Martin's Method of Giving a Testimony to JWs: Would this really work?

by Oroborus21 13 Replies latest jw friends

  • Oroborus21


    Ok so I read in Walter Martin's The Kingdom of the Cults how he claims to use the following method to give a testimony to Jehovah's Witnesses who come to his door periodically, and frankly I find it a bit dubious, despite his claims that he has successfully done it many times.

    He calls this method "Subliminal Seeding" (pg. 487-8) [a dubious title already]:

    Ok so this is his method in a nutshell:

    First, he invites them in. Then before they have a chance to say anything or offer any literature he states that "he never discusses the bible or religion without beginning with a prayer"

    THEN HE IMMEDIATELY bows his head and starts praying. He does use the name Jehovah in his prayer.. Like he begins it "Dear Jehovah God or whatever..." but really his prayer is all about his orthodox beliefs. He goes on for about 3 minutes (a heck of a long prayer if you ask me).

    Then after the prayer he says "Now what do you want to discuss?" (He says that he insists on only letting them use or refer to an accepted translation of the bible and sticks to cardinal doctrines of orthoxy -but really these points are moot.)

    After he has had enough of the JW discussion that he can stomach for the day. He says, he quickly reminds the Witnesses of the lateness of the day (or whatever) and then quickly bows his head and gives a closing prayer along the lines of the first one. And then sends them out the door.

    Ok so this is his point. He says that the whole discussion is irrelevant. He says the point is in the two prayers. For six minutes he says, the JWs have to listen to HIM as he gives a testimony about Christ Jesus, his divinity, etc. etc. during his prayers. (thus the "subliminal seeding" name)

    Martin says that every time he has done this (and he says he has done it many times) that the JWs allways bow their heads and don't dare interrupt him during the prayers. And that he has noted that on a few occassions the Witnesses were genuinely touched "to hear the real truth."

    My thoughts/questions:

    When I was an active Witness and when growing up one, I had always understood, that generally speaking, we do not permit others to pray for us like this. (At a ball game or public event, we would be respectful but not say "Amen" whenever a public prayer was offered) - but in a private setting like this - I am not sure what the response would be from the average JW. No doubt that is why he doesn't give any warning and just launches into prayer.

    I suppose that if I were in the situation that I would not interrupt someone praying either - even if they were saying a lot of things that I disagreed with. I would just bring them up, you mentioned in your prayer that Jesus is God.....blah, blah, blah....

    So anyway I was wondering:

    • have any of you ever tried this method? and if so what was the response from the JWs?
    • As JWs (for those who were) did you ever encounter this when you were in the ministry?
    • What do you think of the overall effectiveness of such a method
    • How far do you think that you could push this method? For example, do you think that you could get a Witness (once you have them in a settng like this) to listen to a prayer in which you discussed things like the blood doctrine, disfellowshipping, 1914, etc. or would that carry things so far that some Wtinesses would actually excuse themselves?

    anyone? anyone? Bueller? anyone?


    (PS: the Dr. Martin died in 1989)

  • Narkissos

    I think it's incredibly stupid and rude.

    If someone had done that to me the first verse I'd have brought up after his "Amen" would have been Matthew 6:

    And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

    Now offering to pray is another thing.

    I can still remember a long discussion with a Catholic who knew his Bible very well, and had a very personal faith and approach. I argued as the perfect JW, but deep inside I often felt myself agreeing with many spiritual (not doctrinal of course) points he made. At the end of the discussion he kindly suggested that we might pray together in spite of our disagreement. And frankly asked me why I wouldn't. Reluctantly I had to express what the JW consistency really implied (true vs. false religion, ultimately Jehovah vs. Satan). And I felt the shame of it all. I never forgot that experience.

  • billyboy

    There was an old man in our territory who would insist on praying "the Lord's prayer" (including the spurious added-on bits) at the start of any visit. Any visiting witness used the same argument with him - arguing that he was praying to a different (Trinitarian) God & quoting Mt 6.

    I suspect that the approach mentioned by Eduardo would not impress the average witness although it would be a novelty to find a "Christian" who gave some kind of witness or testimony - most never bother.

  • Oroborus21

    well I was hoping that more persons would give their opinion. As I said, I thought when I was reading about it, that it didn't seem too likely that JWs would just stand there and listen to both an opening and closing prayer by someone.

    But I thought maybe if Martin was really charismatic or if just the way that he did it, that maybe some out of respect wouldn't leave or interrupt the prayer.

    I think one of the key things about the technique is that he doesn't announce that he is going to do thus he doesn't give the JWs an opportunity to object, he just launches into it.

    I would also think that if I called at a door and the guy invited me in and then after some introductins, he launched into a prayer and used the name Jehovah - that one of my first thoughts would be if he was an ex-JW.

    Narkissos: the guy is in his own home. If a man can't pray in his own home, with strangers that he has invited in, then he can't pray anywhere.

    Besides the point of the scripture is not about where the prayer occurs. The point of the scripture is to emphasize the personal relationship and more importantly not to worship (pray) to give an outward showing of righteousness just for the sake of appearing to be righteous.

    but that is not why Martin was doing it. He was using a prayer - as a way of shutting up the Witnesses, and taking advantage of them as a captive audience to give them a 3 minute sermon.

    On one hand it could be considered a bit dishonest (I won't say sacrilegious since I will presume that his prayers were sincere). But on the other hand, if he had to listen for 10 to 15 minutes of the Witnesses going on and trying to talk to him about their faith, it seems like an interesting (and somewhat humorous) way for him to give them a few minutes of his own perspective.

    I suspect Martin's story a bit though, not just because of all the reasons I have already stated but also because, i would think that the publisher's would make a notation on the card about him and "this is they guy that prays" etc. and be prpared or not fall for this more than a few times.

    But one thing to keep in mind too is that Martin doesn't give any indication of just when this used to be. perhaps this was back in the 60s or earlier or in the 70s or whenever...maybe the Witnesses that he encountered then reacted much differently then I would think they would now?

    just thought the whole thing was interesting and wanted to hear others' opinions on the technique..


  • Narkissos
    he doesn't announce that he is going to do thus he doesn't give the JWs an opportunity to object, he just launches into it.

    This is what I found rude.

    He was using a prayer - as a way of shutting up the Witnesses, and taking advantage of them as a captive audience to give them a 3 minute sermon.

    Well, that's just not my view of prayer. To me praying implies, at the very least, an attitude of modesty before the essentially unknown (even if "revealed"). Awe before a mystery. Using "prayer" as a device to preach is not praying at all imo.

    I guess if I had been subjected to such a treatment as a JW I would have mostly seen a display of religious fanaticism and bigotry, making my own faith appear more reasonable and respectful by comparison. That's the opposite impression I got in the case I related above, where I was offered to pray and I had to decline, showing (first to myself) my sectarian attitude.

  • atypical

    From the viewpoint of my former active jw days, I can tell you that I would have just bowed my head while he prayed, said my own prayer in my head, and then timed my amen to coincide with his. Thus I would have given an acceptable prayer, while still pretending to be polite to him. I don't think this tactic would work with any hardcore jw. It is very interesting, though.

  • Severus

    JWs are directed not to let the householder pray for them:

    Reasoning page 295:

    If Someone Says—‘Pray with me first, then give me your message’

    You might reply: ‘I’m glad to know that you are a person who appreciates the importance of prayer. Jehovah’s Witnesses also pray regularly. But there is something that Jesus said about when and how to pray that may be new to you. Did you know that he told his disciples not to offer public prayers with a view to having others see that they were devout, praying persons? . . . (Matt. 6:5)’ Then perhaps add: ‘Notice what he went on to say should be of primary concern to us and what we should put first in our prayers. That is what I have come to share with you. (Matt. 6:9, 10)’

    Or you could say: ‘I know that representatives from some religious groups do that. But Jehovah’s Witnesses do not, because Jesus instructed his disciples to go about their work of preaching in another manner. Instead of saying, "When you enter a house, first pray," notice what he said, as found here at Matthew 10:12, 13. . . . And see here in verse 7 what they were to talk about. . . . How can that Kingdom help people like you and me? (Rev. 21:4)’

  • coffee_black

    I don't think it would work...they couldn't stop him from praying...but they would just tune out until it was over. I agree that it is a rude approach, and the jw would just think he was nuts. The fact that he was knowingly using subliminal tactics is disturbing because in some cases that is what cults use...


  • Oroborus21

    good excerpts Severus....

    I wonder whether the section on these evangelizing techiniques of his (Martin's) (and this was just one of several sections) were left over from the earlier editions of the book but not edited to jive with contemporary JW belief and practices? It wouldn't surprise me, it wasn't the only thing that I found out of date or to be a factual error or a misunderstanding of JW theology in the book.

    I don't think the technique would work either but I could be wrong, maybe something like it might work in some settings.

    thanks Narcissos not knocking your view - in fact interested in all opinions and views of this. I really wasn't concerned about the actual spiritual aspect of the situation and you are probably right. and it does make a mockery of prayer to use it as a pretext for preaching. as said in Hamlet.(paraphrasing from memory):

    words fly up, thoughts stay below

    Prayers without thought,

    Ne'er to Heaven go.


  • willyloman

    This reminds me of a dub I used to know really well who once told another JW, in my presence, about his own very effective way of "informal witnessing." He described being on an airplane and striking up a conversation with the passenger next to him. After a few minutes of small talk, he'd say, "You seem like an educated person. Let me ask you something."

    Then he'd proceed to say that his wife/brother/parent had started studying the bible with some Jehovah's Witnesses who came to their door and "they claim that....(fill in doctrinal point here). What do you think about that?"

    No matter what the person thought, the dub would say, "Well, that's what I thought, too, but when I asked my wife/brother/parent about it, they explained it this way: (official dub explanation follows)."

    Then he'd repeat the question with another statement that the JWs made and ask for an opinion on that. Rinse. Repeat.

    I listed to this load of crap, knowing full well he'd never done this in his life or, if he had, it was the first I'd heard of it. I said so. "Well," he said, "it was just a suggestion I heard someplace. Maybe the person will use it and plant a seed."

    Perhaps Walter Martin had the same day dream.

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