The proprietor of One Fewer God writes:
There’s been severe flooding here in Britain, Gloucestershire has been worst affected.
Don’t worry though, the Bishop of Gloucester has written a special prayer for the flood victims.
There’s 250,000 without clean drinking water, many thousands have had their homes and all their possessions ruined, but thanks to the quick thinking of the Bishop there are now some new words to say to your imaginary friend in the sky.
So, God has allowed great evil to happen to certain flood victims, thereby being guilty of parental neglect (and maybe even abuse). Maybe He just forgot about us. And now, having made so many people miserable, He is going to respond to our prayer by perhaps repenting, fixing His own error, and improving their conditions. “Sorry guys,” our author would have God saying, “just got sidetracked by this math puzzle… I’ll get you all back in business in just a second. Here are some Central Bank notes I’m going rain from the sky for ya.”
Clearly, there is something wrong with this concept of God. Hence God does not exist. Or, at least, prayer is useless.
Now I agree that God won’t do your work for you. In the face of the devastation of so many people, it’s up to us to render assistance (voluntarily, of course, and not through the state). But that does not make prayer useless. For that depends on what is being prayed for. And if we pray that, for example, neither the theoretical problem of evil, nor the actual misfortunes borne by these folks turn them bitter and away from God (e.g., by blaming Him) but on the contrary energize them to fight for their happiness and never give up, then that prayer may easily be granted, especially if you are ministering to them yourself.
Spiritual works of mercy, such as comforting the afflicted, are just as important as corporal works of mercy, such as feeding the hungry. Even Jesus, after His ordeal with the devil in the desert, had angels ministering to Him. And it is written that
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Lk 22:39-44)
So, attend that Jesus did not pray that God inject Him with some happiness serum or that He be spared His passion but so that He may endure and overcome it. That’s what our prayers for those who are suffering should be like, as well.