is greater. And Allaah knows that which you do." [Quran 29: 45]
Moreover, its aim is to generate within the subliminal self of man such spiritual power, light of faith and awareness of Allaah as can enable him to strive successfully against all kinds of evils and temptations and remain steadfast at times of trial and adversity. The Prayer is so effective and soothing to the heart that the Prophet would resort to it whenever anything grieved him and would say to Bilaal :"O Bilaal! Comfort our hearts with it (i.e. call Iqaamah for Prayer)."[Ahmad]
The overall effect that the properly performed prayers should have upon humans is described in many verses of the Quran such as (which means): "Indeed, mankind was created anxious. When evil touches him, impatient, and when good touches him, withholding [of it], except the observers of prayer —those who are constant in their prayer." [Quran 70: 19-23]
Edited from: http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/index.php?page=articles&id=139114