Does prayer work?
I personally believe prayer has subverted reason for the mystical. Now I want to make it clear that I believe prayer is important to lifting one's spirit; but not when mysticism has been passed over as concrete evidence throughout religionist history. For example: if a cancer survivor is so certain in the power of prayer, the power to heal from God's hands, why did they need radiation treatments in the first place? It would seem to me, at most, that a Creator created humanity with the tools to develop said radiation treatment; but any medical successes are to the credit of human knowledge and free will. These "miracles" are more likely works of invention than any purported hand from God.
The big question that is asked by religionists is: "Why does God allow evil to happen?" He doesn't. Humanity does. In fact, you could say to a certain extent religion has. Because prayer (mysticism) often suspends thought--and more importantly, action--"faith" offers complacency, and hiding, as comfort. Those believing evil emanates from secularism also allow the most heinous of tyranny to go on untouched. ("If we all just pray, things will get better.") In the 20th Century, we've been through two World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the globe is under the constant threat of teetering on a nuclear World War III. We have the tools to choose, to think, and to act for ourselves. Yet mysticism hides in an impenetrable bubble of reality denial to which reason disintegrates.
If my biblical knowledge is correct, "The Great Flood" was an invention passed over from generation to generation by the mystic intellectuals, in order to scare the non-believers into believing God unleashed his wrath upon human sin. Yet weather patterns by some religionists are deemed to be "set in motion" with no true discrimination in mind other than just the right elements of cool and warm temperatures creating natural disasters. (If the American central belt is under constant tornado threat, are these people greater "sinners" than the rest of Americans?) Those who unfortunately are in the wrong place at the wrong time lose their life--and not by predicted design. On a global weather scale, the earth is trying to keep a constant yin and yang balance. Those geographs lacking or having an abundance of moist/dry or cool/warm temperatures, will eventually have enough, or an extreme, of the other. Yet we're suppose to be sensitive to the religionist's beliefs; but why does the non-believer not deserve the same sensitivity when unsubstantiated mysticism is shoved down our throats via creation stories and biblical-as-legislated-people-control-rule? (Namely forced prayer in schools.)
A dear friend of mine had brain cancer. Her treatments had cured her--or so we thought. She claimed "God saved her." Later, the doctors found more cancer, and she died. Where are the prayerists now? No reply. Even worse, a friend of mine is battling in a custody case. She believes--get this--that "God is amongst" her lawyer, but she isn't preparing herself, or more immediately, the case, for appropriate action. Meaning, again, that individual responsibility is subverted for prayer in hopes everything will turn out in the end. Whatever positive outcomes are gifts from God; whatever negatives are deemed Devil worship, or simply are forgotten in the context of prayer.
So if you want prayer in your life, that's great; but please don't replace it with free will and the power of the human mind.