In Matt. 4:7, Jesus quotes a verse from Deuteronomy that has become beloved by apologists everywhere. “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test,” says the text, which in practice means that God reserves the right not to answer your prayers if He thinks you’re testing Him. It’s a good way to excuse God whenever He might otherwise seem to have failed to answer, but there’s a catch: how do you know which prayers are going to constitute “testing”? After all, there’s no point in wasting your time and His on prayers that are the wrong kind. But how to know which ones are wrong?
It turns out there’s a very easy way to find out. I call it “The iFriend Contingency.” As you might guess, the “i” stands for “imaginary,” and here’s how it works. Imagine you have a magical friend who is really a great person, and who has unlimited power and knowledge and goodness—but is not actually divine. Adopt this magical friend as your iFriend, and then start asking this iFriend for things. In your imagination, this iFriend has unlimited power and knowledge, so you can ask whatever you want.
God’s ability to grant what you ask for will never exceed your iFriend’s apparent ability to grant what you ask for. That is to say, there are some things you can ask for that have a non-zero chance of happening whether your iFriend exists or not. If you ask for such things, you’ll receive them a certain percentage of the time, thus appearing to be a case where your iFriend granted your request. Other requests however—like “Will you please show up at my house tonight at 7:00 and play the guitar at a party I’m having”—will never happen, because your iFriend isn’t real. These are the “testing” requests, and God will never answer them either.
Naturally, the reason I know this is because I’ve examined the Gospel enough to see that the Christian God is a false God. I know that God will never answer any requests that an iFriend could not answer because I know He, too, is an imaginary friend. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. You may not be allowed to put God to the test, but you’re certainly welcome to put me to the test. Try it for yourself, and you’ll see that it’s true: if you could not receive a thing after asking an iFriend for it, you won’t receive it after asking God for it either.
For example, if you and your buddy both believe in God, then you each have your own copy of God, as an imaginary friend. These two iFriends don’t really exist outside of your mind, so they can’t communicate with each other. If you and your buddy are far enough apart so that you cannot see or hear each other, and I give you a message to have God pass on to your buddy, that message will not go through. It’s an answer that would require God to be more than just an imaginary friend, so this request will turn out to be a “testing” prayer, as I predicted, every time.
You can cheat, of course. You can ask for something that doesn’t really require actual existence on God’s part—like praying for a dry day when the forecast calls for a 100% chance of rain—and give God credit for it if it happens. But on the other hand, you could just as easily give credit to your non-divine iFriend as well. Meteorologists do get the forecast wrong sometimes, and when they do, it’s no more of a stretch to give your iFriend the credit than to give it to God, because a friend doesn’t need to actuallly exist for you to give them credit for something. It’s not your friend that’s doing something, it’s just you deciding to give them credit.
Or you can cheat the other way as well. If you ask your non-divine iFriend for something, and you get what you asked for, you can say, “Oh, that’s just a coincidence—my iFriend didn’t really do anything, it just happened on its own.” But again, that works just as well with God. It’s not like either iFriend actually shows up so that everybody can see who it is that’s granting your request. You get what you asked for, and decide to give credit, or withhold it, however you please. It’s not your iFriend that’s doing or failing to do, it’s you that’s making a choice on whether or not to give them the credit. Your iFriend’s role is so passive, they don’t even need to exist to receive the credit!
But the big one, of course, is that class of requests that a non-existent iFriend could never answer, because they involve him showing up in real life as part of the answer to your prayer. That’s the kind of prayer that will always turn out to be a “testing” prayer. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. You’ll see.