Why I Don’t Typically Pray For a Hedge of Protection

by Mike Leake on April 14, 2014 · 23 comments

“Lord, we pray that you put a hedge of protection around this family.”

I’ve had something similar prayed over me before. And I really appreciate it. But I have a confession to make. The phrase “hedge of protection” makes me laugh. You see, I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s. When I hear the word hedge I don’t think of a row of thorn bushes–I think of Sonic the Hedgehog. So what I hear when someone prays for a hedge of protection is a group of angry hedgehogs watching out for me like my own personal line of attack dogs.

That is one reason, to my knowledge, I’ve never once prayed a hedge of protection around someone. There is another reason.

Where does this hedge come from?

A hedge of protection has garnered for itself a hallowed place in the halls of Christianese. But I wonder how many people know the origin of this phrase. Similar language is only found in one place, Job 1:10, and here it comes from the mouth of the Accuser.

Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. (Job 1:10 ESV)

The Lord had graciously placed a hedge around Job to protect him from enemies. This was part of God’s blessing on Job’s life. And that is all well and good. In fact I don’t believe there is anything necessarily wrong with praying for a hedge of protection. There are times in my life when I pick up one of the Psalms and pray similarly. There are occasions when it seems as if enemies are all around and I need the Lord’s protection and provision. In times like this a hedge of protection would be quite nice.

The Job 42 Experience

Fast forward in the story of Job for just a moment and allow me a question. Go to the 42nd chapter. All of the suffering has already happened to Job and he’s been given counsel (mostly bad) from his friends. Job had desired an audience with God and he finally got it. The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and left him stupefied. Here is what Job said in response:

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Don’t get tripped up on the “despise myself” . Just ask yourself, “Would I like to have a similar experience with the living God? Would I like to be able to say something similar to Job?” To modernize Job, he’s saying something like this:

“You know, I had read about God, I had heard preachers talk about God, I had heard stories about his greatness and his provision and his beauty and wonder and majesty and holiness and love, but now my eyes have seen him. And I’m going to just shut my mouth. I don’t need to have an audience with God and to state my case. I’m sorry for thinking that I had a case. The Lord is holy. I am not. I will repent in dust and ashes”.

We talk all the time about having a deeper relationship with God, about experiencing Him, about knowing Him more. We want what Job experienced in Job 42.

Now allow me to ask you another question. Would Job have known God in this way if he had still had a hedge of protection around him?

Probably not.

Listen, I’m all for praying that the Lord would protect people and heal people and bless people. But I’m also not God and I don’t know what people truly need. Maybe a hedge of protection is the very thing that is keeping a brother or sister from really seeing and savoring Jesus Christ. Maybe what is needed is the furnace of affliction to remove joy-robbing dross.

I don’t see much biblical basis for praying that a hedge of protection would be put around someone. I might pray something like Psalm 20:1 and end up doing about the same thing. But even there I believe the language is different. A hedge of protection sounds like shielding someone from all harm and all difficulties. And I want that for my kids and for my family. I don’t want harm to ever come upon them. But I also want them to know the beauty and rescue and sufficiency of Christ and that might not happen with a hedge of protection.

So I’ll pray, “Lord protect them” but as I pray that, I’m praying that the Lord would protect them as he puts them (and me) through the furnace of affliction. It’s the only way for us dross-filled sinners to be fit for an imperishable kingdom.

I want a hedge of protection for my family. But I want Jesus more. If I can’t have both I’ll take the latter.

1 clark April 14, 2014 at 10:26 am

I will not pray for an army of angelic hedgehogs protecting someone. I don’t care who knows it! Even though I know I’ll be tempted to now.
I often pray for protection and healing and the like, but have long thought the old hedge of protection language as a party of my silly charismatic past. Along with ‘pleading the blood’ and ‘claiming a healing.’

2 Dave Miller April 14, 2014 at 3:06 pm

I will admit both that the term “praying a hedge of protection” has become a bit of a Christianese code word (like gospel-centered and missional?) and that there is much to be gained from suffering, as you mention.

However, I see plenty of biblical warrant for praying protection for our loved ones.

That hedge of protection Satan spoke of is around each of us. Only with God’s permission for God’s purposes can Satan break through.

I am glad I have that hedge of protection – whatever you’d like to call it.

3 Greg Buchanan April 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Mike,

I appreciate your point about not doing thinks without a biblical warrant or example, even if in a minor sense. I also appreciate your point about asking God for something that is not His will (thinking about Hummers and lightsabers right now).

But, would the prodigal son have returned if his father’s prayers for protection kept him from suffering with the pigs?

