Prayer is always asking in the sense that you are asking for you and God to relate to each other. So even prayers of love for God are petitions in a sense. All prayer is petitionary and we must ask if there is a problem with petitionary prayer. 
Some people believe prayer is not meant to do anything apart from make you feel better about somebody else's suffering or your own.
Some believe prayer only helps a person inside - God gives them strength. A change happens emotionally or spiritually or both. This pressures the person to pretend to have changed otherwise people will think they are not sincere when they pray.
Some believe prayer can also change what is going to happen on the physical level. A person who should die may live.
Some get a good feeling from prayer because they reason that when they pray for others’ needs and well-being, their own needs are answered! Praying for others can be a tactic for getting blessings yourself! No wonder it can feel good!
In fact if your or somebody else's suffering is terrible then feel bad as about it as possible so that you will do all you can about it. Be confident that the person may be enduring something that cannot be made up for not even by God. Be confident that if the person really is alone and no being is with her or him that you have to be and that it does not matter at all if she thinks god is or isn't with her. Anything that waters down these noble principles is an outrage.
The problem with any kind of belief is that we tend to forget most of the time that it is not a fact for you but just a belief. For example, if you believe Jesus rose you still don't know for certain if this belief is factual. You will tend to feel that it is a fact and treat it as such. Belief easily slips into such arrogance.
Prayer reinforces that arrogance. You feel sure that you have helped others when you should not be so sure.
When people hear about the bad things that happen in other areas or other countries they may feel that they are somehow picked by something or someone for special treatment. They may think the higher power regards them as better people than it does the unfortunate people who have poor luck. Or it may be random blessings. Both attitudes stink. Yet the feeling of being blessed or that one can be is what prayer is all about. The atheist resists the urge for it is repulsive.
If you pray for John to get better of cancer, and he does, you will end up thinking, "I did it for him. My prayers cured him." There is something stomach-churning about that. We sense you are using John's situation to get a self-righteous thrill.
Hypocrites like to feel they are good people - the ultimate hypocrite does prayers and superstitious rituals in order to convince herself or himself that she does the greatest work of all. That is terrible in itself. It is incredibly arrogant to think your saying a prayer for x matters while your helping that person say get medical treatment does not matter in comparison. It is a short step from that to reasoning that you don't have to do anything for others but pray for them.
The idea that God always helps but through people means that if you are not helped you blame others or blame yourself for not getting the help. If a loved one is not helped you blame others or blame yourself. The main reason for blame is that the praying was not done or was not up to standard.  Prayer is passive aggressive.
Suppose you had to make a choice - one or the other. You pray for a person who is very ill or you give them medicine. If prayer is the best you can do then you have to pray. Religion says it is. The atheist will reach for the medicine bottle. Do you see the intrinsic hypocritical passive aggression in faith now?
A baby needs tablets from you to get better from a terrible cruel illness. You have a choice, and it has to be one or the other. The choice is will I pray or give the tablets? If God and prayer come first then clearly praying is the choice. So you see the nastiness inherent even in the sweetest prayers! And if God does not come first for you then to pray for him to work with a person is to invite evil or the risk of evil into that person's life for they are asked to connect with a God who isn't good enough to matter.


Most praying people show it in some way most of the time.  This is virtue signalling to others.  Private prayer can be understood as trying to virtue-signal to God.  People forget you can also virtue-signal to yourself!  People who are prayed for need to see how offensive it all is.


There are many ways prayer can be feeling good about having done nothing concrete to help the person.  If you are praying for x and not seeing what you can do for x then you are just a hypocrite.


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