Prayer might mean the same thing to you as it does to the majority of the rest of the western world. Or if you are a Christian it may only be a shared vocabulary. Often when some sayings or common nomenclature are said, your worldview interprets what is heard to what is understood. Quite often this can take meaning out of what someone says, or may even make an individual prejudicial towards another person, even though there is no shared worldview between the two parties. Take for instance; someone says “I will pray for you”. The word pray or prayer has a varied definition from person to person depending on their worldview. This is especially confusing when it becomes a widely adopted way of speaking, by the public in North America. It’s not only “I will pray for you”, but also “thoughts and prayers” and its many variations. It seems people want to convey some sort of condolence, but with a word that gives the illusion of action.
Prayer is an illusion to most people, to those people who say the words and leave it at that, rather than say the words and then pray. The power and meaning have been widely taken out of the word itself and no longer describes the appealing to God, but to convey a sense of emotion. There was a “thoughts and prayers” fad, that has only recently been busted up by countless memes and twitter posts. This fad has not been called out because of its lack of truth and intention, thought on the surface that is what would seem to be the case, but rather to the large amount of people seemingly praying for events and people and the evil in the world, yet these prayers are seen as going unanswered. It is as if saying the words “thoughts and prayers” to someone, are perceived as to be an appeal to God that somehow we are expecting God to answer and eliminate any reason that precipitated the thoughts and the prayers to begin with. Though many will overlook the obvious case, that saying the word praying or stating the intention to pray is really just words and not a prayer in and of themselves. This seemingly obvious fact can be overlooked because people need something to blame, a reason why evil keeps on occurring shooting after shooting, disaster after disaster, despite the entire western world sending out thoughts and prayers! The subject of evil and the impact prayer would have is a different subject. But this example just stands to show how the idea of prayer in the western world is not being held by any sort of universal definition nor is it precipitating action necessarily.
Prayer is a word of action, and not only the appeal to God to act for us, but to appeal to God to provide for us opportunities to act. Or to give us strength to act in a way we already know we need to, but lack the confidence to do so. Nothing about prayer is passive, even when praying for thanksgiving it is to give thanks for everything God has given us, and action he has taken for us. Saying you will pray for someone has no power. Praying for them, and I would say praying out loud with them carries divine power, and we are appealing to the creator himself. Praying with someone also does not leave the person needing prayer wondering or questioning if prayer is actually going to occur. There is a peace of mind with the Christian when prayer is said and heard out loud between each other.
And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. -Luke 22:43-44
Jesus engaged with the world in prayer. He himself prayed to his Father several times, and I must mention that not all responses from the Father were what Jesus wanted. Such as the praying in the garden of Gethsemane described in Luke 22:43–44. Praying was not a new thing in the time of Jesus, people prayed to all sorts of pagan gods and idols. The need for instruction for prayer is illustrated by his disciples asking Jesus how to pray in Luke 11:1. With these verses in mind we should take a second and think about how we are instructed to pray every time we hear the word prayer mentioned in passing or to us in our day-to-day lives. Prayer has taken on false meaning and illusions in the western world, so it is important to remember why we pray and the act upon the word and partner with God through prayer.