"Prayers" finds Joel Madden expressing his dismay at people who use organized religion to further their own ends. He also ponders the whole "thoughts and prayers" response to tragic events.
Prayers, they don't mean a thing at all Do they answer when you call? These prayers, when you don't mean what you say Would you die for me today? No, I just can't relate
Joel Madden explained to the BBC: "I feel like we're living in times where people use religion almost in so many different ways other than what I feel like religion is intended to be, which is based on love and togetherness and humans taking care of one another. We've never really gone there, it's new territory for us."
Joel Madden married Nicole Richie in December 2010. He told The Independent that in the song's first verse he was "writing about the experience of me and my wife's relationship and finding someone who you feel safe with and you relate to, and can ponder existence with."
Madden added that the second verse was inspired by an image he'd seen on TV of a "little Syrian refugee girl crying in front of this rubble."
He concluded: "Whatever religion you identify or subscribe to, I don't think any of their teachings are ones that tell us to just stand by and watch. I think we're meant to help each other, we're meant to take action, we're meant to do things for one another and I question a society of people who identify as religious, who aren't taking action for those in need."