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I am reading An exorcist tells his story, and in it the author discusses a prayer by Pope Leo XIII:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

So the pope here is praying for God to thrust Satan into hell, but why? Wouldn't this demand go against God's will, who in fact allows Satan to roam and have certain influence?

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  • I believe this prayer is actually an abbreviation of the actual prayer (which does have a similar message) original, not sure who shortened it (maybe it was Pope Leo XIII)
    – depperm
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 12:29
  • It would seem to me you could generalize this question and ask why we pray for any state of affairs to be made different. If God permits a certain state of affairs, such as a particular illness, why do we pray for a change?
    – jaredad7
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 16:38
  • @jaredad7 I don't think that's a fair comparison. The theology teaches us that God may listen to our prayers for a particular illness. The same theology tells us that Satan is doomed and that there is no hope for him, while whatever power he has has been granted to him by God by His design, which is why I find it confusing to pray for a change in Satan's circumstances
    – Anon
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 17:04
  • @Anon sound theology tells us God is unchanging. Your prayers don't change His mind, though He may have ordained to perform miracles in accordance with your prayers. If we already know that Satan will be cast into hell, and that is justice, then why shouldn't we pray for that time to come soon?
    – jaredad7
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 12:30
  • @jaredad7 There is Biblical evidence to support the former. Is there any to support the latter?
    – Anon
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 12:35

4 Answers 4

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One does not need to be a Catholic in order to pray for God to crush Satan! Anybody who reads the Bible and who has spotted the first prophecy (in Genesis 3:15) will know that God has promised to crush him in the head! Further, if they have read on into the New Testament, they will know at what stage that prophecy is, in its being worked out, in time.

All Bible believers know that Satan was to be allowed to bruise the seed of God's 'woman' in the heel, and that that happened at the cross of Christ. They will also be encouraged knowing that Christ's resurrection and ascension to heaven marked the casting of Satan and his demons out of heaven (Revelation 12:7-13), to be restricted until the final stage, when they are cast into the lake of fire "the second death" to be tormented forever (Revelation - various verses.) Note: as hell is the final thing to be cast into this lake of fire, which Satan and the demons are already in, it cannot be hell, as your question implies.

As that final stage does not happen until Christ's spectacular return to Earth to usher in the Day of Resurrection and Judgment, and we await that event, all Christians pray as did the apostle John (who wrote down that Revelation), "Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus." (Rev. 21:20) That is equally a prayer for Satan to be crushed as it is for Christ to return. That prayer has been on the lips of Christians from when John first prayed it, until today. We know what will happen, but we do not know when it will happen. So, we pray on, in faith, knowing it will happen because God has promised, and we believe the promises of God. Christians were told by the apostle Peter that they should live in faith, looking for what will yet come, praying for things to come, in the sense of "hastening" their coming at "the day of the Lord" (2 Peter 3:12).

Such prayers of faith constitute a request, not a demand. We are expressing agreement with God's stated will. That is why Christians pray for Satan to be crushed.

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  • "That is equally a prayer for Satan to be crushed as it is for Christ to return" so you're saying that by saying thrust into hell Satan he actually means Christ do return? It's a bit of a stretch, nowhere else in the prayer does it mention Christ's return
    – Anon
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 7:18
  • @Anon Pope Leo III knew what he meant when he said "thrust into hell Satan." When I speak about hell, I have a different thought than when I speak about the Second Death (the eternally burning lake of fire Satan & his hordes are cast into when Christ returns, with death and hell being the last 'things' cast into it.) Not everyone has this distinction in mind when they pray or speak about those two things. I do. When I pray, 'Come Lord Jesus,' I know that event will see final judgment on Satan & Co. in that fiery lake.
    – Anne
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 16:13
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As the prayer begins: "defend us in battle". So it is an intercessional prayer to seek the protection of the leader of God's army of angels.

St. Paul exhorts:

"For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)

This means that our constant struggle in life against evil is actually against Satan and the demons who followed him, who resit God, his saints and angels. So we do not merely pray for Satan to be crushed, but we pray for God to protect us from him "do not lead us into temptation".

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This prayer to St. Michael the Archangel is a fascinating study in the internal contradictions and logical acrobatics that characterize much of religious thought. The prayer asks for God to thrust Satan into hell, which implies that Satan is currently not in hell and is free to cause havoc in the world. This raises the question, why would an omnipotent, benevolent deity allow such a malevolent being to exist and exert influence in the first place?

The theologian's answer might be that God allows Satan to roam as a test of faith for humans, or as a consequence of granting free will. But these are unsatisfactory explanations. The idea that an all-good God would permit such evil for the sake of a 'test' borders on the sadistic. As for free will, it hardly seems free if it comes with the threat of eternal torment for making the wrong choices.

This prayer, like many religious texts, reflects a struggle to reconcile a world filled with suffering and evil with the belief in a just and loving God. It's a testament to our human capacity for cognitive dissonance, our ability to hold two fundamentally contradictory ideas in our head at the same time and somehow continue to function.

So why does the Pope pray for God to thrust Satan into hell? Because that's the narrative that has been constructed: a cosmic battle between good and evil, in which humans can appeal for divine intervention. But it's all a grand spectacle, a drama played out in the human imagination, not an objective reality.

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    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 13:40
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Since God allows Satan to exist, why should we pray for him to be crushed?

Satan is known as the Father of Lies and the archenemy of God.

As such the children of God must pray the the kingdom of Satan be destroyed and the Kingdom of God be restored here upon earth.

For some mysterious reason God allows Satan and some of the evil spirits to roam the earth in order to tempt mankind into sinning.

From the Blog of Archdiocese of Washington:

Thus, though consigned to Hell, it would seem that some or all of the demons have the ability to roam the earth as well. Demons, however, do not have bodies and thus do not “roam the earth” the way we do. Their “roaming” is more an indication of their capacity to influence than their ability to move from one place to another. Further, Satan and demons are described as being “chained,” “in prison,” or “in darkness.” This is likely a way of indicating that their power to influence or “roam” is limited in some way. This does not say that they do not wield considerable power, just that it is not unbounded. If you think it is bad now, just imagine what it will be like when their power is unchained! - You can read more about it here

Do not forget that Satan tempted Jesus in the Desert. Now if if Christ was tempted by the Demon, then it is plainly obvious that we too will tempted in mysterious ways by the Devil.

Some exorcists commands demons to go back to hell.

St. Peter (1 Peter 5:8-9) exhorts us to be careful in regards to the Devil.

8 Be sober and watch: because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.

9 Whom resist ye, strong in faith: knowing that the same affliction befalls your brethren who are in the world.

The pope as the successor of St. Peter is stating the same message.

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