Does prayer work? It seems like if someone were to set out on research project to find out if prayer works, they would find out that the majority of times prayer will not bring upon what we have requested. Imagine a study of cancer victims, where one groups prayed, and the other did not. There would have to be other factors that would have to be considered like stage of cancer, what type of cancer, improvement upon prayer, extent of prayer, type of prayer, sincerity of prayer, and even religion of prayer. This extraneous information would make it difficult to get a true result. Or maybe a better measure would be a study to find out the remission and cure rates between atheists and religious people.
Even if this type of project were done, I would imagine that the remission or cure rate would be the same for both groups, albeit a miniscule advantage to the religious group. Hope in a creator, or mind over matter affecting the progress of the disease in the religious group.
If God did consider our prayers, what is he looking for? Is there a standard prayer? Must there be emotion, contrition, sincerity, promises, change in behavior, loyalty, contribution of money and time, pilgrimage, charity, missionary contract, etc.
If God is all-powerful, does he not know what we want already? Must we bargain with God to help us? How much money should I donate, I will be nicer to people, let me live for a few more years, I will attend church from now on if, etc. Our prayers appear to be a futile attempt to bargain with God.
In the Heaven’s Truth Religion (Tenrikyo), we have a prayer that has been given to us by God. It is not a selfish prayer, but a prayer to save all mankind. It is a prayer to spread God’s truth to the World, the truth that by removing evil (greed, arrogance, and self love) from one’s mind, we can live a joyous life. But this prayer is not as simple as it appears. It requires a specific prayer (Joyous Service) and the pure mind of the prayer. Without both, we can expect the congregation to grow at a nominal rate; but with both requirements met, God will bring a plethora of new members to our churches. God guarantees this type of prayer!