Can the Devil Read Minds?
- Dr. Roger Barrier Preach It, Teach It
- 2012 15 Feb
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the devil cannot read our minds, why wouldn't we want to pray silently and not verbally? When he hears what we're praying, would our answer be thwarted or diverted?
Can the Devil read minds? “Of course he can!” I say, and so say others as well!
Can the Devil read minds? “Of course not!” say some (like Neil Anderson of “Bondage Breaker” fame).
Can the Devil read minds? “Maybe,” some respond.
Can the Devil read minds? “I don’t have the slightest idea!” say most Christians.
As you can see, disagreement abounds concerning whether or not Satan can read minds. As a result, I don’t want to come down too hard on opinions other than mine — nor push my position too firmly.
However, while the Bible seems not absolutely clear on this issue (otherwise, most would come to agreement), I think that the Bible gives enough examples to posit that Satan can read minds.
In my opinion every satanic attack and temptation concerns who will be in charge of our minds: we ourselves or Satan. Notice that God will never take control of a Christian’s mind. He wants us mentally free to make our own choices. Following Christ yields abundant life. Succumbing to Satan produces bondage and misery. By the way, according to the Bible, since Satan is neither omniscient nor omnipresent, most of his work is carried out by demonic forces under his personal direction (Ephesians 6:1-12).
Now, let’s consider several relevant passages.
Paul advised Timothy what to do with ornery church members in 2 Timothy 2:25-26. Note that some of these Christians were taken captive by Satan.
Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Satan certainly has not rounded up these trouble making Christians like cattle and put them in a corral. He has entrapped their mind.
Psychologically, the interaction among our minds, wills and emotions makes up our “selves,” or our personhoods, or the essence of who we are. We think with our minds; we choose with our wills; we feel with our emotions. Personhood, or self, is defined by having a mind, will and emotions. These three make up, to a large degree, just who we are.
Study the satanic attack in Genesis 3 against Adam and Eve. Eve succumbed in all three areas. Adam failed in only two. Eve was deceived. Adam knew exactly what he was doing.
The only way for Satan to “take our minds captive” is to “capture” our minds, wills and/or emotions — in other words, our thoughts.
Certainly, our old nature tempts us to sin. Just as certainly, Satan inserts tempting thoughts in order to induce us to sin.
Paul demonstrated that an interaction between our sin natures and Satan’s temptations. The context is Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 7:5-6 to married couples who needed to separate for a short time.
Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
The “lack of self control” that Satan tempts obviously refers to getting emotionally or sexually involved with another person not their spouse. Think about it. The temptation to adultery occurs mostly in our thought life.
Jesus outlined His plan to go to Jerusalem and die on a cross for the redemption of mankind (Mark 8:31). Satan devoted much of His work on derailing God’s plan. He infiltrated Peter’s thoughts and even used Peter’s own mouth in an attempt to get Jesus to reevaluate His plan: “... Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him” (Mark 8:32).
Jesus was not fooled. He knew that Peter’s words were implanted into his mind by Satan himself: “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33).
Some members in the newly established Jerusalem Church were selling their possessions and bringing the proceeds for distribution to the poor. One member, Ananias, sold some land and lied about the selling price — a portion of which he held secretly back for himself. Obviously tempted by Satan in a mental struggle, Ananias announced to Peter that He was bringing it all to Jesus! Peter wasn’t fooled. He knew that this was Satan’s work. Luke recorded the encounter in Acts 5:3: “Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?’” Ananias dropped dead on the spot.
Notice Peter’s observation that the source of the lying was Satan depositing the words of deceit directly into Ananias’ “heart.” In Scripture the term, “heart,” refers often to the mind. Yielding our thought lives to Satan risks diabolical destruction.
Allow me to share a few implications if, as I believe, Satan can read our minds.
- I believe that Satan can read our thoughts and impute his words and ideas directly into our minds.
- We do not need to pray out loud for Satan to hear us rebuking and resisting him.
- When Satan hears what we’re praying he will attempt to confuse, frustrate, stymie and distract our prayers and thus marginalize God’s intentions for us and for our circumstances.
- I believe that spiritual warfare attacks are always concerned with “taking our minds captive to do Satan’s will.” Satan wants to control our minds, wills and emotions so that he can entrap us. The Lord Jesus Christ will never subjugate our minds to His control. He grants us free will to make our own decisions. This is why Jesus wants us in control of our thinking, unhindered by Satan, so that we are free to follow His leadership, Word and guidance.
- We must seek freedom at all costs. Remember, every area of our lives not fully submitted to the Holy Spirit is open to attack and control by a demonic spirit.
- We must guard our minds rigorously and remain vigilant against satanically inspired lies and deceit. Job, for example, was totally deceived. He never did figure out that it was actually Satan destroying and destructing him.
Always keep in mind the warning in 1 Peter 5:8-9.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …
I was playing golf several years ago with an angry man who swore mercilessly. We met on the first tee and were paired with two others to make a foursome. His foul mouth made the first three holes so miserable that I was contemplating returning to the first tee to find another group.
Then, I wondered if he were under a demonic attack. Why not? As we approached the fourth green I began to rebuke and cancel the assignments of any demonic spirits controlling and/or attacking his speech. My battle with the forces of evil occurred silently in my mind. I spoke nothing out loud. Then, just for fun — since he obviously wasn’t having any — I prayed for him to make a birdie on the next hole.
He promptly birdied the next hole and then another. “I’ve never made two birdies in a row in my life!” He was so excited. He never said another curse word for the rest of the round.
So, Jennifer, while opinions abound regarding Satan’s ability to read our minds, I hope that my interpretation is useful to you and to others. It has certainly served me well for the last 40 years!
May God bless you and thanks again for asking.
Dr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: February 15, 2012