I’m sure you’ve seen this. I see it just about every day on social media. Someone is open about a health issue they’re dealing with. They may or may not ask people to pray, but they at least tell you what’s going on.
Some people reply by telling the person they are praying, as you would expect believers to do. But others offer something else: From “good thoughts” to “healing vibes,” they’re offering up something that isn’t prayer, but at least in their minds, isn’t nothing either.
How should a believer view that? I’m not raising the prospect of your arguing with them or telling them their sentiments are powerless, since that wouldn’t be very nice and it’s not a fight you will do any good by picking.
The more interesting question is not what to say to the senders of good thoughts and healing vibes – just thank them; there’s no need to elevate the praying people over the vibe-senders, and the praying people aren’t looking for that anyway – but rather how we as Christians should understand what they’re doing and why.
Here’s the question I find most interesting: If you don’t believe in prayer because you’re not sold on the notion of an unseen, supernatural entity who can answer them, then why do you feel the need to offer an expression of what amounts to faux prayer?
The praying person has every expectation that there is a real God who hears the prayer and can act in response to it with power. That makes the offer of prayer an entirely rational one in the context of the Christian’s belief system.
But the nonbeliever doesn’t buy any of this. So why not just say, “I hope you recover”, rather than presume to take some action that hints rather strongly of the supernatural you profess not to believe in?
I think they believe a lot more than they’re willing to admit, even if the belief is only in their subconscious.
Romans 1:18-20 contains a rather astonishing declaration about man’s knowledge of God:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Look at the three phrases I put in bold. The first declares that men “hold the truth in unrighteousness,” which directly contradicts any claim that you’re not in possession of the truth of God’s existence. The second declares that the knowledge of God is already manifest in you, because God showed it to you, so you can’t pretend to be unaware. And the third one asserts that God’s eternal power and Godhead are clearly seen and understood by the creator.
Three verses clearly assert that no one can claim to lack the knowledge or understanding of God’s existence, because he has made it clearly seen and has made this knowledge manifest in you.
Now when I’ve made this point before, atheists of course deny it. In no way do they believe God is real! That’s what they insist. And it may very well be that that’s the belief they operate under in their conscious mind, having used all kinds of false doctrine and rebellious notions to push that manifest knowledge down into the subconscious.
But it’s still there. You may reject God, but you do not lack the knowledge of His existence or His eternal power, no matter how determinedly you deny it to yourself and to others.
So that brings us back to the vibe-senders. Why are they sending good vibes if they don’t really believe in the supernatural? Because they do believe in it. They won’t admit it to themselves or to others, but the possess the knowledge of God and His eternal power. That’s why they can’t just stay out of it when Christian declare that we are praying. They know it’s not good enough to just say “good luck” or to express their hopes. They don’t really believe there’s no point to prayerful expressions. The human soul manifestly knows better, and they don’t feel right just sitting there offering nothing that might invoke a higher power.
But they are still in full rebellion against God, and they aren’t willing to acknowledge His sovereignty, so they concoct a counterfeit version of prayer that will allow them to be in the game without abandoning their rebellion.
Prayers are ridiculous but vibes work? The idea seems pretty absurd, but it stems from the vibe-sender’s manifest knowledge that the supernatural is real, and can absolutely be harnessed to help a sick person, combined with their absolute refusal to bow a knee to Ruler of both the natural and the supernatural.
So how should we understand the sending of those healing vibes? We should recognize it as a manifestation, however faint, of that person’s knowledge of God’s eternal power as established in Romans 1:18-20 – and pray for insight as to how we could help that person build on it.
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Powers and Principalities (2009): Twenty years ago, Clay Bender saw the face of spiritual evil with the naked eye while attending a party. Now, Clay’s terrifying spiritual gift returns, showing him that a supernatural threat is looming – one that could threaten everyone in Royal Oak. As the community grapples with bizarre electrical disturbances and a horrible train derailment, only Clay can recognize the true nature of the strange events, and he and his two closest friends have little time to battle the city’s demons – even as all three are forced to face their own. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)
Pharmakeia (2010): Kyla Spears is being warned – in terrifying dreams – of grisly and violent tragedies looming for young people in Royal Oak. But her spiritually gifted friend Clay Bender is reluctant to help, and her feelings for one charming young man threaten her newfound spiritual integrity and her ability to face the truth about what’s really behind the threat. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)