Several times a year, my wife gets in the car and meets up with one of her childhood friends for a girls' weekend somewhere. Her most recent trip took her to Denver, which—conveniently—has an Ikea (we needed some furniture). Before she left in the early morning, we prayed together to ask God for a safe, fun, edifying trip. I went back to bed and, as I was falling asleep, thought: I wonder if Satan heard that prayer.
Playing devil’s advocate I thought that, if I were him, I’d listen to people’s prayers and then do to them the opposite of what they ask. Oh, you’re asking for a safe, fun, edifying trip? I’ll pop your tires, make your car break down, and have you robbed while you’re stranded! That sounds like the kind of evil mischief demons are up to. The edge between wakefulness and sleep is not the most conducive to rational thought, so let’s think about this biblically. We know a few things for certain: God hears us.
But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. – Micah 7:7
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. – Psalm 77:1
And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. – Exodus 2:24
Just as in times past, God hears his people. It is not like he doesn’t already know what were going through, or he was distracted dealing with something else over there for a minute. He knows. He hears. Then he acts. This hasn’t changed in our day! We have even more confidence that he hears us because of Christ our Intercessor, and the Spirit translating our feeble prayers and needs into groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).
We know that God is sovereign over the devil.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. – Job 1:6-12
In the beginning chapter of Job we find a rare glimpse into the dealings of heaven. Yes, Satan is called the “god of this world”, but he can do nothing without God’s permission. In Job’s case, it was God who suggested Satan take a closer look, and Satan could go no further than what God allowed: You may mess with all that he has, but do not touch him. And so it was (for the first round, anyway). It is no different today. We are “in Christ”, and no one can snatch us out of his hand or the Father’s hand (John 10:28). If our salvation is secure in God, so are all the details and circumstances of our life.
We know that God is good.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! – Psalm 34:8
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100:5 (and many others!)
All power and sovereignty would be scary without God’s goodness. Let our hearts rest in the knowledge that God is good! The Psalmists declare it, his people have experienced it in the Exodus and many times after, and we may look back on his self-giving sacrifice at the cross on our behalf. There can be no doubt that God is good.
With all this, does it matter whether Satan hears my prayers? No. We shouldn’t stop praying out loud just because demons may hear us and try to mess it all up. Maybe they do and maybe God will sometimes allow it. But the benefits of out-loud prayers with others far outweigh any potential downsides. We have nothing to worry about. So file this one under “weird half-asleep thought”.
Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash