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Ramchal in Derekh HaShem III 2 (7) speaks about using the names of G-d to achieve effects not achievable using physical agencies. He says,

א׳ הוא הזכרת שמו ית׳ כמי שקורא אותו שיענהו, וימשיך על ידי זה ממנו השפעה,

“One form is the mentioning of His name as one calls Him that He should answer and thus influence is drawn down” which sounds a bit like prayer.

But he also says, אינו ראוי והגון להדיוט שישתמש בשרביטו של מלך “It is not fitting for a plain person to use the sceptre of the King” which does not sound like prayer.

Is הפעולה בשמות or “theurgy” similar to prayer?

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No, he isn't talking about prayer.

He's talking about uses of Hashem's names that have definite effects, almost the way magical spells act. One example of this is when Moshe killed a mitzri by uttering a shem Hashem, name of Hashem, according to Rashi in Sh'mot 2:14.

There are prayers composed by the meukbalim that include this use of names as an element (specifically thinking about them, as the Ramchal describes), but strictly speaking this is different from prayer.

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