For the deeply religious and spiritual, prayer is an essential element of their lives.

If prayer was a body of water, they would wade and splash and wallow in it, the way a child does in the shallow end of a pool in the summertime.

If it was an article of clothing, they would swaddle and wrap themselves in prayer as if it were a shawl, with the corners tucked into their bodies for comfort. For protection. For warmth.

And if prayer was a tome or a book, for the religious and spiritual, it would be “that” book — the one we’ve read so many times that the spine and cover are worn.

Prayer would be all of these things for the religious and spiritual.

Almost every sacred text of religion or spiritual construct mentions the importance and power of prayer. In fact, for many, it represents the touchstone of their faith and spiritual lives.

And while those texts differ on the frequency adherents should pray, or the words or utterances adherents should use in prayer, they agree in principle about what it is.

Prayer is, simply put, a conversation with the creator. It is part meditation, part affirmation, part dialogue.

When we pray, we speak words to the creator into the universe and speak those things into existence. We release something or somethings — self-doubt, questions, negative energy — and we receive things in return.

Sometimes what we received in return is better energy. Sometimes we receive spiritual nourishment for guidance. Sometimes we receive answers to our questions through prayer.

To that end, prayer is many things. It is an attempt to establish a connection with the creator. It is a great healing agent. It is even a vision board for futures.

Like most of us, I find myself praying all the time, or as the Scriptures suggest we should be praying, without ceasing.

I pray for my children, and for my ability to be compassionate and loving. I pray for a better more peaceful world. I pray for women and their empowerment. I pray for justice. I pray for the marginalized.

I pray.

However, in all of the things prayer is, under no circumstance is prayer a mechanism to advance the political agenda.

But if you have been watching the political landscape for the last several years, that would be a difficult notion to discern.

Over the years, conservative politicians have prayed for the success of their own careers, for the perpetuation of slavery, the subjugation of women, and the fortification of segregation.

We’ve also seen them pray for the rise of people who would advance their agendas.

And as our country’s first black president is preparing for the end of his second and final term in the White House, we see conservative politicians praying for him.

As you would expect, however, they are not praying for his safety or that he is equipped with the tools to be compassionate, or that he performs his job capably.

Their prayers for him are much more sinister. Since our president took the oath of office in 2009, conservative politicians have been praying that disaster strikes the president.

This is actually a thing.

They have prayed that his family is torn apart. They have prayed that he stumbles morally. They have prayed that his agenda for this country falters.

And they have prayed for his death. In fact, in a speech this month, Senator David Perdue (R-Georgia) encouraged people to pray for the president’s demise using a biblical passage that calls for “his days to be short … his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”

Yep, that really happened. And it’s not the first time conservatives have used that particular passage to call for the president’s demise. It is a running joke for them to invoke that passage when praying for the president.

This is the trouble with conservatives praying in this fashion. It is a misuse of prayer. It is asking God the Creator to do something outside of God’s will. It makes a mockery of prayer and of the creator.

What’s more, in the final analysis, it serves a stumbling block for those who want to develop and need to develop a relationship with the creator.

When we see individuals praying for silly things like the subjugation of women, the perpetuation of slavery, or the death of our president — things clearly outside of God’s will — people began to doubt God’s wisdom for allowing agents like that to speak for God.

And, also, when individuals outside of the faith community hear these prayers, with the exact opposite thing occurring, they begin to question the reality of God.

And that’s something I pray will stop.