I haven't ever been too concerned with this issue, since I’m not a theologian. I have studied the Bible rather heavily, though, having been an atheist from a Christian background, and needing, or wanting to ‘close the loop’, so to speak, on what my former beliefs were. Prayer, however, other than as a form of meditation, only appeared in my life occasionally, such as when an obnoxious theist would say to me that they would, “pray for me,” or were, “praying for me.” I was able to accept this in the way I accepted the notion of being blessed by someone else’s deity, as in, “God bless you!” It may not matter to me at all that I am blessed in such an imaginary way, but I can easily accept that the believer might have had good intentions in expressing it.
However “prayer” is different, since it is, in a way, a caring activity. One “prays” as an intercession for something, either a better world, a better existence, a better self, or for another person. The thing one prays for is always known only to them, and only to others to the extent that they have prayed publicly. This is what came up for me recently when I was told by my son, that my wife had just messaged him that she was at that moment, “praying for me.” I immediately had the smug feeling that atheists always have regarding the relative uselessness of human involvements with the imaginary, however, it did occur to me that there was something else involved here, regardless of the fact that she had made it public to my son, and my son in turn made it public to me, and that is that “prayer”, regardless of what it represents as a deficient form of caring, in that unless it is public, is always a pushing of care towards the imaginary, or towards the self, and not towards the others or the things named in the prayer. By making it public, she and my son, together, were, ‘closing the loop,’ as it were, and making something that otherwise could have been a typical selfish “intercessory prayer” an actual form of communication, and therefore a real form of care, if only by the “miracle” (or coincidence) of my son’s real care for me.