One of my goals for the year is to spend more time in prayer …. But then, that begged the question of what prayer is, exactly. I always thought I knew, but it turns out I kinda didn’t.

In my mind, prayer was an act of worship. But in fact, pray means simply “to ask earnestly, to beg” (that meaning in English dates to the 1200s and is taken from Latin precari, which means the same thing). In the 14th century, it also began to mean “to invite.” You’ve probably come across this in some books, where characters say, “I pray thee, come and see…” (Interestingly, by Colonial days, this has been contracted to prithee or just shortened to pray.) Either way, the meaning conveys earnest asking, but NOT worship. Worship is something else altogether. So while, yes, we pray to God—and we shouldn’t pray to just any god—and our prayer can be adoration of Him, which is worship, there’s a distinction that I hadn’t fully comprehended. And one that greatly affects my own understanding of what it really means to pray.