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Keep Satan from Us

These words or their equivalent are often heard in pastoral prayers. It is a prayer for God to intervene and prevent Satan from overwhelming the believer. It underscores the presumption that Satan is so powerful that, without God’s divine intervention, he could never be resisted. While it is certainly the case that there are times of great stress when such a prayer is appropriate, it is just as certainly inappropriate as a regular, routine prayer for Christians. It is a contradiction, a complete reversal, of what Scripture tells us of the relative roles of believers and Satan. The Christian is chartered by Christ, not to fear Satan, who was defeated by Christ on the Cross. Rather, he is to wage war against him and tear down the gates of hell (Matt. 18:18). He is to be actively on the offensive against Satan’s entrenched power wherever it appears on earth.

The prayer itself is often an indicator of a much more sinister theological perspective, one that exaggerates Satan’s power and makes the Christian’s life an ongoing defensive battle, one of continual introspection and self-examination. Instead of freeing the believer of the burden of sin, it tends to instill guilt feelings for such things as, failure to pray often enough or long enough, not spending enough time in Bible reading or study, not paying close enough attention to the sermon, etc. It is reflected in today’s evangelical churches where one often hears that “the Christian’s life-long enemies are: sin, the world and the Devil.” The sin enemy is his Old Man, the sin-nature he had as an unbeliever prior to his conversion that continues to plague him. The world is the sum of all the evil influences that surround him. The Devil is the spiritual power that constantly tries to subvert the unwary Christian’s faith. This kind of preaching tends to bind the believer to the church, increasing its power over him and stripping him of the freedom and assurance God gives all true believers. He becomes a captive of the church instead of a productive worker involved in building God’s kingdom on earth.

This type of preaching carries an element of truth but, when it is presented as the norm for the Christian life, it represents a gross distortion of the truth. It may well be typical of unbelievers that have not yet come to true faith but the born-again Christian is called to put all such fears behind him and to walk by faith (Rom. 1:17; 2 Cor. 5:7). He is told in very definite terms that there is “no condemnation” for the true believer (Rom. 8:1). He is called to wage war against evil in any and every form it assumes (2 Cor. 10:3-6). His goal is to do whatever he can, within his sphere of authority and influence, to make this world a Christian world, one in which the nations are taught to obey all Christ’s commandments (Matt. 28:18-20).

So what we see expressed in this simple prayer is a false theology. Unfortunately, it is one that is widely prevalent in today’s churches. It has been characteristic of Catholicism since its inception in medieval times and is present today in both reformed and evangelical, protestant churches. It has been employed as a tool to increase the power of the church by binding Christians but has more often been taught in ignorance with the best of intentions. In either case, it negatively impacted the power of the Body of Christ and thereby has severely impaired the progress of the Great Commission.