Joined: July 2007
I'm kind of with J-dog on this. To an extent I think a prayer could be a way to focus your thoughts, a way to take a step back and take stock of your situation. Hell, I saw a sign on a local church recently that was halfway to being an invitation to Buddhist meditation. It said something about turning off the television and computer and sitting in the silence and knowing God.
As for the accomplishing nothing thing, well, in some situations there is nothing (more) you can do anyway, but you're left with the desire to act.
I was once in the unpleasant situation of sitting out a tornado warning in a house without a basement. So I sat it out in the inner hallway of the house with a group of people, and waited.
I can't say I was in mortal fear of imminent death, but the feeling of complete helplessness was overpowering. Perhaps it's wrong, but my impulse is always to get out into the open. I want to see the damn thing coming, I want to be able to act. Sitting in a hallway not knowing if anything is coming and unable to do anything if it was was a tough thing to deal with.
I'm not saying praying to an invisible man in the sky actually protects you, but I can understand that it could be a useful way to cope with the feelings of helplessness.
As it was, my coping mechanism was to babble at great length about anything and everything. Really, I suspect that a quiet prayer to the invisible being in the sky of my choice would have been a lot less annoying to those around me.
On the other hand... I listen to a lot of old time radio shows, either through archive.org or a net radio station that broadcasts that sort of thing 24 hours a day. I've recently been catching a lot of "Family Theater". It's curious in that it didn't have a commercial sponsor unlike most programming of the era. It was sponsored by a religious group.
Despite that the programming wasn't exactly the sort of vapid apologetics you'd expect from such an enterprise today(at least not always), but the beginning and end of the shows have a lot of talk about the importance of prayer. "The family that prays together stays together" was their motto. Instead of a commercial message they'd say that it's important for everyone to pray if we're to achieve world peace (yeah, that one worked out real well, didn't it?), and try to reinforce the idea that prayer keeps families together. Another of the things they like to start off the radio show with is "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of".
With apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson, I admit I find that quote kind of pathetic. It always makes me think of all the tests that show that prayer doesn't do squat. So... I guess that line could be correct, if it has an effect we don't know about it.