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Don’t Believe in God? Pray and Ask Him to Reveal Himself to You.

god reveal himself to you

When confronted with my unbelief in the Christian God, Evangelicals will often ask me to pray and ask God to reveal himself to me. Evangelicals have even given me scripted prayers to pray on more than a few occasions, telling me that if I “sincerely” pray these prayers to the triune God of Christianity, he will reveal himself to me. On days when I am filled with 100-proof Gerencser snark, I will pray the prayers and then report back, “Nope, God didn’t reveal himself to me!” Their reply? “well, you didn’t “sincerely” ask God to pull the rabbit out of the hat.” I am always to blame, not God, when he fails to show his work, speak to me, or do anything that would lead me to conclude he is real.

Evangelicals who take this approach with me are ignorant of their Bibles — the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Evangelicals believe every word in the Bible is true, written by holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. You would think Evangelicals would follow the Word of God instead of asking unbelievers to pray. Don’t they know that the Bible says that God doesn’t hear the prayers of the unsaved, that libertarian free will is a myth, and the only way that someone can be saved is if God chooses to save them? Don’t they know that lost people are dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from God, and unless God grants them the faith to believe, they will never be saved? What drives this notion of praying and asking God to reveal himself to you is bad theology. Shocker, right?

Take the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16. (Please see Luke 16:19-31: The Rich Man and Lazarus.) Towards the end of this story, we have a dialog between Abraham and the Rich Man:

Rich Man: I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment [Hell].

Abraham: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

Rich Man: Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

Abraham: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The Rich Man, facing the torments of Hell, was rightly concerned about his family, particularly his five brothers. The Rich Man asked Abraham to resurrect Lazarus from the dead and send him to preach to his brothers. Abraham replied, no, they have the Moses and the Prophets, the Old Testament; let your brothers read and hear their words. Knowing the Bible wasn’t enough to convince his brothers to believe in Jesus, the Rich Man pleaded yet again for Abraham to resurrect Lazarus and send him up top to witness to his unsaved loved ones. Abraham’s response is germane to this post: if they won’t hear the Bible, they won’t be persuaded if someone rose from the dead and preached to them.

Evidently, Abraham didn’t know Jesus would soon die and three days later resurrect from the dead. This leaves me wondering, if the Bible is written by God, surely he knew Jesus would soon be crucified, placed in a borrowed tomb, descend into Hell, and resurrect from the dead. Evangelicals believe that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the linchpin of their religion; that Jesus’ resurrection is the one thing that should convince unbelievers of the veracity and truthfulness of Christianity. However, Abraham didn’t think such magic tricks were useful. Instead, the Evangelical Abraham said: Read the Bible!

For those of us who are atheists and agnostics, neither appeals to the resurrection of Jesus nor reading the Bible have convinced us that Christianity’s central claims are true. Perhaps this is why some Evangelical zealots ask us to pray and ask God to reveal himself to us. They believe that a supernatural encounter with their God will surely cause us to fall on our knees, repent, and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If only believing was that simple, right?

Before asking us to pray to their God, Evangelicals must first provide evidence for the existence of said God. I assume Evangelicals would think it silly for me to pray to any other God but theirs. All deities but the Christian God are no gods at all. There is one true and living God, and Jesus is his name — well, he’s called the Father and the Holy Ghost too. I am quite willing to pray to the Christian God sincerely, but before doing so, I ask Evangelicals to give sufficient evidence for their deity’s existence, that he is whom Evangelicals say he is.

I walked away from Christianity twelve years ago. Since then, I have heard from and, at times, interacted with thousands of Evangelicals trying to “save” me. It’s been years since I have heard a new argument for the existence of God. Solomon rightly said that there is nothing new under the sun, which can certainly be said of Evangelical apologetical arguments.

I don’t get as many emails or comments from Evangelicals trying to “save” me as I did in the past. I suspect Evangelicals have decided that God has given me over to a reprobate mind, that I have crossed the line of no return, or have committed the unpardonable sin. This allows them to attack my character, revealing their lack of character, respect, and decency. After scores of such attacks and deconstructions, I am immune to their words. Twelve years of interacting with such people have given me a thick skin. I am still open to new evidence for their God’s existence, but the incessant playing of William Craig Lane’s greatest hits really doesn’t work with me.

Does the Christian God really need me to pray before he will reveal himself to me? Doesn’t he know everything beforehand, including the words people pray and how he will respond? Why doesn’t God skip the theatrics and appear to me at my home? If, as the Bible says, with God nothing is impossible, surely Jesus can stop by and have lunch with me, and while he is here, heal me of bile reflux, gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and peripheral neuropathy.

I hope this post puts an end to the notion that if atheists and agnostics would just “sincerely” pray to the Evangelical God that he would reveal himself to them. There is no evidence that this has ever taken place.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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11 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Michael Mock

    Yeah, that’s one I have tried and tested. If there is a God, and He is out there somewhere, he doesn’t see fit to answer me no matter how sincerely I ask. There’s even a thread somewhere…Ah, here, well down in the comments:

    http://formerfundy.blogspot.com/2010/11/fine-tuning-ethical-intuitionism.html

    Ken Pulliam’s old blogs, in the comments on one of his last, unfinished posts. “You cannot ask but that He will answer.” “Okay, I’m asking… and it’s been days… and He hasn’t answered.” “Um… you asked wrong.”

    I’m forced to assume that if there is a God, either he prefers me to be an atheist, or He created me with the perfect and complete understanding that I would be eternally damned. That latter possibility is not my image of a benevolent Creator. It makes more sense to think that neither possibility applies.

