As many of you know, I am an agnostic. My approach to the faith has been opposite of most atheists. I just assume God exists and is who he said he was and then look at how that reality should play out in practical situations.
First and foremost if prayer actually worked the way it is purported to, those in power would be doing everything they could to keep the powerless from doing it. Look at the last presidential election, through long lines at polling stations and other methods the poor were systematically discouraged from voting in their best interests. Why do you think the poor are encouraged to pray for things in their best interests but not vote for candidates who promise the same? Now some would argue that prayer really isn’t about engaging a divine Santa Claus and I’d agree with you there. However anything, anything good (even if it’s just sustenance to make it through a day) empowers.
If there was actually a god behind prayer many people would be doing less of it. This is because God would convict these people to do something sacrificial for that person besides merely praying.
Mating strategies for women would change if prayer worked. Since things that make a man worth dating (money, health) could be modified, a woman’s optimal strategy would be to find a man who didn’t have much to offer (who would be an easy catch) and pray the good things into him. As it stands now your prayers have to have already worked to get any consideration from women.
Also, there is a double standard when it comes to praying for individuals with disabilities/chronic conditions verses individuals who are facing some kind of crises. The latter is intensely prayed for while the former is generally ignored. Crisis situations usually resolve or end badly. You praise God if they end well and you forget about them if they end badly. However disabilities and chronic conditions last forever and generally worsen. I think these things don’t get prayed for because people know it would make prayer look bad. I think if prayer actually worked there would be no double standard.
Perhaps the worst thing about prayer is it is uninsurable. This because the act of prayer is tantamount to accepting God’s charity. This means it works when it works and doesn’t when it doesn’t. In the real world things don’t work on the charity metric. If I miss my therapy session I am billed thirty dollars. If I don’t do something in time I get yelled at. The fact that one is expected to have faith in God’s charity is difficult, particularly for people who like stability and assurance.