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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

15 November 2006

Can the Devil Hear Thoughts and Prayers?

Q: Can Satan hear our thoughts? Can he hear when we direct prayers to God? What are your thoughts regarding praying out loud versus “in your head”?

PrayerA: Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what Satan and the demons know about our thoughts but it seems clear that they can “hear” and influence them to some degree. Our Lord protects us against satanic influence and temptation, so we might hope that demonic “eavesdropping” and intervention would happen only among those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as Savior.

On the other hand, it seems from the temptation accounts in the Gospels that the Devil knew quite well what Christ was thinking and praying during his forty day fast in the Wilderness. Realizing those things which Jesus asked the Father, Satan adjusted his temptations accordingly. Wouldn’t he try the same with us? However, it matters not what the Devil hears, for he cannot answer true prayer, nor can he thwart God’s will for His children.

As for praying aloud versus silently, I definitely favor the former in almost all circumstances. There may be times when even the softest whisper is too loud for our circumstances but normally, speaking our thoughts helps us focus them and direct them outside ourselves. I replied to another questioner some time ago: “Speaking a prayer helps remove it from your own possession and into the ‘ears’ of God. Silent or ‘mental’ prayer is difficult except for the most focused individual. If not verbalized, our thoughts tend to wander and roam, often far afield from true prayer.”

Finally, I encourage those who have difficulty forming and framing complete prayers to use the written supplications of Christ’s Church. Whether ancient prayers from Scripture (including the Psalms and the Our Father), “classic” collects from the early days of Christianity, or recently published petitions in devotion books, hymnals, and the like, we find words that others have already used to address God in times of sorrow or need and time of celebration and bounty. When we pray with David, Saint Paul, or Martin Luther, we know that Another prays with us, for “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)” Therefore, regardless of who first spoke or wrote a prayer, when we pray in faith, Jesus speaks with us and for us when we plead our case with His Father.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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