Ever since Adam and Eve tasted the enticing fruit in the Garden of Eden, the Father of Lies has been harassing us. Satan's efforts to distort the truth and his attempts at convincing us to question God's word have not ceased and neither should our efforts in combating him.
It has been said that the devil will use 99% of the truth to float one lie. This is true because he cannot create, which leaves him with only the ability to twist what has already been created. He is a master at this and we need to be on guard against it. In Ephesians 6:11 it says,
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil."
The following are six lies the devil tell us and ways we can combat them.
Lie #1: You don't have time to pray.
The devil hates prayer. In the Manual For Spiritual Warfare (MSW), author Paul Thigpen says,
"We can see how much the Devil fears those who pray, since there’s not a moment of the day when he tempts us more than when we’re at prayer. He does everything he possibly can to prevent us from praying. When the Devil wants to make someone lose his soul, he starts out by inspiring in him a profound distaste for prayer. However good a Christian he may be, if the Devil succeeds in making him either say his prayers badly or neglect them altogether, he’s certain to have that person for himself.”
In our busy lives we can easily fall into the trap of believing we don't have time to pray. Yet, the Bible does not give us an excuse, but a command regarding prayer. "Pray unceasingly" (Eph. 6:18). Jesus implores his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemene, "Rise and pray, that you should not enter into temptation" (Luke 22:46).
The rosary is a prayer the devil can't stand. Say the rosary!
Shorter prayers can be powerful as well. By learning certain "ejaculatory prayers", we can offer a quick response when we feel tempted during the day. An ejaculatory prayer is a secret and sudden lifting up of the soul's desires to God, upon any emergency that may occur. One may engage in this prayer by a simple thought darted up to heaven. The devil would like us not to use this method of prayer. He knows the power that these types of prayers have because they reveal the faith of the one praying.
The following are a few ejaculatory prayers to remember:
- 'Jesus, Mary, Joseph, be my Salvation.'
- 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' (Known as The Jesus Prayer)
- 'My God & my all!'
- 'Jesus, Mary, I love You. Save souls.'
- 'God, come to my assistance; Lord, make haste to help me.'
- 'May the Holy Cross be my light.' (Jubilee Medal of St. Benedict)
See also Can We Really Pray Without Ceasing?
Lie #2: You aren't good enough.
This common lie is an easy one to fall for, regardless of our vocation. As a mother of nine, I can feel overwhelmed and sometimes doubt my competency. This is exacerbated further when I see other mothers accomplishing so much with ease. I can quickly become frustrated with myself and become envious or worse, despairing. When we feel unworthy, we can falsely imagine that God does not love us; that He is not here for us. That is exactly what the devil wants us to believe.
Today, with the easy access to social media and the constant barrage of images and snapshots into people's lives, we can become even more susceptible to the belief that we are not good enough. We see images on social media and we think.... look how happy they are or look how successful they are. I'm not as successful.... I'm not as good as they are. If I can feel that way as a 50-year-old mother, how do my children who are teenagers feel?
Sharon Johnston, a friend of mine who has led a Bible study for young women and young mothers for almost 10 years, suggests occasional "fasts" from social media. She tells the women she counsels that time away from social media with the purpose of spending that time with God in prayer is helpful to combat the noise that fills our heads.
Johnston is wise. Time away from the noise and from the bombardment of pressures to live or act a certain way is a good way to bring our attention back to the One who gave us life and Who sustains us.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
To counter the lie that we are unworthy, Thigpen suggests we get to know the saints. Especially those who shared our vocation or those who shared our struggles. For instance, as a mother who worries or grows anxious about my children's faith, I can look to Saint Monica who cried out to God for years in agony over her lost son. If someone struggles with lust or the things of the flesh, they can turn to Saint Augustine who struggled as a young man with those sins. The following prayer is a good way to turn away from thoughts of unworthiness and ask God for help through his saints:
Look upon our weakness, almighty God, and since the burden of our own deeds weighs heavily upon us, may the glorious intercession of St. ______ protect us, through Christ Our Lord.
Lie #3: Be anxious, for there is much to worry about.
Satan wants us to look at our problems instead of looking towards God. The devil knows that the ultimate answer to our problems can only come from God and so he wants our minds to be preoccupied with those things that keep us from thinking about God. Fear is one of his most useful tools. This is not simply because fear causes us to lose trust in God, it is also so that we do not have a proper "fear of the Lord". Monsignor Charles Pope explains that the devil plays a game of diversion . . . hoping we will be drawn into anxieties and fears to divert our attention away from God...