  2. Avatar
    Julie S.

    You make excellent points here, Bruce. Things I had never thought of even during all my years in the IFB (infancy thru age 33; Christian school, the whole 9 yards). I guess when you hear the same tripe over & over, you become numb to it & tune it out. I had never thought about when Abraham told the rich man that if his family wouldn’t listen to Moses & the prophets, that they wouldn’t listen to a resurrected Lazarus. Come again? I’d think that a resurrected individual would garner MUCH more attention than a dead prophet! That in itself makes zero sense to me. Then you so fittingly add that it wouldn’t be long until Jesus would himself be resurrected from the dead – but him they WOULD listen to?! It’s very eye-opening to look at it that way. And it’s so true!

    My mother (RIP) gave me a little reminder card once that said “The heart that seeks God, finds Him”. That saying fits in so well with the thoughts you bring to light here.

    Thank you, Bruce, for lifting the veil for so many of us & showing just how manipulatively we were led for so long. I’m 48 yrs old now; been gone from the IFB for 15 yrs. But I will never truly be free; the scars it has left behind on me will always be a reminder.

  3. Avatar
    Matilda

    IIRC, Bruce, you once said that whilst deconverting, you and Polly wrote down the answers to prayer you’d received over decades, and could only come up with a possible five. (It was the first post I ever read on an atheist blog, so stuck with me, I was feeling the same). I was realising god had ample opportunity to reveal himself to me, like you, I spent my whole life trying to do his work and prayed my socks off daily to do his will but never got messages back…..I had to admit, with a real shock at first…that ‘revelation’ came there none and never would…because he didn’t even exist.

  4. Avatar
    BJW

    The human mind tries to make sense of stuff, and one way it does this is by making connections. So when Christians pray for something, and then aha! their prayer is answered, well, let’s just say that if they hadn’t prayed, nothing would have changed and they still would have been “blessed” sans prayer. I remember praying for stuff and sometimes it happened, except it would’ve happened without prayer.

  5. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    One thing I always wondered about in the Rich Man and Lazarus, was if Abraham died years before Moses was born, and the Ten Commandments handed down, how is that Abraham knew about this, and ” the prophets ?”. They all came after he was long dead, right ? And if he was told about them all, why is Jesus left out then ? Also, I didn’t like Abraham’s reasoning towards that recent arrival to hell– ” well, you are now being tortured and Lazarus is being comforted. You had good things while alive and Lazarus had nothing.”. And regarding the rich guy’s brothers still living, “. they have the Bible and the prophets. Let them hear them.”. Let them ???? I don’t like it ! It never sat well with me.

  6. Avatar
    mary

    i have been struggling with this lately. still in the habit of praying if scared, etc. i know logically it’s all a fairy tale, but a comforting one. in the process of leaving behind evangelical christianity right now. but i can see myself sliding into disbelief eventually. more of a humanist now than ever. i just live my life and don’t discuss what i believe anymore. glad i don’t have church to complicate this anymore. we quit years ago. thanks for the great posts.

  7. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Honestly, the more I have read the Bible as an atheist, the more impressed I am with ancient writers’ usage of psychological constructs to manipulate people into this religion. Convincing people that they are filthy reprobates who cannot trust their own thinking skills and observations, convincing them that the invisible God who doesn’t answer their prayers just isn’t appealed to in the right way because it’s always the fault of humans – brilliant!

  8. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    BJW–I think it’s called “confirmation bias.”

    Obstacle–Those are also selling techniques straight out of Edward Bernays. Among other things, he encouraged smoking among women by branding cigarettes as “torches of freedom” and helped to pave the way for the 1954 CIA-sponsored overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically-elected government. Really, convincing people that if God isn’t revealing himself to them, it’s their fault isn’t so different from convincing them that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t buy some harmful product or a government lie.

  9. Avatar
    BJW

    MJ, it’s related to confirmation bias but that’s not it exactly. I did find this Wikipedia article which seems to hit on what I’m thinking, that our brains make patterns of possibly unrelated things, to make sense of the world. So you are right and there is confirmation bias. But also our brains just try to make sense of stuff. Possibly confirmation bias more informs what happens with Christians and prayer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia

  10. Avatar
    Astreja

    I can’t see any benefit in trying to pray to an entity that I think is imaginary. I’ve never been able to get past the “Yeah, right…” eyeroll stage.

  11. Avatar
    Davie from Glasgow

    When I was nine years old, my Mum was on her way to bed when she heard talking coming from my bedroom. Thinking it a bit odd, she put her ear to the door and heard me praying passionately to God for the £3 I still needed to save up in order to afford the new Luke Skywalker action figure that had come out to promote the Empire Strikes Back movie. I wanted that action figure more than I had ever wanted anything.

    In the morning, I got up and went outside to find three £1 notes under a stone on the steps to our front door. I cannot tell you how excited I was.

    My Mum made me go through the whole rigmarole of going to the local police station and asking if anyone had lost money – but when all that had been played out, I got to go to the toyshop and buy Luke Skywalker in his cool snow gear!

    As you might imagine, for a short while there was probably no stronger believer on the face of the Earth than me. Until one night a few weeks later my Mum – probably after an extra glass of wine with Sunday dinner – came clean about the whole story.

    I think she was expecting me to be deeply moved by how much she cared about me. In truth I felt conned.

    But it soon wore off during the cool adventures me and Luke Skywalker went on to have. And who knows – maybe it inoculated me a bit against some of the nonsense I was inevitable to go on to hear in later life.

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