Vice President Mike Pence has responded to critics who have questioned the usefulness of prayer following Sunday's mass shooting at a church in Texas which left 26 people dead.
"Right now I truly believe that covering those families in prayers is making a difference in their lives, and it will continue to support those families and that community in the days ahead," Pence told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday.
Online debate has unfurled across Twitter and other platforms in the wake of the massacre at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, with some suggesting that prayer does not work if it can't protect Christians at church.
"I'm a believer. I believe in prayer and I know that at this moment of such heartbreak and loss in that community that what most Americans are most able to do is pray for those families," Pence said.
The vice president added, however, that prayer takes "nothing away from our determination ... to get to the bottom of what happened, to understand the why, to determine whether or not there were errors along the way."
Authorities are investigating if and in what way existing laws and background checks were not properly applied to shooter Devin Kelley, who illegally purchased the guns he used in Sunday's attack.
House speaker Paul Ryan also told Fox News in a separate interview on Monday that he stands by his offers of prayer, even though he was specifically targeted for his tweets.
Former "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Stand By Me" actor Wil Wheaton lashed out and wrote in response to Ryan's prayer tweet earlier this week: "The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they'd still be alive, you worthless sack of [expletive]."
Wheaton later apologized and explained he wasn't trying to attack people of faith, though prayer continues being criticized in debates online.
"It's disappointing. It's sad, and this is what you'll get from the far secular left. People who do not have faith, don't understand faith, I guess I'd have to say," Ryan told Fox.
He added: "And it is the right thing to do, is to pray in moments like this because you know what? Prayer works."
The House speaker blamed the "secular left" for much of the "polarization and disunity" in the country due to sentiments like that.
Prominent pastors, such as Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside and Irvine, California, told The Christian Post on Monday that while it is hard to understand God's role in tragedies like church shootings, prayer is far from ineffective.
"The Bible does not promise anyone a pain-free life. In fact, Jesus Himself said, 'In this world you will have tribulation' (John 16:33). Here is what I do know: these people that were gathered for worship at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, believed in and loved Jesus Christ," Laurie added.
He said that the victims are now in God's presence, "where there is 'fullness of joy' and 'pleasures forevermore' (Psalm 16:11). All of their questions are answered; our questions will have to wait."
Pastor Ronnie Floyd, president of National Day of Prayer and senior pastor at Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, separately told CP:
"In this fallen world when the spirit of evil is raging, all things that happen are not good. Yet, our faith and hope remains in God alone. When we pray we are depending on God for strength; when we do not pray, we choose to depend upon ourselves which always lead to unbelief."