What does it mean to pray?
Prayer is another one of those spiritual technologies available to us, and there are so many forms of it.
Returning again to my own past, prayer might have been briefly defined as "talking to God." You say aloud or to yourself whatever your petition is in hopes of God granting it.
This creates some complications, however- what happen if you don't embrace theistic personalism and don't see God as a "person" in the way we see others humans and such beings as a "persons?" What if your "conception" of God is very different? What's the role of the priesthood and such if we can individually speak to God?
Another question may be, if God is distant and impersonal (think something like Deism), what's the point of praying at all?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God."1
This is a useful definition, though perhaps not terribly detailed. Here we see the aforementioned notion of prayer with which I was raised- and we also see a more interesting part, the "raising of one's mind and heart to God."
By this definition, many of us spend a good part of our day in prayer- we may not be vocally praying or requesting things, but our minds and hearts are raised to God, to gaze at God, and to experience and enjoy God.
The Mass, taken as a whole, has an effect- whether one specifically believes in concepts such as "sin" and "angels" and any such thing (or better put, whether one specifically believes in the particular constructions about these topics), there can be no doubt that participation in the ritual causes a change in the participants regardless of whether they believe or not.
And the Mass, taken as a whole, is filled with prayer and by the above definition, may be considered one long and elaborate prayer; the entire ritual is for the sake of lifting our minds and hearts to God.
Let us reflect on these things.