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During the discussions of a group comprising members of different denominations, a Catholic friend of mine stated that he had strong belief in fruitful intercession of saints. A Non-Catholic member quipped that even the devil could work miracles with the sole purpose of keeping one's focus away from Jesus. He, however, could not cite any scriptural reference in support of the statement. There are in fact, occasions where one prays for something which, if granted, has the potential of being adverse to one's spiritual well-being: for instance, a poor drug-addict praying for a jack-pot which if won, would further drag him downwards. A benevolent God would be the last one to accede to such a prayer. But, is it possible that the Devil becomes aware of the drug-addict's prayer and is able to shower him with money so that he gets trapped in drugs for ever?

My question therefore, is: According to Catholic scholars, is Satan privy to our prayers, and can he act on them?

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According to Catholic scholars, is Satan privy to our prayers, and can he act on them?

The short answer is no. But he can guess what we are sometimes praying for.

In any case Satan can not know what we are praying for because he does not have the ability to read our minds or thoughts. This is uniquely God’s domain and he shares this with no one.

This is not true, if God forbid, someone should unfortunately decide to deliberately pray directly to Satan himself. Satanists do this!

Father Fortea, can demons read our thoughts?

No. Though demons can tempt us, they cannot read our thoughts. With their great intelligence, they can guess what we are thinking – but they can never be absolutely certain. As spiritual beings, they are much more intelligent than we are, and as such, they can deduce things with greater accuracy and with fewer external signs than we can. But we always have to remember that demons are outside our souls; only God can truly read the soul. This being said, if one directs his mind and will to a saint, an angel, or a demon, they can hear us. So it does not matter whether our prayer is verbal or merely mental. In certain cases of possession I have observed that the demon obeys orders that have been given mentally.

Note: To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Father José Antonio Fortea’s excellent book Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.

Since Satan or his Demons can not read our minds or thoughts and knowing that what we are praying for is an intellectual best guess on their part, any possible action of theirs would be based on a guess at best.

Well, it is time to pray with a poker face, I guess!

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    In any case Satan can not know what we are praying for because he does not have the ability to read our minds or thoughts. - what if someone prays out loud?
    – user50422
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 16:31
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    Just to note that mainstream "Satanists" don't pray to Satan. The two main groups are atheist - one protests specific religious legal protections, and the other is broadly humanist in nature.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 17:13
  • @KenGraham Among my many hats I'm also a software architect/developer, so "read"/"write" access is my daily vocab, whether it is to a database, to a file, to a network port, to a blob, to a memory area, etc. Is it accurate then if we say that demons have "write" access to our mind (to plant a temptation) but does not have "read" access? Commented Mar 15, 2022 at 0:25
  • In Job 1:12, God allows Satan to put Job to test : The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” . The term "all that he has " would definitely include command over Job's mental faculties, including the ability to read his mind. Commented Mar 15, 2022 at 10:06
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Angels and demons can know something of our prayers from the effects prayer produces on our bodies.

Discussing the angels' knowledge of material things, q. 57 of the Summa Theologica's Treatise on Angels, St. Thomas Aquinas writes (a. 4 "Whether angels know secret thoughts?" co.):

A secret thought can be known […] in its effect. In this way it can be known not only by an angel, but also by man; and with so much the greater subtlety according as the effect is the more hidden. For thought is sometimes discovered not merely by outward act, but also by change of countenance; and doctors can tell some passions of the soul by the mere pulse. Much more then can angels, or even demons, the more deeply they penetrate those occult bodily modifications. Hence Augustine says (De divin. daemon.) that demons "sometimes with the greatest faculty learn man's dispositions, not only when expressed by speech, but even when conceived in thought, when the soul expresses them by certain signs in the body"; although (Retract. ii, 30) he says "it cannot be asserted how this is done."

Prayer is an act of of the intellect, so angels can know something of our prayers by how prayer affects our bodies.

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  • Now, slowly scientists can translate brain signals into words based on what frequencies is the brain synapses producing. If the spiritual beings can see these frequencies they might be able to understand very well what you are thinking. This is why I think mental prayer of a high degree such as prayer of simplicity and higher can be accessible only to God as no words, thoughts are always produced...
    – Grasper
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 15:52

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