Within the frame of secular modernity, religion has become something in need of measured explanation, something that is either at odds or consistent with the natural state of humanity. Prayer, as a fortifier of belief, has come to mark the religiosity of a shared human experience, for better or for worse. For practitioners and scholars, promoters and critics, prayer often distills something essential about religion. The measurement of prayer corresponds to its drift inward, into the mind and the nervous system, in general.
Cognitive studies of prayer, for example, are rather pervasive these days. Such studies often serve to articulate a boundary between the religious and the secular as either quite stark or else rather porous. In either case, the religious is being measured, constructed, and deployed.
The significance of these studies, I contend, lies in the ways in which they manufacture religion, study after study, regardless of results, turning religion into a measurable and natural matter. Your prayer-life, or lack thereof, is a mark of your individuality in the secular age. Do you pray? Did you used to pray? Do you want to pray? Are you interested in prayer?