The 18th century American Quaker preacher and abolitionist, John Woolman, once described prayer in this way:
The place of prayer is a precious habitation: ... I saw this habitation to be safe, to be inwardly quiet, when there was great stirrings and commotions in the world.
One of the main purposes of prayer or meditation is to access that inner place of stillness where we recognise that we are not identified with the contingencies and buffetings that surround us. Too often, we assume that we are coterminous with our circumstances, that we are made up of the things that happen to us or, worse, that we are what others portray us to be. Prayer is the practice whereby we get beyond these 'events' and find ourselves to be the one who is aware of them. Beyond the 'events' there is a spacious place, a still but generous nothingness which is our inner self. In grammatical terms, we find ourselves to be subject rather than object. In practising meditative prayer, we learn how to see past the distractions towards the one who sees. This is an immensely practical thing.
This is rather counter-intuitive for a number of reasons. First of all, we imagine that we are the rich accumulation of our passions, achievements, memories and abilities. While all of these things are good in themselves, I think it is a mistake to see ourselves as a sum of these parts. If they were all to be taken away, would we cease to exist? If so, does a person with dementia cease to be a person? I think there is a 'more than' to us which is kin to the 'more than' that is God.
A second problem with this would seem to be the notion that outward events are of little enduring value. But I think this would be a mistake. John Woolman was an excellent example of someone who is liberated by this understanding to relate more fully to the world around him, to engage passionately and fearlessly because he has seen that no person is reducible to the stuff that happens to them. We know well that when we relate from that deeper place of grounded self-awareness, we are less likely to treat others as mere objects - they become subjects like we are, 'I' relating to 'I'.