Social actors use prayer utterances (e.g., statements such as “prayed over,”“prayed about,” or “spent time in prayer”) as aligning actions that justify problematic or questionable courses of action and prevent possible negative characterizations.
The prayer utterance functions as an aligning action in American society because of Americans’ beliefs and actions concerning the efficacy of prayer in solving problems and because prayer is viewed as a sign of personal morality and trustworthiness. Three examples of individuals who
use the prayer utterance as an aligning action serve as illustrations of this argument (Oprah Winfrey, Alabama State Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb, and President Barack Obama). Scholars should investigate the uses and functions of prayer utterances in social life and should also investigate
the possible uses of other religious talk as aligning actions.