Should We Pray Silently to Keep Satan from Hearing?

A fellow preacher and I once had an interesting conversation concerning people praying aloud and Satan being able to listen in on those prayers. The question we kicked around was this: Is it smarter to pray silently so that Satan and his fellow fallen angels (demons) won’t be able to hear our requests and, thus, thwart them?

Upon first impression, the answer seems to be that, yes, we should pray silently. I mean, after all, Satan and the other fallen angels can hear, can’t they? And the sole purpose of their existence is to mess up what God is trying to do, right? So why give them advance notice of what we are asking for in prayer? Isn’t that kind of like an army publicly announcing its battle plans to an enemy army?

But when my preacher friend and I consulted the Bible to find our answer, we quickly realized that we just couldn’t make a scriptural case for always praying silently. Putting it simply, the truth is that the Bible gives us various instances of people praying aloud. For example, Solomon prayed aloud in his great prayer of dedication for the Jewish temple (2 Chronicles 6:12-42). Elijah’s prayer on Mount Carmel seems to have been aloud (1 Kings 18:36-39). Those believers who met in that upper room following Christ’s ascension prayed aloud (Acts 1:24-25), as did Paul and Silas when they were in prison (Acts 16:25). Paul also prayed aloud when he met with the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:36).

Now, it is certainly true that Jesus instructed His followers to go into a room and shut the door when they prayed (Matthew 6:5-6). However, His purpose in saying that was to get them to avoid the hypocritical way of publicly praying “for show” that was so common among the Pharisees. Basically, what He said was, “Hide yourself,” not “Shush yourself.” Actually, you can pray aloud even if you are in your room with the door closed.

So, in the end, we should understand that there is no Bible prohibition against praying aloud. Yes, Satan or some other fallen angel might be listening, but that doesn’t mean they can bring the prayer requests to ruination. While Daniel chapter 10 does teach that fallen angels — referred to as “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” and “the prince of the kingdom of Greece” in the chapter — can, in certain instances, delay the answers to prayers, that single chapter can’t be used to cancel out the totality of the Bible’s teaching on praying aloud.

The fact is, if God knew that praying out loud is so detrimental to our prayers, surely He would have spelled it out more clearly in the Bible. For that matter, we don’t even have a guarantee from scripture that Daniel’s prayer — the one that prompted the spiritual warfare and delayed answer — was prayed silently. Daniel could have prayed it out loud for all we know. So, if you like to talk out loud when you pray, go for it. After all, what you say in prayer is much more important than how you say it.

Posted in Demons, God's Omnipotence, Prayer, Prayer Requests, Satan, Spiritual Warfare, The Devil | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Third Suit

Here’s a story that plays off my previous post about the original Sunday Schools. In one of Scotland’s manufacturing towns, a young lady applied to the superintendent of a Sunday School and asked for a class. He advised her to get a group of poor boys together and bring them to his house. There he would give each of them a new suit of clothes. The young lady agreed, and each boy was fitted out nicely.

The worst behaving of the boys was a kid named Bob. He showed up for the first couple of Sundays, but then he dropped out. To her credit, the young woman went and found him, but by then his new clothes were torn and dirty. Nevertheless, she invited him back to Sunday School and he came. The superintendent even gave him a new suit of clothes.

But history repeated itself when, after a couple of Sundays, Bob dropped out again. Ever the persistent teacher, the young lady went and found him again. Of course, by then he had ruined that second suit of clothes.

Utterly frustrated, the teacher went to her superintendent and told him that, regretfully, she was giving up on Bob. But the superintendent said, “Please don’t do that. I’m still hoping there is something good in the boy. Try him once more. I’ll give him a third suit if he’ll promise to attend Sunday School regularly.”

Well, Bob did promise, and he did receive that third suit. What’s more, this time Bob attended faithfully and eventually accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. He joined the church, was made a teacher, and studied for the ministry. In the end, troubled little Bob went on to become Robert Morrison, the missionary to China who translated the Bible into the Chinese language.

Tell me, do you have a “Bob” in your life? Do you have someone you’ve been trying to help but their response has you completely frustrated and discouraged? Try them again. Sometimes a third suit is the one that makes the difference.

