My answer to the Quora question:
Does the existence of innocent suffering imply that God does not answer prayers?
No, what it implies to me is that there is no god(s) listening.
If I were a theist, it would imply that my god was lacking in either mercy and compassion or one of the big O’s: omniscience, omni-presence, or omnipotence.
If you wonder why there is suffering on earth, consider that this planet is a small part of a much larger system and actually, in the grand scheme of things, we are quite irrelevant.
We are also a part of the system of this planet which we call nature. We are no more or no less important that any other part of the system. To put that in perspective, take a look at a smaller system, for instance, your computer.
Your dog mangles a key on your keyboard, but it’s one you don’t use. Do you fix it? Probably not.
Your screen starts to go dark. It is definitely suffering, but unless you are a perfectionist, you probably will do nothing as long as it is still a usable part of your system. When it “dies” you will simply replace it.
Or your OS has a bug. You submit a bug report, a ‘prayer’ to fix it. Depending on how many people have that same problem, the computer gods may or may not work to fix it.
Suffering on earth is only a part of a greater system, the same as life, the same as death. As long as the system still works, there is no need for the system to take any action to alleviate or end suffering.
As a theist, when you pray, do you pray to end just your suffering or end all suffering? Do you as a human do anything to alleviate the suffering of others or are you only interested in your own suffering and the suffering of those in your tiny circles of interest? If there were a god, why would that being care about one selfish prayer when there are problems in the whole system that you are willing to ignore with an interest only for your own comfort?