There is a tendency today to consider “wishing” and “praying” to be the same thing. The often used phrase “our thoughts and prayers are with you” is a good example, I think, of this confusion. We say this to people when we feel bad for them, but very often it ends up being just an empty saying. We neither think nor pray for the situation afterwards.
Now, if you are the kind of person that says this and then goes and prays, then this clearly doesn’t apply to you! But I believe that many people do not, in fact, go away and pray. In these cases, there is a tendency for this phrase to become an empty filler—and when this happens, then “thoughts” very easily gets confused with “prayers.” And before you know it, we believe that anytime we “think” about a situation we are somehow sending positive energy into the universe, which is magically doing something good.
But that is just wishing. And wishing is a game we teach to our children when we see shooting stars or throw coins into fountains. It is the stuff of Disney movies and fairytales and princesses kissing frogs. It has no power to change the real world. Prayer on the other hand, changes things.
The problem with wishing is that it is based in you and it is sent out directionless into the universe. It is like writing a letter addressed to no one and mailed without proper postage.
When you pray to our Heavenly Father, on the other hand, you are having a conversation with the most powerful person in the universe. Your empty wish becomes a request, submitted to someone who sees all and knows all and is infinitely good. And the great thing about praying to God is that not only can He do anything, but also when we give our request to Him, we can trust that we have been heard.
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He gave them a model—we call it The Lord’s Prayer. It starts out with “Our Father” and then continues to cover all the bases. The prayer Jesus taught the disciples was meant as a model for our prayers, not just a prayer for us to repeat. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer in this way, we are engaging in the work of prayer instead of just throwing out “hail Mary” passes to the universe.
So the next time you are tempted to throw out a wish when confronting a difficult situation -- take a few extra moments and actually pray.