I will say there’s no difference between praying and meditation, but you have misunderstood this from the beginning, which fortunately you were brought back to now understand.
In Christian theology, prayer is thought as a three-way path, PRAISE/THANKSGIVING-ASK FOR FORGIVENESS OF SINS-LISTEN TO WHAT GOD WILL TELL US. All these are present in meditation, albeit silently. For it is possible to pray without a word being uttered.
The expectation of some kind of goodness or piety is not as a result of prayer, but the humility and submission that comes from the willingness to get close to God, and do what is right, especially in expressing justice and compassion to all.
The nature of God is provision for all, irrespective, but it is left to us to open ourselves to receive what He has to offer, as these are guided with certain laws. He makes no discrimination, but for some, they are only opened to vibration from the Light when they are completely broken and at the very bottom. That is the reason suffering may be beneficial for some. But that is not the path of God, nor His intention to make people suffer. He wants more than ever for mankind path to be smooth. If there is a rocky or stony path for anyone, then the fault is from that person.