Posted in Children, Doing Good, Dress and Appearance, Influence, Patience, Perseverance, Sunday School, Teaching, Youth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday School

Most people don’t know that the Sunday Schools of today’s churches bear little resemblance to the original Sunday Schools of England’s late 1700s. Those schools were quite literally places of basic education where poor children could learn to read and write. You see, in that day England did not have what we now think of as state education. Therefore, it was typically only the richer class who could afford to educate their children. That was done by means of hired governesses, private tutors, and boarding schools. Poor children were usually left to either take the low pay and long hours (as much as 13 or 14 hours a day) of factory work or some other form of low-level, menial labor.

While there is some debate as to when and where the first Sunday School opened, there is no doubt that Robert Raikes became the man most closely associated with the movement. He was the editor of the Gloucester Journal, and he saw Sunday Schools as a way of keeping the children of poor families from gravitating toward lives of crime. His Sunday Schools began by meeting in homes, and he promoted the work through his newspaper.

As the term implies, the schools met each week on Sunday. Why that day? It was the only day the factories weren’t in operation, which made it the day the children got into the most trouble by playing in the streets, being loud and rowdy, and just generally creating disturbances. Raikes used the Bible as a textbook to teach the children to read and write.

Within just a few short years, the Sunday School movement exploded throughout England as approximately 250,000 children were attending the schools. It wasn’t long before the various religious denominations began to open their own schools, and by the 1830s attendance in Sunday Schools had grown to over one million. Not only did the schools teach the children to read and write, they also provided them with new clothes to wear on Sunday as well as basic instruction in matters of morality and cleanliness. Discipline was handed out for offenses such as cussing, lying, and other forms of inappropriate behavior. For the record, the first Sunday School in the United States was opened in the 1790s by Samuel Slater in his textile mills in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Over the century that followed, child labor laws and the beginnings of compulsory state educational systems eliminated the primary needs for which the Sunday School movement had begun. This allowed Sunday Schools to turn their focus exclusively toward religious indoctrination and become the Sunday Schools we know today. It’s interesting that arguably the greatest impact the Sunday School movement made on society was that it was successful enough to cause society to put the schools out of their original business.

Posted in Bible Study, Children, Church, Discipline, God's Work, Influence, Scripture, Sunday School, Teaching, The Bible, Youth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Awesome Seriousness of Unbelief

There are only two possible eternal destinies for each person, and Revelation 21:7-8 contrasts the two. First, in verse 7, Jesus says:

He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be His God and he shall be My son. (N.K.J.V.)

This brings up the all-important question: How does one overcome? We find that answer in 1 John 5:1,4-5, which says:

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him…For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

So, when a person places his or her belief (faith) in Jesus Christ as Savior, that person becomes an “overcomer.” And all “overcomers” will spend eternity with Jesus. That is a promise.

But now let’s turn to the other potential destiny. Revelation 21:8 says:

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (N.K.J.V.)

You say, “Well, I’m no coward. I’m not abominable. I’ve never murdered anyone. I’m not sexually immoral. I’m certainly not a sorcerer. I don’t have an idol that I worship. And I don’t lie.” Okay, I’ll give you credit for living a life of bravery and morality. But did you notice that the word “unbelieving” is also on that sordid list? And the “unbelief” in question relates to Jesus.

You see, even if you have the rest of the list covered, but you have not believed in Jesus as your personal Savior at your death, you will experience what the verse calls “the second death.” This “second death” is nothing less than spending eternity in “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” That is every bit as much a promise as the one about overcomers spending eternity with Jesus.

This is how high the stakes are concerning your belief (or lack of it) in Jesus as your personal Savior. Most people wouldn’t rate their unbelief in Jesus as a heinous sin on par with the likes of murder, sexual immorality, or sorcery, but God does. As a matter of fact, while those other sins will all be forgiven the moment a person does place saving belief in Jesus, there is no forgiveness to be found (in this life or in eternity) for the sin of refusing to yield such belief.

Posted in Belief, Coming Judgment, Death, Faith, Forgiveness, God's Wrath, God's Judgment, Heaven, Hell, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be a Good Neighbor

He who despises his neighbor sins… (Proverbs 14:21, N.K.J.V.)

Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10, N.K.J.V.)

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:38-39, N.K.J.V.)

While I understand that Jesus told the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to explain that my “neighbor” is anyone I meet, I also understand that I live on a specific street and have literal neighbors. Therefore, it is my Christian duty to do all that I can to get along with them and show them love and friendship.

A man bought a farm and went out to look at the line fence, which had been the source of much quarreling between the farm’s previous owner and his neighbor. The neighbor spied the fellow inspecting the fence and, in a huff, went out there and said in an agitated tone, “That fence is a full foot over on my side.”

To the angry neighbor’s astonishment, the new owner answered, “Very well then, we will set the fence two feet over on my side.” That offer rendered the neighbor speechless until he was finally able to stammer out, “Oh, but that is more than I claim.” “Never mind about that,” said the owner pleasantly, “I’d much rather have peace with my neighbor than two feet of earth.” However, with the situation now diffused completely, the neighbor said, “That’s very good of you, but I couldn’t let you do a thing like that. That fence just won’t be moved at all.”

Are you having a problem with one of your neighbors these days? Is a property line in question? Is a tree limb hanging over onto your place? Is a drainage issue causing you trouble? Is a barking dog keeping you up at night? Then by all means show love in your attempts to resolve the matter. Don’t turn the thing into the Hatfields and the McCoys. Ask God to give you wisdom and guidance in reaching a solution that is pleasing to Him. Remember that you can’t put a price on being at peace with your neighbor.

Posted in Character, Contentment, Discipleship, Doing Good, Extending Forgiveness, Influence, Personal Holiness, Problems | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Foolish Prince

A prince left the ease and safety of his father’s castle in order to seek adventure in the world. He left all his riches behind and eventually reached such a low state that he was forced to dress in rags and scrounge for food wherever he could. He lived so long that way that he ultimately even forgot that he had once been a prince.

But then came the day when his father, who had been diligently searching for him for years, found him and took him home. As the father walked the prince through the castle, the prince’s memories refired and he slowly began to reclaim the life of royalty that had once been his. To his shame, he also began to realize just how foolish he had been for ever wanting to abandon such a lifestyle for a lower one.

You say, “Wow, what a stupid story! NOBODY would be as foolish as that prince.” Friend, there are Christians out there right now who have voluntarily abandoned the royal lifestyle of walking in close fellowship with Christ and chosen to live in the squalor of sin. There are Christian husbands who are addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography. There are Christian wives who are cheating on their husbands. There are Christian teenagers who are fully conforming to the world in their mindset, appearance, words, and deeds. Even the average Christian child knows far more about the latest popular cartoon than he or she does the Bible.

So what about you? Are you a Christian? Well then, how is your lifestyle these days? Could it be that you have more in common with that foolish prince that you’d like to admit? Is your heavenly Father out looking for you, His wayward child who has broken off fellowship with Him? If that describes you in any way, please come to your senses.

Know this: The fellowship being broken off, even for a long time, doesn’t mean that the relationship has been severed, and God wants you back home with Him. He wants to take care of you and pour out His rich blessings upon you. But He can’t do that until the fellowship you once had with Him is restored. So, are you ready to get back to your castle and a higher way of living? The only person stopping you is you.

Posted in Addiction, Adultery, Backsliding, Change, Children, Disobedience, Dress and Appearance, Eternal Security, God's Love, God's Provision, Grace, Husbands, Obedience, Personal Holiness, Repentance, Seeking Forgiveness, Sin, Wives, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Headed North

Is it possible for a person to be moving north and south at the same time? Sure. Imagine a man walking south on the deck of a ship that is headed north.

As we live the Christian life, we oftentimes face problems and setbacks. Some of these are merely us reaping the crops of bad seed we have sown. Others, however, strike us by way of the devil and his demons. And then there are those times we get caught in the choppy wake of the sinful actions of other people.

