7 Sneaky Ways Satan Stops You from Praying

Janet Thompson

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Published Feb 26, 2024
7 Sneaky Ways Satan Stops You from Praying

We start our morning with good intentions to have our devotional or quiet time with the Lord, and then somehow, the day slips away before we ever get around to it. We promise ourselves we’ll make time to pray before bed, but then exhaustion or sleepiness overtakes us, and soon we’re sound asleep. 

Satan doesn’t want us praying and listening to our Father in Heaven, so he will use his emissaries to intervene, interfere, or interrupt our conversations with the Lord. Really, prayer is just that, a simple conversation with God. Talking to Him about praises, requests, concerns, feelings, hopes, dreams... and then listening for His still small voice answering us through the Holy Spirit. 

The more aware we become of Satan’s sneaky tactics to stop us from praying, the better prepared we’ll be to combat and conquer them. See if any of the following satanic ruses have happened to you, and consider trying some of the solutions offered to victory in praying with your Lord and Savior.

You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked. Ps. 97:10 NLT

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1. Distractions

A friend shared a quote from David Timms’ devotional Living the Lord’s Prayer that describes so well the nature of our spiritual lives today. He writes, “Spiritual ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) runs rampant among us. More and more of us seem unable to be still, to focus, to wait, or to listen . . . We hurry from appointment to phone call to email—or from school to shopping to sport—living distraction.” 

We do live in an era of extreme and excessive distractions. We sit down to have a time of prayer, and the phone rings, or we hear notifications for social media, games, texts, emails, or messages. The next-door neighbor starts mowing the lawn. The dog needs letting out. The timer beeps that breakfast is ready, and before we know it, we engage with the seen more than the unseen. We can’t see God face-to-face like we see the objects of our distraction. So, our time with God succumbs to distractions because we can’t see the hurt on His face or the shrug of His shoulders when we take care of the visible and slight the invisible.

Often, good and necessary things distract our attention away from conversations with God, but our lives would be much less stressful and rushed if we didn’t yield to the tyranny of the urgent. Leave the phone in another room while praying. You can always answer a text later or return a phone call. Schedule prayer time on your calendar as a highlighted important appointment you can’t, and won’t, miss. It doesn’t always need to be in the morning, but it does always need to be daily.

It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. Heb. 11:27

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2. Your Mind Wanders

You start to pray, and you begin thinking about your to-do list or a news report you just heard or read. Maybe what you’re going to make for dinner or a grocery list pops into your mind. A project at work or a problem with a co-worker or neighbor. Satan is not omniscient; he can’t know what we’re thinking. But he does know how to put thoughts in our minds while we’re trying to keep our thoughts on omniscient God. 

The good news is that we have the power within us to overcome the mind attacks of the enemy trying to invade our thoughts. One way is to write down your prayers in a prayer and praise journal. Writing keeps your mind engaged in actively recording your prayers. I like to put a line down the middle of the page with dated prayer requests on one side, and praises and answers to those prayers on the other side. Periodically, review your requests and note on the praise side how and when the Lord answered. This is an encouragement to keep praying because sometimes we forget we even prayed about things or, unfortunately, we forget to thank God and give Him the glory for His answers.

Also, keep a notepad nearby to jot down those to-dos or project ideas so you won’t forget them, and then continue praying.

Another way to keep your mind from wandering is to say your prayers aloud. Literally, have a conversation with God that doesn't become one-sided. Stop at times and listen to what He might be saying back to you. 

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Rom. 8:5-6

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Mother frustrated with running children

3. Interruptions

If children in the house or other family members need your attention while you’re praying, it can be frustrating. Susanna Wesley was the mother of 19 children, ten of which lived beyond infancy including future Methodist pastors John and Charles Wesley. The story goes that when she was young, she promised the Lord she would match any hours spent in entertainment with hours of prayer. But with such a large family to manage, there was no time for entertainment so she then promised God to devote two hours to prayer daily. Susanna trained her children that when she sat in a chair with the Bible in her lap and put her apron up over her head, mommy was praying so don’t interrupt until she’s done, unless it’s a real emergency.

Helping family learn to respect and honor your prayer time is a fabulous way to demonstrate the sacredness of prayer. You can also encourage family members to pray with you, teaching children or grandchildren the value of praying at an early age. 

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Pr. 22:6

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prayer pray praying lost chaos peace

4. Chaos and Noise

This sneaky way might be a hard one to overcome, too. I know it is for me because it involves the first of Satan’s sly ways we discussed: distractions. I’m easily distracted. I need silence when I’m writing or doing my devotionals. I must find a quiet place to pray. Some people refer to this as their prayer closet. For others, it means rising before the rest of the family or waiting until after they’ve all gone to bed to pray. If the weather is nice, you might go outside, but the key is to have a quiet place for you and the Lord to meet each day. Even “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

Turn off all electronics and allow yourself the blessing of uninterrupted time with your precious Lord and Savior. Some people like to play praise music while they pray, and that really infuriates Satan because he cannot be in the presence of worship, which is why most churches begin their service with a time of worship in song. It not only prepares our hearts for the pastor’s message but also clears Satan out of the sanctuary. 

