Nondirectional prayer.

by K.W. Leslie, 23 August

I’ve written about unidirectional prayer—those prayers where people figure they’re talking to God, but he never responds, because he doesn’t do that sort of thing. Either he’s holding off till the End, and we have to learn to live with silence; or he only speaks through the bible, signs, and omens; or, as nontheists suspect, he’s been a figment of our imagination all along.

Regular readers of TXAB are fully aware I believe the whole God-doesn’t-speak-anymore idea is a steaming pile of crap. God responds, and if you’ve never heard him respond, you gotta learn to hear him. Stop doing all the talking, sit down, and listen. Concentrate on a passage of scripture for a few minutes, and see whether the Holy Spirit drops some thoughts into your head. Meditate. Make the time to do this frequently, and keep doing it till hearing him becomes natural.

But back to the people who believe God won’t talk back, won’t respond, isn’t interactive, and isn’t gonna make special exceptions during this dispensation. Who think prayer isn’t about speaking with God; it’s really about other things. Like learning how to pray for his will. Or learning to have empathy for the folks we pray for. Or continuing in religious exercises for their own sake. Or doing it to feel spiritual. Or whatever other excuses they use to keep up the practice, even though they’re not so sure God’s on the other end of the line.

They may be unaware of this, but really what they’re teaching people prayer is about, is learning to live without God.

Seriously. Because if prayer doesn’t work—if God is never gonna answer—then functionally he’s not here. Despite the scripture saying he’ll never leave nor forsake us, He 13.5 he has. He’s removed himself; he’s elsewhere; he’s not here. We live in a God-forsaken universe. May as well become Buddhist.

So technically these folks aren’t even practicing unidirectional prayer. If God’s not here anymore, they’re practicing nondirectional prayer: Their prayers go nowhere. Not up nor down; nowhere. They take the form of being addressed to God; they may even include “in Jesus’s name.” But they’re wasted breath. Dead religion.

Godless prayer.

If we actually knew how much of this sort of prayer is practiced in Christendom, we’d probably be horrified. There are a lot of Christians—including Christians in continuationist churches, which do believe in miracles and interactive prayer!—who really don’t expect God to hear them. Who are just going through the motions, because prayer is just something we Christians do, right?—but they simply don’t believe God’s listening. He has far better things to do. He listens to devout Christians, or pastors; not so much them. But despite giving up on God, they still pray… just ’cause.

Understandably, such Christians are profoundly faith-deficient. They’ve never had any God-experiences to base their faith on. They hope they’ll have such experiences someday—maybe after they die—and think that’s faith; it’s not the ὑπόστασις/ypóstasis (“foundation,” KJV “substance”) of what we hope for, He 11.1 but hope alone. They hope God is out there, so they pray—much like astronomers hope space aliens are out there, so they beam the occasional message just in case. But unlike the astronomers, they never, ever expect God to hear them.

How do we break this faithless practice? Well, the Holy Spirit tends to break it by answering them. And yes, in so doing he scares the living bejeezus out of them, same as he did various people in the bible. It’s like when you’re standing by a department store mannequin, and it moves—it turns out the store hired some actor to model their clothes—and you darn near leap out of your own skin: It’s alive! From then on, you’re gonna double-check every mannequin you see; and once the Christian actually hears the Spirit, they’re always gonna be aware he’s listening. Even when they’re not praying!

Now what about those whom the Spirit hasn’t yet discombobulated? Well we can encourage them to listen for him, and how to do it; and I often do. It’s not easy, ’cause faithless Christians are hard nuts to crack. A number of ’em have absolutely convinced themselves God is never gonna respond… and some of them are anxiously terrified he might. ’Cause if he responds, it means they have to change their entire worldview, and they really don’t wanna do that. When people resist the Spirit like that, he tends to leave ’em in their own self-deception, Mt 13.14-15 unless it serves his purposes to intervene. But don’t presume that means they’re uncrackable: You may be the means by which the Spirit intervenes. Encourage them to listen!