Even if atheists were right--that prayer is wishful thinking--they are right only in relation to God, not in relation to wishing. The importance of prayer is that it is an expression of our spiritual nature, and when we wish for love, peace,for our own good and the good of others we define ourselves as more than flesh and blood. We define ourselves as hoping, loving, and imagining beings who crave to know the source of our being.
The reason I could never be an atheist is because when they get together they have literally nothing to talk about.
It's rather simple. God deliver us from people who know so little that they will kill for what little they know.
For modern cosmology God cannot be a working hypothesis because God is not given to us in the observable nature of things. The poetic and theological idea that the universe is an expression of God's creative power is false. And yet the possibility that underlying the nature of things is an undiscoverable force of unimaginable simplicity that one may call God haunts and frustrates modern science. If this principle exists, then it cannot be different from our experience of it: it must be inherent, not transcendent; purely natural, therefore, not a violation of its own being, and hence intelligent, in the sense it requires coherence rather than chaos and confusion to exist at all--as the ancient myths tell us; impersonal to the extent that we cannot attribute moral purposes or even will, classically understood, to what we can observe of its operations. It is entirely coextensive and if it has a limit coterminous with what is--a perception that dates in theology from Anselm to Tillich and in natural philosophy from Democritus to Planck. It does not exist in gaps of undiscovered data or models or as an unsolved mystery but in the givenness of the world and the intelligent life form that has arisen to ponder it.
The standard cosmological theory--an expanding universe--does not really solve the problem of God. It simply makes it more problematical. Once the creator-creation model is discarded as primitive mythology, we still have not touched the ancient conundrum, ex nihilo nihil fit: nothing comes from nothing, and the axiom that Nothing is unstable' rivals in scholastic absurdity anything Aquinas may have said eight hundred years ago and can only be postulated given the reality of something, whereby it becomes a self-evident and unarguable tautology.
The division in human religion has always been between those who see the fall of man as a fall into freedom and those who see it as an act of defiance against the tyranny of an all-powerful father. But Adam and Eve were never in heaven; they were in the mud, and had to leave the only home they had ever known behind. And why? For choosing love and freedom over perpetual infancy and slavery of the will. Their sin was moral responsibility. Their reward is clear: They have becomes gods--knowing good and evil. And for that, they were condemned to live in a world of discovery and choices.