The ASSUMING is the part that gets you into it in the first place.
Well, yeah. Hence I predicated the entire post with that assumption. It's silly to argue the particulars of prayer and the various ways in which one should/shouldn't engage in it without first assuming there's a point to doing it at all.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: You may as well dance the Hokey-Pokey as to talk to God, pray to him, beg him, implore him, importune him, seek him in prayer. It is a jolly waste of time.
When you say to somebody "I'll pray for you" try substituting either of these phrases next time.
1.Hey, I'm sorry to hear about your problems I'll be dancing the Hokey-Pokey for you.
Or, with even more stark honesty:
2.Hey, my heart goes out to you in your time of need. I'll be doing absolutely nothing for you myself; but, I'll pretend there is a supernatural invisible friend of mine who'll look after you.
See how rude that looks? It is because, essentially, we are doing nothing at all when we pray; BUT, we convince ourselves we are doing a Big Deal.
Empty self-deception, alas!
I actually agree with the above--if one has no faith in the existence of God in any form, the above variations are as meaningful to the recipient of the offer as the original. But to one who has faith, who feels that such petitions are worthwhile, the offer is often sincere. And honestly, the acceptance of such an offer costs you nothing.
As you are likely well aware from your own past experiences, the personal belief in a higher power and it's place in one's life is often deeply rooted in our individual identities--part of the very fabric we believe makes us who we are. If one is convinced of a higher power, and seeks comfort in prayer--the 'validity' of that belief according to someone else is of absolutely no consequence.
On a personal level, I'm not sure exactly how I feel about God and prayer as a method of communication. In the years I've spent searching for what it is I could believe in, for the ultimate 'truth' that would finally reveal itself as worthy of my adherence, I have spent countless hours reading, thinking about, and arguing both for and against the existence of anything greater than ourselves. I made the mistake of leaving one school of thought that had no tolerance for views other than those it embraced, for an entirely new belief system that exhibited the same arrogance and rigidity on the opposite end of the spectrum. To definitively declare as truth any position about that which is ultimately unknowable is folly. It took me a very long time to realize that all the bluster and debate and hard-line assertions about what I felt to be logical, irrefutable facts were the groundwork for the eventual realization that the only thing that I could be sure of is that I don't know anything for sure.
Through all the searching, I have come to feel that my problem has never been with the idea of 'God', but only with how man has chosen to limit and define 'God'. In my quietest moments, I have learned that it doesn't matter that I cannot point to a set of rules and say "This is what I believe", and that maybe faith isn't about what I know to be true, but what I cannot know to be true. And that leaves me free to keep reading, thinking, arguing and searching all sides of the great God debate, all the while realizing that I don't have to buy into it if it doesn't make sense to me.
Try as I might, I just can't muster up the hubris anymore to definitively declare that there is nothing greater than me out there. And if there is, it would be hilarious if the first words I'd hear upon leaving this life were "Put your left foot in, take your left foot out...."
(Seriously, what is UP WITH THE FORMATTING lately? I have to go back three and four times to eliminate phantom spaces that keep showing up when I hit "submit"!)