A friend who reads this blog asked me whether prayer counts as a verbal invocation system, which seems to me to be an interesting question worth addressing here.
In a fictional world where any kind of invocational system exists – and as such some divine being exists to interpret those invocations – the key element of this system is that it is a system. That is, magic works all the time, is scientific, whereas prayer allows for the whims of those to whom the prayer is addressed. Magic allows for no such whims.
The key part of any kind of magic system is that it is reliable and scientific: that it performs exactly the same under similar conditions. I’m sure anyone who’s ever prayed could tell you that just because you ask God for something doesn’t mean it’ll actually happen (as my mother says, God has three answers to prayers: yes, no, and later). Any kind of magic system that relied on divine will could hardly be called a system.
On the other hand, I think the opposite question is more interesting: does invocational magic count as prayer?