Let’s say you’re someone who wants to help people looking for jobs. You can’t directly give them one, but you think you have some relevant experience and contacts you can share, so you make an open offer: Come visit me, bring your résumé, tell me your work history, and I’ll try to help you out.
TracieH at The Atheist Experience extends this further (first emphasis mine):
You are a reporter and you’d like to do a story on me and the inspirational work I’m doing. I meet with you and you ask me how it works. How do I help these people find work? I say, “Oh, after the applicants leave, I throw their resumes and vitaes in the trash. I don’t actually do anything to help them find work. I just like knowing that I provide them with a sense of hope and inspiration that things might improve for them — since they believe I can help them.
Sounds like a waste of time for everyone involved, even though the advice-giver thought he was helping out.
Is this any different from praying over someone else’s problems?
Or, to put it more bluntly:
Am I a kind, caring helpful person offering a benefit to people? Or an asshole who wastes their time?
They might think you’ve helped them out, but you’ve offered nothing but a placebo.
It’s a waste of time and their problems don’t go away because of your “help.” So stop filling out the prayer cards in the pews, making prayer requests at websites, and telling the church that someone in your family has a life-threatening disorder. They can’t help. If you’re lucky, they might empathize, but it won’t change the prognosis.