(this post was revised in September 2008)
It's interesting. Can Satan know our thoughts? In Virginia, my pastor thought not. His reasoning was that a Christian cannot be possessed. But I don’t see where reading or tempting a mind controls it.
Satan is powerful and smart. That’s clear. If reading minds it is a matter of ability, Satan could do it. He is not all-knowing; he's just likely the smartest creature in creation. I read authors saying Satan is dumb. That’s dubious. If Satan is dumb, we (mankind) are dumber.
God can read our thoughts. Psalms 94:11 (and Matthew 12:25) says, God (and Jesus) knows the thoughts of men. So it is possible to read thoughts. Let's turn this around. If Satan can speak to our minds, can he read them? Let’s start with the question: can Satan speak to our minds?
A friend argues that temptations are generic. That because we are human Satan knows our weaknesses. Personalized temptations are illusions. But my experience is of very specific temptations – I don’t struggle with gambling, for example, and I am never tempted by it.
James 1 says our own evil desires drag us away and entice us. That might suggest that the “personalized” temptations are actually those things with which we tempt ourselves. Sometimes, in regards to temptation, Satan isn’t involved. I do believe that.
In the Bible, Satan tempts physically and audibly. In Genesis 2, the serpent talks to Eve. In Matthew 4, Satan stands next to Jesus on the hilltop. Still, Satan gets credit for some invisible temptations. In 2 Corinthians 4 he blinds the unbelieving mind. In Ephesians he darkens understanding.
None of these say Satan can speak directly to our minds.
The armor of God is Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Faith, Salvation, the Word, and Prayer. None of these implies mind games. Although it’s worth saying that all these physical symbols don’t really imply anything physical, either.
In Daniel 2 the king has a dream. The sorcerers can’t help. Wouldn’t Satan have “enabled” them to read the king’s mind his own evil ends? We can’t say. Plus the dream was divine in origin and purpose – maybe that makes a difference.
No in 2 Corinthians 2:11 we read, "For whom among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him." Does this mean the spirit can read thoughts? It’s not clear. It might just mean our inner-man is who knows our heart.
None of these say Satan can read our minds.
I suppose, since Satan is a spirit and our spirit knows our heart – he might easily related/connect/speak to our spirit and thereby know our heart. In too ways, though, this is another way of saying the same thing. Satan can read our mind.
Do our thoughts matter?
Proverbs 24:9 says foolish thoughts themselves are sin. Matthew 5 says lust is adultery. It’s clear that thoughts matter – at least to God. If his temple is going to be our heart – he’s interested for obvious reasons. We also know that actions reflect thoughts – so the heart’s condition is important.
Let’s consider the logical problem.
If Satan requires us to talk in order to know our heart – he cannot know what uniquely tempts a mute person. If Satan requires us to talk in order to know our heart – we should never speak our problems aloud to counselors, in confession, or during corporate prayer. But that’s silly.
Is it possible Satan does not tempt us at all, that we tempt ourselves? The Bible defines him as a tempter. And we have many examples where he tempts people – and tempts them personally (not with generic human temptations). He clearly tempts us – sometimes.
Let me interject that I believe we do tempt ourselves as a result of our sinful nature. However, we also know one of Satan’s roles as prince of God’s earth is as tempter.
Is it possible that Satan is a psychologist? Does he look at our actions and with genius discern our hearts? It’s possible. But Adam and Eve make that difficult. They provided insufficient raw material. Still, it doesn’t take too much analysis to superficially understand most a person from his actions.
I would bet that the serpent is Satan's Modus Operandi. He can use more than a snake. But he definitely whispers temptations to our ears/hearts/spirits. And if we are tempting ourselves – he is happy to help enable those, too. His goal is to wreck God’s plan. Doesn’t he realize he is part of it?
Logically, Satan can’t rely on the spoken word – or we should stop praying and confessing.
He clearly messes with minds – even if it is just by messing with the spirit.
God thinks thoughts are important – so you know Satan cares, too.
Many temptations are from me – but Satan tempts us, the Bible is clear.
When we pray silently, God hears – why shouldn’t Satan also hear?
Here’s the question.
If Satan can read our minds – does it matter?
Here’s the answer?
No. We know Satan knows how to tempt us. And we know Satan tempts us. What matters is how we guard and prepare our hearts for the temptations inevitably coming.