Who that prays ever really stops to think of what they are doing? Most likely, in spite of all the time people spend in the activity, they have not. Let us stop for a second and consider basic questions such as the act of praying and its benefits.
Why is prayer needed?
First of all, why would an all-knowing god want us to pray and how it is fair? If this god knows everything anyway, then it should know what people need without them having to get down on their knees to ask. If a father wants to save the life of his sick child, is that god really going to save the life of the child who is being prayed for and let the other child die because his or her parents did not grovel to this god and pray?
Why should more people praying make a difference? It would seem that the child with fewer people who care enough to pray for him or her would be the one who hasn’t had as many breaks in life. With that in mind, shouldn’t God be most in tune to those who do not have many people praying for them? If this principle is followed, praying for a loved one should be counterproductive.
Is God persuaded?
If God already decided what will happen and sees the future, what is prayer going to do regardless? Is he really persuaded by people praying to him? Can human beings really change divine will?
Whose side is God on?
Then, there is the issue of people on two sides praying. Does a god really help one side to victory for its prayers? If this god favors a certain religion, then should not one religion have won every battle it ever fought in?
Very devout people on both sides (that often shared the same religion) of conflicts have prayed before battle and went to their deaths certain god was on their side. If this god was listening to their prayers, why did not it ever answer them and save the lives of his followers on one site by simply telling them they were on the wrong side? Why sit back and allow slaughter in his name after hearing the prayers?
Even if we put all those questions aside, we still should have solid scientific evidence of the power of prayer. Unless praying is totally meaningless, there should be a dramatic and undeniable trend showing that those with someone praying for them recovering at much higher rates. However, in spite of numerous studies, none have ever been able to show paying making any difference.
Prayer or luck?
Sure, people feel their prayers have been answered. For example, they pray when they are in a tight spot and survive. However, they are not considering all the others who also prayed when they were suffering but died anyway. Those who are successful have their prayers answered. Those who are not are forgotten. We are only hearing a kind of winner’s version of history here. Unless the power of prayer can be demonstrated statistically, there is zero reason to believe it does anything.
There is also this to consider. Countries, in which belief in god and thus praying is low, such as many European countries and Japan, do just as well, if not better, in wealth and happiness indexes as those in which considerable time is devoted to prayer (especially the Islamic world which has both high prayer and poverty rates).
Finally, when prayer supposedly works, it is always in situations where the survival or other “miraculous” events can be attributed to a more earthly explanation. Those advocating prayer have never been able to show a healed amputee or anything else that clearly would indicate divine intervention.
So, it is pretty obvious. Even if there is a god, that god does not respond to prayer. Unless prayer helps a person psychologically (this may be possible scientifically since it is a form of meditation), it is a waste a time. Doctors, emergency workers and the like save people from bad situations. Action counts and prayer is just a diversion.