Question: "Does Satan have to get God's permission before he can attack us?"

Answer: There is no biblical proof that Satan always needs God’s specific permission in order to act against Christians every time he wishes to attack them. We know that Satan needs permission at least sometimes. Job 1 shows that Satan was not able to afflict Job without God’s permission. However, consider Satan’s argument before God: “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land” (Job 1:10). Satan is obviously familiar with who Job is and is aware of Job’s special protection and blessing by God. How could Satan have known of Job’s protection, unless he and/or his demonic minions had not already tried to work their will against Job? What Satan is really asking is for God to remove Job’s protection; of course, in asking that the protection be removed, Satan is essentially seeking permission to attack Job. Does Satan have to seek such permission every time he attacks us? The Bible does not say.

Another relevant passage is Luke 22:31–32. Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Clearly in this case Satan had asked God’s permission to test Peter and the other disciples. Jesus tells Peter that He has prayed specifically for him so that Peter’s faith would not fail and so that Peter can strengthen the other disciples when the test was over. The implication is that Peter and the rest would be sifted in whatever way Satan intended. So God allowed the harassing of His disciples, within limits, but He had a higher purpose in mind—the strengthening of them all.

In Job 38:11 God says that He limits the waves of the sea: “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt.” In the same way, it seems that there are boundaries and rules that Satan must abide by. He can go so far but no farther. As the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), must he stop and ask God’s permission for every step? Or does he only need to ask special permission when he runs into an obstacle to his hatred? There is no real biblical proof either way. Job and Peter were hedged about by the Lord—Satan couldn’t get to them without the Lord’s first removing a measure of His protection. We know that God cares for all of His children, so it is reasonable to assume that God has a measure of protection surrounding each of us. And we know that, ultimately, God controls everything in the universe, including Satan. “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).