There is no real difference between meditation & prayer.
You may start with meditation, but sooner or later, you realize that the person can never step out of personhood, that the mind can never go beyond itself.
So, what to do? A kind of discouragement arises.
A gigantic leap needs to be made and you cannot do it on your own, only this higher consciousness that you are trying to realize can actually realize itself, can actually help.
Therefore, meditation becomes prayerful, devotional, because the Self is needed to push you further. God’s grace is needed to feel safe in the never-ending jump.
And you may also start with prayer.
Quickly, you see that the way God answers prayer is through silence. This silence needs to be understood.
The outer teaching of silence is that most of what is prayed for would actually make people very unhappy if they were to receive it. The story of King Midas in greek mythology comes to mind.
Penetrating the inner teaching of silence means realizing that this silence is a real answer, or rather, it is ‘the’ answer. Alertness is needed to recognize this, awareness is needed to recognize this. Therefore, prayer starts becoming meditative, watchful.
And these qualities (meditativeness in prayer & prayerfulness in meditation) go on developping, until no difference can be made between meditation and prayer.
Experiencing and understanding this, the distinctions between the many schools and systems available collapse.
All the differences and the debates they create start appearing as they truly are: identity-driven, political, (anti-)religious. As the french poet Paul Verlaine wrote: “And all the rest is literature.”
Therefore, do not concern yourself too much about the “most direct path” or the “straight path”, or the “middle way”, simply and sincerely pursue what appears to you as right (keeping in mind and heart that it is only what ‘appears’ right), and trust that many course corrections will happen anyway, that you will be guided.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, “As they approach Me, so I receive them. All paths, Arjuna, lead to Me.”