What are we to pray when it comes to our war with Satan and his demonic hosts? How does prayer factor into our obedience to the command that if we “resist” Satan “he will flee” from us (James 4:7)?
There is, admittedly, a lot we don’t know or understand about prayer. How it is incorporated into the way a sovereign God providentially governs the universe remains largely a mystery. Why some prayers are answered swiftly, and others slowly, and some not at all, often baffles us. But this doesn’t mean we are left in the dark when it comes to prayer.
We know, for example, that we are to pray to God the Father, in the name of God the Son, and through the sustaining power of God the Holy Spirit. We know that we are to come to the throne of grace “with confidence” so “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). And Jesus himself reminded us that he delights in answering our prayers because in this way “the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
But other questions remain largely unanswered. One example: What are we to pray when it comes to our war with Satan and his demonic hosts? How does prayer factor into our obedience to the command that if we “resist” Satan “he will flee” from us (James 4:7)?
We Do Not Pray for Satan
Of this we may be certain: at no time are we to pray for, or on behalf of, Satan. Scripture repeatedly assures us that his eternal destiny in the lake of fire is sealed and irreversible. Neither Satan nor his demons are capable of repentance. Salvation has not been provided for them. Indeed, “it is not angels that he [Christ] helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16). The cross is the instrument of Satan’s defeat, not his redemption (Hebrews 2:14–15; Colossians 2:13–15).
Scripture is equally clear that we are not to pray to Satan. There is nothing he would do for us but evil, and it is to God alone that we bring our many requests. To petition Satan or to pray to him for his presence and power is what only those who honor him as “lord” would dare to do. So, how does prayer relate to Satan and the demonic hosts? In what ways should we pray against him?
Stay Alert at All Times
It is worth noting that in the most explicit and extensive chapter on spiritual warfare, Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul concludes his delineation of the spiritual armor with which we are to engage our enemy in conflict by issuing this exhortation: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
Some have insisted that prayer is itself the final piece of armor with which we are to adorn ourselves, although it seems more likely that Paul intends for prayer to characterize each spiritual weapon with which we engage and push back against “the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Perhaps the best way to approach this challenging question is by taking note of what Satan seeks to accomplish and formulate prayers that God would counteract the goals Satan seeks to achieve.
Pray Against His Schemes
We know that Satan has a plan. Although sinful, he is not stupid. He does not act haphazardly or without purpose.
Paul states clearly in 2 Corinthians 2:10–11 that Satan has “designs” — a strategy, an agenda, to undermine unity in the church in that city (and no doubt in every city, yours included). This is similar to what the apostle says in Ephesians 6:11 concerning the “schemes” (literally, methodia = methods) of the devil. In other words, he is cunning and wily and employs carefully orchestrated stratagems in his assault against Christian men and women and the local church.
Satan energizes and gives shape to worldly value systems, institutions, organizations, philosophical movements, political, social, and economic systems. Satan sets his goals and then utilizes and exploits the most effective means, while avoiding all obstacles, to reach his diabolical ends.