Another way to overcome this sneaky, noisy attempt of Satan to invade our prayers is to pray about everything in the moment. We long for a concentrated, quiet time of prayer with God, and we should have those extended prayer conversations, but we can also pray in the midst of the noise and chaos. I once heard a pastor suggest that we send up two-minute prayers to God throughout our day. While we’re eating breakfast, getting ready for work, showering, driving, cooking, working, cleaning the house, working in the yard, doing laundry, exercising… offer short prayers and praises to God continuously throughout our day. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:16-18

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5. Doubt

5. Doubt

Doubt is the antithesis of faith and is a favorite tool of Satan. Starting in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent asked Eve that famous question that caused her to doubt God’s goodness, “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1), Satan has used doubt to come between God and His people ever since. But a powerful truth is that if we grow our faith, our doubts will wither. 

When it comes to our prayers, Satan will twist some truths to plant doubts in our minds, but God’s Word always counters Satan’s lies. 

When Satan questions: How do you know God’s listening or will answer?

Now this is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

Satan: You don’t know how to pray.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Rom. 8:26 

Satan: God already knows what you need so why bother to pray about it? If He wants to give it to you, He will in His own time. He can read your mind. 

In Matthew 6:7-8 Jesus assures us, And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” 

Then Jesus gave us The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 instructing exactly how to pray. When in doubt, follow this format.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’”

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Woman feeling guilty

6. Guilt

A favorite ploy of Satan is to fill our hearts and minds with guilt over our past sins, decisions, or maybe even current events in our lives. As Christians, we know God doesn’t use guilt to motivate us. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, ask for forgiveness, and repent from our sins, God wipes our sin-slate clean (1 John 1:9, Is. 1:18). But Satan likes to remind us how bad we once were. Prayer is the perfect weapon to cast both Satan and the guilt out of our minds and hearts, especially when he whispers in our ears some of these taunts. 

Satan: You are weak, and your sins make you unworthy to pray. 

Our response: It’s true there is no one righteous or worthy, but praise God, there is grace. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. Rom. 3:23-24 NLT

If we’ve sinned recently, we confess our sins to God in prayer. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Satan: Why would God listen to you? 

Like Nehemiah, we pray earnestly: “O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you.” (1:11 NLT)

Like David, we praise God for He answers all our prayers. 

What mighty praise, O God,
belongs to you in Zion.

We will fulfill our vows to you,
for you to answer our prayers.
All of us must come to you.
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins,
you forgive them all.
Ps. 65:1-3 NLT

Satan: You don’t have enough faith for God to pay attention to you?

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matt. 17:20 NLT

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senior woman looking discouraged or tired with eyes closed and head in hand, stop giving out of what you don't have

7. Exhaustion or Laziness

There’s a difference between exhaustion and laziness. Sometimes we fall asleep while praying, and that’s okay because we’re tired. God understands our need for rest and refreshment. If this happens often, it could be Satan trying to block your prayers, so don’t pray lying down and start earlier in the evening or as soon as you wake up in the morning.

Laziness and a nonchalant attitude about praying is definitely a work of the enemy to keep you from using one of the most powerful weapons Christians have against Satan: prayer. God says the gate into heaven is narrow. Few understand the significance of that statement. He also says that the weeds of the world will overtake the gospel seed planted in some hearts. Don’t let that be you! You want to have hearts of flourishing gospel seed. Prayer is like water and fertilizer to the maturing of your faith.

Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Mark 4:8-9 NLT

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people praying, Ukrainian Christians as the world for prayer

Join a Prayer Group or Have a Prayer Partner

God hears the prayers of each person, but if you find yourself struggling in your prayer life, consider asking a friend or relative to be a prayer partner with you. Set aside specific times where you can be together to pray either in person, on the phone, facetime, or even zoom. I recently joined a Monday morning MyFaithVotes Zoom prayer hour where we come together from all over the nation to pray for the nation. What a powerful way to start the week.

Maybe God is calling you to start a prayer group at your church or neighborhood where you meet and share your prayer requests and praises. Our church is small enough that we actually have a time of corporate prayer and praise during the service, and we receive prayer lists to pray for each other during the week. There’s also a time of prayer on Thursday afternoons, and everyone is welcome to join. We begin our Couple’s Bible Study group with a time of praying over requests and praises. 

Start your prayer time with a prayer something like this: In Your Name, Lord Jesus, I claim protection against any distractions, thoughts or emotions, interruptions, chaos or noise, doubt, guilt, laziness, or exhaustion inserted in my life by Satan. I seal off any opportunity for them to influence or affect any part of me or my prayer time. I declare myself spirit, mind, emotions, body, and will, totally open to your voice and totally available to do your will alone. 

Kylie Jean Tannehill reminds us, “The devil isn’t creative; he’s just strategic. You don’t have to fall for his tactics; they’re old as time. We already have the game plan for the tactics of the enemy; it’s time to recognize the authority we carry in Jesus!” 

May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the Lord answer all your prayers. Ps. 20:5 NLT

Related Resource: How to “Work Out Your Salvation with Fear and Trembling”

Life can be really hard if you are trying to figure out how to follow God in your everyday life. What is God's work in our life, and what is our work is in our life? As Nicole reminds us on this episode of How to Study the Bible, knowing the difference makes all the difference!

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Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 20 books. Her passion is to mentor other women in sharing their life experiences and God’s faithfulness. Janet’s new release is Everyday Brave: Living Courageously As a Woman of Faith available at AmazonChristianbook.comBarnes and Noble, and signed at author’s website. She is also the author of Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s FaithfulnessForsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has ForgottenDear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!Praying for Your Prodigal DaughterFace-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources. Janet is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet and sign up for her weekly blog and free online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com. Join Janet on FacebookLinkedInPinterestTwitter, and Instagram.

Originally published Tuesday, 27 February 2024.