The truth is that these problems and setbacks can be likened to us walking “backward” in life. But what we must realize is that no matter what befalls the Christian in this earthly life, he is still bound for heaven and is constantly progressing in that direction. A Christian’s current steps, if they are troublesome, may take him in an undesirable direction, but overall the ship is relentlessly headed for glory.

In Romans 8:18, Paul addresses the subject of how God will one day make all of creation right again. Specifically, this is a reference to the coming “kingdom age” when Christ will reign upon this earth for 1,000 years. But the verse also sheds light on the matter of the Christian being bound for heaven despite struggling in this life. Paul writes:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (N.K.J.V.)

Remember this promise, Christian, and don’t let go of it. No matter how bad this earthly life gets, you are headed for a better one. You are headed upward (call it “north”) to heaven and no amount of having to walk “south” down here can ever change that.

Posted in Adversity, Backsliding, Comfort, Demons, Eternal Security, Heaven, Perseverance, Problems, Reward, Salvation, Satan, Sowing and Reaping, Trials | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Find That Treasure

William Randolph Hearst, the legendary newspaper publishing magnate, was one of the wealthiest men of his time. His great wealth allowed him to spend millions of dollars collecting art treasures from around the world. One day he read the description of a valuable piece of art and promptly dispatched his agent abroad to locate the piece and buy it. After months of searching, the agent finally reported that he had found the treasure. Where was it? To Hearst’s great surprise, it was stored in one of his own warehouses, having already been purchased by him years earlier.

There are many applications we could make to this story, but let me offer just this one: Sometimes the treasure you seek is one you already have in your possession if you only knew it.

Christian, what does God’s word say about being content with the things you have? The passage is Hebrews 13:5-6:

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ (N.K.J.V.)

The teaching is: If you have Jesus, you have the Creator of the universe on your side, and that’s plenty of treasure for anyone.

Posted in Contentment, Covetousness, Desires, God's Provision, Greed, Lust, Needs, Prosperity, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Next Day

One day some of Napoleon’s officers came to him and recommended a young captain for promotion. When Napoleon asked them why they were suggesting the captain for promotion, they explained that he had used great courage and cleverness to win a victory several days earlier. To that, Napoleon replied, “Good, but what did he do the next day?” And that was the last that was ever heard in regards to a promotion for the young captain.

You say you went to church Sunday? Fine, but what did you do Monday? You studied your Bible Tuesday night? Okay, but what did you do Wednesday? You prayed a great prayer Thursday? Excellent, but what did you do Friday? You see, occasional flashes of brilliance in serving the Lord just don’t compare to a life that is wholly devoted to serving Him 24-7. So, how’s your case for a promotion right now?

Posted in Character, Church Attendance, Commitment, Discipleship, Faithfulness, God's Work, Obedience, Personal Holiness, Priorities, Righteousness | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A New Shirt

Sally Haack tells the following story:

“Last summer one of the local civic clubs of which my husband was a member sponsored a camping trip for underprivileged children. Upon arriving at the camp, each little boy was given a Frisbee and a t-shirt.

When the weekend was over and the boys were boarding the bus to go home, one little boy ran up to my husband and handed him his t-shirt, which was rather soiled and wrinkled but nevertheless neatly folded and placed in its plastic package.

My husband told the boy that the shirt was his, that he could keep it. Big tears welled up in the boy’s eyes as he said, “Thank you. I’ve never had a new shirt before.”

My husband swallowed the lump in his throat and told the boy to be sure to come back next year and he could get another new shirt. The boy thought for a moment, then looked up and said, “No. I don’t think I will come next year.” “Well, why not?” asked my husband. The boy replied, “I think I’ll send my little brother. He’s never had a new shirt either.”

What all is currently hanging in your closet? How many pairs of shoes do you own? What’s inside your refrigerator right now? How much food is on the shelves of your pantry or cabinets? Are your bills paid up? Do you have some money in the bank? Then be thankful. Remember that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is still in the Bible:

“in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (N.K.J.V.)

You see, whatever else might be the specific will of God for your life, I know that it His will for you to be thankful for what you have. So, work on that today.

Posted in Children, Contentment, Desires, Giving, God's Will, God's Work, Thankfulness | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment