It seems to me that the automatic tendency of the Evangelical Christian to bow the head and close the eyes when praying could be for some the same as a Catholic Christian making the sign of the cross or the Hindu bringing her hands together. It has simply become a ritual that holds significance to the person engaged in the practice.
In studying this ritual, I often come across the word humility used in conjunction with submission. When we bow our heads and close our eyes we show that we are submitting ourselves in humility to God. While not directly commanded in Scripture, the example of the prayer of Jesus (falling on the ground) and the tax collector (who would not lift his eyes toward heaven) bear honourable mention. Humility and surrender to God certainly ought to be central in our mind as we engage in prayer.
But can we engage in the practice of prayer apart from the ritual?
The obvious answer is “Yes.” But I feel the answer lies more in our ability as followers of God to meet with God in a other ways that are not dictated by our faith tradition. Are we able to enlarge our understanding of God by mindfully engaging in prayer in a way that appears to “break the rules”? Can God use this openness to deepen our faith and increase our connection with life itself? Could this be partly what St Paul had in mind when he instructed the church to “Pray without ceasing”?