That's odd. I have those things as well and I mock your God.
Now that's a funny coincidence, because the same is true for me. ;-)
But generally speaking, I have a theory that prayer doesn't just settle the brain into a state of greater peace/tranquility/serotonin production, although this is demonstrably true. I suspect prayer functions to tether one to their faith when the claims of the faith are shown to be unreliable and realistically absurd. I think it tethers one not because it is a source of comfort (although that's a positive effect), but because it works to preserve the faith by distracting the faithful.
For example, we have a stated theology that promotes a god as omniscient and omnipotent. He no doubt knows the physical and emotional state of every individual, and as a superior moral being, would do something to correct pain and suffering. But he doesn't. Our experiences show reality doesn't conform with theology, and so the believing individual develops reasons to explain away the discrepancy between religious claims and reality. These excuses may range from lacking faith, to sin, to god's nature as one of primarily offering invisible companionship, or even a more pantheistic explanation. This "theological correctness" is explained more in this paper, whose snippet I offer here:
In particular, Barrett has argued that a strong inclination to detect agency in the natural environment is a normal part of human psychology. The evolved mental module responsible for this inclination, which he termed the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device, makes us predisposed towards believing in supernatural entities such as invisible ancestors, immaterial spirits, animals that can change shape, ghosts, holy mountains, etc. In a review article of the field, Barrett takes as the main tenet of CSR the thesis that ‘much of what is typically called religion may be understood as the natural product of aggregated ordinary cognitive processes’ (Barrett 2000: 29).
One interesting finding that has emerged from this cognitive research is that people use different versions of the same religious concept under different cognitive load demands (Barrett and Keil 1996; Barrett 1999). Barrett observed that orthodox theology typically dictates properties of supernatural beings that are highly counterintuitive and that strain our cognitive resources, e.g., omnipotence, omniscience, eternal existence. When questioned about their opinions and given some time to reflect, people profess to accept official theology, but when they are engaged in ‘online’ tasks, applying religious concepts in practice, they make tacit assumptions that violate official theology. Instead, believers tend to fall back on more intuitive and anthropomorphic versions of supernatural beings. Barrett (1999) has coined the term ‘theological correctness’ to describe this phenomenon. The related concept of theological incorrectness describes the tendency of believers to stray from official theology if the latter is too cognitively burdensome (Slone 2004).
In Mysterious Ways: On petitionary prayer and subtle forms of supernatural causation
Prayer is an important way in which the brain of the faithful avoids painful cognitive dissonance. It does so by distraction as well as producing an influx of serotonin and other chemicals that effect the pleasure center of the brain. It's a cognitive show of smoke and mirrors. When people believe in physical miracles such as sudden restoration of health, money to pay the bills, a prime parking space, etc. they are encouraged to expect comparable physical changes in the environment in ways that suit their needs. Confirmation bias serves to assure them their faith is well placed, but when things don't go as expected and one must respond to reality in a rational way, prayer serves to distract them from paying attention to the claims of their faith. It serves to excuse one from critically analyzing the claims of their faith and holding it accountable. Indeed, faith is a more virtuous response to this discrepancy. Furthermore, when prayer fails in an overwhelmingly painful way, it serves to encourage the believer to focus on promises that can't possibly be held accountable to reality. Past feelings of reward inspire anticipation of future reward, reward in greater measure than ever experienced. Promises such as immortal life and eternal bliss for faithfulness in time become the focus of prayer when illness is not cured and one must accept surgery, long-suffering, or worse, make funeral arrangements.
People who believe in a vague, general, deism pray for more general things, like an increase of love, patience, kindness, comfort from suffering, etc. These can be seen easily in any direction, and so the claim is easy enough to verify because it's so vague it could apply anywhere. There's less theological correctness to be done because the claims are evasive and ultimately meaningless. The Forer, or Barnum effect
explains how this works.
So to the OP (letter writer), I would say prayer absolutely works. It is a behavior with a demonstrable effect. It's just that it works differently than the faithful are taught to believe. It doesn't actually change the environment, and it does more than just calm frayed nerves. It functions to protect the individual from the pain that comes from approaching unreliable, but dearly held beliefs with logic and reason and critical thinking skills. One might even argue it functions to preserve the life of the mind virus. In any case, we cannot long survive when primitive superstitions are given valuable influence to inspire the use of modern technology. As prayer functions to rationalize demonstrably faulty beliefs, as it serves to celebrate ignorance and reward gullibility, it's not a benign thing.
It works, and that's a problem.