Yes, Satan sometimes hears our prayers. Sometimes he’s able slow down or even stop the answer to our prayers. But stopping our prayers has absolutely nothing to do with whether he heard them. He can only stop our prayers under certain conditions.
Conditions he doesn’t control.
It may surprise people that the Bible says a lot about whether Satan hears our prayers. It reveals even more about whether he can stop our prayers. And if so, under what conditions.
I’m going to prove that you don’t have to lose a wink of sleep worrying about whether the devil hears your prayers.
We Know Satan Can Hinder or Stop Some Prayers, But This is Nothing to Worry About
That Satan hinders prayers is a fact. The apostle Paul told the church in Thessalonica, “Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
The question is how did Satan hinder the greatest of the apostles? Did he paralyze his legs? Did he poke a hole in Paul’s pocket so that he would lose his Uber fare? Did he sink all the ships, scare away every donkey, and block every road with a mudslide?
Think about it.
If Satan had the kind of power where he could arbitrarily do anything he desires, how would anything get done for Christ? Wouldn’t the world be an exponentially more horrible place?
Paul did admit to the Thessalonians that Satan hindered him a couple of times from visiting them. But what is missing from that statement? What is missing from the entire letter that holds that statement? It’s surprise, panic, and hopelessness.
Conversely, what is not missing from Paul’s message to the Thessalonians? It’s calmness, peace, and hope.
Paul Didn’t Believe Satan Had Power Over His Travel—Or His Prayers
But we know Satan hindered Paul’s travel more than once. Isn’t it obvious Satan had power over his travels? And isn’t it reasonable to assume Paul prayed about those hindrances?
Those are good points. Let me answer them by explaining my own.
Satan Had Almost No Control Over Paul’s Travel
Yes, Satan hindered Paul’s visit to the Thessalonians. But keep in mind that the Bible depicts Satan as a roaring lion on a leash. This is why the Scripture says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 4:8).
Even in this one Scripture, we see constraints of his activities. He walks about seeking whom he may devour.
There are nearly eight billion people. A fallen angel should not have to go far to find people. Why is he seeking? It’s because of constraints. He can’t arbitrarily do whatever he wants to whomever he wants to do it. Thus, the Scripture says he’s seeking whom he may devour.
When Satan wanted to destroy the prophet Job, he had to ask permission. When it was granted, it was granted with explicit restrictions (Job 1:1-22; 2:1-7).
In another example, Jesus said when a demon is cast out of someone, he goes about seeking someone else to inhabit, and finding no one, he returns to the person out of whom he was cast (Luke 11:24-26). I point out again that with so many people in the world, why should a demon strike out trying to find someone to inhabit?
Now despite Satan’s homeruns in hindering Paul’s travel to the Thessalonians a couple of times, let’s see how many times he struck out. You’re going to radically change your opinion of Satan as a homerun hitter when you see how many times he hits nothing but air.
A List of Paul’s Successful Travels and Evangelistic Activities
Saul (Paul) and some men were praying together in the city of Antioch. A prophecy came forth and the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:1-3). Here’s a partial list of the places they evangelized:
- Antioch in Pisidia
Satan Couldn’t Stop Paul’s Travels or His Evangelism
We know Satan is against evangelism. We know Satan knew the Holy Spirit sent Saul and Barnabus to evangelize. Did Satan have power to stop their travels, and thus their evangelism? Apparently not.
For despite ferocious persecution, Acts 13 and 14 reports this first missionary trip was an astounding success.
Paul had several later successful missionary trips. It was on one of those trips that he told the Thessalonians that Satan had hindered a couple of his planned trips. Should we be surprised at this? I think not. We’re at war. Jesus said we’d face hardship, persecution, and even death for His name. What’s a couple of missed trips?
To be honest, Paul suffered much more than delayed or missed trips. He was regularly brutalized by Satan, crushed by hardship, and betrayed by those he had rescued from eternal damnation. His troubles are spread over the book of Acts. He also lists some of them in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33.
With the entirety of Paul’s ministry in mind, put his missed trips in perspective.
Paul worked harder than any other apostle (1 Corinthians 15:10). He went into pagan strongholds and took whole cities for God (Acts 19:1-20). He was accused of turning the world upside down with the gospel (Acts 17:6). Near the end of his life, the apostle whose trips had been hindered could say the following:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
So, who’s the real homerun king? The devil who tried to stop Paul from evangelizing the Mediterranean world and had to settle for hindering his return trip to Thessalonica? Or is it the brutalized and battle weary apostle who took Satan’s best shots and could say at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”?
As an aside, even though Paul was unable to return to the Thessalonian church, he was able to send Timothy to follow up on the work (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Take that, devil!
Satan Had No Control Over Paul’s Prayers, and He Has No Control Over Your Prayers
Paul treated the matter of his delayed trip to Thessalonica as incidental and nothing to be concerned about. He certainly didn’t see it as the result of Satan overhearing a conversation or prayer.
To prove this point, he publicly prayed for himself and the Thessalonians shortly after he told us of Satan hindering his trip:
Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
There’s something special about this prayer. He prayed that God would direct their way to the Thessalonians! He evidently felt that however Satan had prevented him from going to Thessalonica, it wouldn’t last forever.
Now if Paul thought Satan could stop a prayer just because he heard it, would he have spoken it out loud? Especially after admitting that Satan had previously stopped him from returning to Thessalonica?
I remind you of a Scripture that tells us there are limitations on what angels know:
It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.
1 Peter 1:12; NASB
If good angels are limited in their knowledge of things pertaining to us, how much more are fallen angels and demons?
Stop worrying about what the devil knows. If he knew as much as you think he knows, he wouldn’t be in so much trouble!
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