"Anxieties and fears also cause us many distractions. And by these, the devil causes us to fixate on fears about passing things, and thereby not to have a proper fear of the judgment which awaits us. Jesus says Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt 10:28). In other words, we should have a holy reverence and fear directed towards the Lord, and in this way, many of our other fears will be seen in better perspective, or will go away altogether. But in this matter of fear, the devil says just the opposite: we should fear 10,000 things that might afflict us on this passing earth, and not think at all of the one most significant thing that awaits us, our judgment. The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.'”
We can also remember the words of scripture which were the words John Paul II often reminded us of during his papacy: "I say to you who are My friends: Do not be afraid." (Luke 12:24)
Lie #4: You have lots of time.
I once heard a talk by a nun who said that one of the devil's favorite lies is to convince us that we have more time. In other words, there is always time to get serious later. Satan convinces us to delay something so it never gets started or completed. It is not difficult to see the power in this lie. Just as the devil plays a game of diversion with our fears and anxieties, he plays the same type of game with our sense of time. By convincing us that we have plenty of time to work on the spiritual side of our life, he also tells us that we should put those things off that will draw us closer to God. He convinces us that our sins aren't that big of a deal; that we can attend to them later. Yet scripture says the opposite. The following are just a few of the verses from scripture which warn us of this very lie and help us to remember to be awake and be ready.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12)
"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates." (Revelation 22:12-14)
"So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected." (Matthew 24:42-44)
"The principle trap that the devil sets for young people is idleness. This is a fatal source of all evil. Do not let there be any doubt in your mind that we are born to work and when we don't we are out of our element and in great danger of offending God . . . First tell the devil to rest . . . then I'll rest too!"
—Saint John Bosco
Lie #5: Your past is unredeemable.
The devil wants us to lose hope, to despair, and to place our trust in anything but God. One way he does this is by using our past sins against us and convincing us that we cannot be redeemed. He nags us and tells us that our sins will always be our downfall and that we are powerless against them. Yet this is exactly the opposite of what Our Lord promises. By reading the Bible and listening to the words of scripture at Mass we can arm ourselves against the father of lies and know that God is our savior no matter what our past looks like.
Thigpen in the Manual For Spiritual Warfare says the way to combat this lie is to always keep close the second theological virtue: hope.
"The hope of salvation is a helmet, the Apostle Paul declares (1 Thes. 5:8). It's essential for protecting the mind. The temptation to despair is a powerful tactic of the Enemy. If we lose hope for our salvation, we open our minds wide to all the poisonous thoughts that the enemy seeks to plant there. If we should conclude that we have no hope of winning the battle, why even fight? So we must never take off the helmet of hope if we hope to overcome the devil" (MSW page 58).
Scripture also reminds us that God never forsakes those who turn to him and who are truly repentant:
"I give them everlasting life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28).
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?...In all these things we overcome because of Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39).
“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Lie #6: You don't have to worry about Satan (he isn't real).
The devil wants us to believe he is not real. His work in this world is much easier if we simply think he does not exist. How do we fight an adversary if we don't even know he exists? Yet as Thigpen writes,
"The reality of demonic powers has been a constant doctrine of the Catholic Church ever since it was founded by Christ through his apostles. They and their ancestors spoke and wrote about Satan repeatedly. Through the centuries, the great teachers of the Church have consistently affirmed that Satan is real" (MSW page 6).
There are many references to the devil in scripture. The following are just a few:
"Be sober, be watchful! For your adversary, the Devil, like a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist Him, steadfast in the faith" (1 Peter 5:8-9).
"Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of the light" (2 Cor.11:14)
"But I fear lest, as the serpent seduced Eve by his guile, so your minds may be corrupted and fall from a pure devotion to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3).
"Indeed what I have forgiven - if I have forgiven anything - I have done for your sakes, in the person of Christ, so that we may not be defeated by Satan; for we are not unaware of his devices" (2 Cor. 2: 10-11).
Although we need to be aware of the devil's constant harassment, we also need to remember that Christ won the battle. The sacraments allow us to draw our strength from God because through them we receive His Grace. So by staying close to the sacraments, to the Holy Eucharist and to confession, we stay close to Christ and we are able to fight off the devil more effectively.
Let us pray for strength and for God's present help in danger. Most importantly let us always remember that God's mercy is abundant and that He is with us always.
"You draw near this day to battle against your enemies; Let not your heart faint; do not fear, or tremble, or be in dread of them; for the Lord your God is He that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory." (Dt 20:3-4).
This article has been updated. It was originally published in 2017. © The Catholic Company