However, I think there is a clear teaching and example in scripture that a basic funciton of prayer is to ask for things:
- Matt 7:7 – ask and it will be given…
- Jas 4:3 – you have not because you ask not… (I know this cuts both ways, i’m getting there)

Also, I find biblical examples of praying for protection:
Ps 71:3-4 – be to me a… refuge… rescue me
Ps 16:1 – Keep and protect me…
Ps 32:7 – You are my hiding place, you protect me
(too many examples in Psalms)

I think the imagery has more to do with Monty Python’s shrubbery than anything specifically charismatic. Out here in AZ (as in other farming locations) hedges are used for mitigating the effecs of wind on cotton fields. Usually they are grown from oleandars from 6ft to 20ft high.

I think some pastoral folks who understood literal hedges used the imagery in their prayers knowing that a good shrubery can: slow the damage of wind, create some privacy, slow the advace of predators and armies (well, maybe medival armies more so), and mark boundaries. These are the images in my mind when I’ve prayed this over my family traveling.

Regarding Js 4:3, I understand this references both asking (in principal) and asking wrongly specifically. I see it applying in both ways: ask correctly (Lord if it is your will for your purposes) or ask wrongly (Lord, that Hummer would really benifit my image and thus my ministry and, well, maybe your kingdom)

4 Greg Buchanan April 14, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Do I really have to say it’s ok to “pray a shrubbery of protection…”

5 Ben Coleman April 16, 2014 at 10:59 am

As long as I don’t have to say “Ni!”.

6 Christiane April 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm

“In His Hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”
(Job 12:10)

He is not called ‘the Lord of Life’ for no reason. :)

7 Tarheel April 14, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I admit I am weirded out a little by some of the things I hear in prayers sometimes…

The hedge of protection is one that I hear a lot. I have never been able to put my finger on why it makes me feel uncomfortable though. Maybe it is just me.

Another one I hear is people praying for protection from “angels standing guard at four corners…”. I recently heard that one prayed for a man in the hospital.

8 Adam G. in NC April 15, 2014 at 12:19 am

Dean Smith prayed for guards at “four corners” for most of his career.

9 Tarheel April 15, 2014 at 10:45 am

Well that obviously was a godly prayer. ;-)

10 Mike Leake April 14, 2014 at 6:28 pm

I think I should also mention that I don’t ever pray something like, “Lord make my family suffer so that we grow”. That’d be stoical nonsense. I agree with Greg and Dave that praying for our family (and even for protection) is something that is absolutely biblical. I hope I indicated this much in the original article. What I am saying here is that ours prayers ought to be a little bigger and we ought to pray that the Lord’s will is done and that we grow more like Christ–no matter what that means. So even while we are praying for the Lord to protect us we are also praying like Jesus, “yet not my will but your will be done”.

11 Dave Miller April 14, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Is it wrong for me to pray a hedge of thorns around Red Sox fans?

12 Mike Leake April 14, 2014 at 6:31 pm

No. But it is wrong for you to never check your fantasy baseball team. It’s also wrong to not trade me Alex Gordon.

13 Dave Miller April 14, 2014 at 6:34 pm

You can have Alex Gordon for any Yankee players you have that are not on the DL.

I’m embarrassed to ask this, but can you send me a link that would help me find that league again?

14 Mike Leake April 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm

I would but I don’t know Morse Code. I’m sorry.

15 Ben Coleman April 16, 2014 at 11:02 am

I better know Morse Code. I once passed the 20wpm morse code test under the steely eyes of an FCC examiner.

16 Greg Buchanan April 14, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Agreed! Not “protect at all costs” but “protect us from the storm OR get us through the storm.”

But, prayers for victory over Yankees is an old Souther tradition that shouldn’t be halted anytime soon.

17 Christiane April 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm

. . . ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’

18 Jim Pemberton April 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Just imagine how bad it would have been without a “hedge of protection” around Job. Praying thus is only an acknowledgement that it hasn’t been worse for us because we already have a “hedge of protection”. Outside of the Christianese, we can just pray in praise and gratitude that God has been merciful and has already provided for our needs today and for the future although he has no obligation to do so. “Thank you, God for your provision for safety, for our comings and goings, for our living, for our families and loved ones, for our comfort, for our trials and travails, for our pain and suffering, for good health and poor health, for life and death…” For God gives us nothing without his good will and our appropriate response in all events is submission to him.

19 Tarheel April 15, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Amen, Jim.

20 Red Berry April 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm

You verbalized Job’s attitude just about right, brother. God’s way of dealing with him sorta makes you think God is a Jew, doesn’t it? (Well, He WAS Mary’s Son…) He answered all Job’s questions WITH questions, after which four words would have been enough. But I like the way you expanded it.

“WELL, SHUT MY MOUTH.”

21 Stephen June 14, 2014 at 10:21 am

I think it is necessary to understand the difference between Hebrews 12:9-11. and Job 1:10. In Hebrews, St. Paul talked about the discpline of the Lord. God allows suffering and cross in our lives to make us grow and mature in our spiritual life. In my own understanding, praying for a hedge of protection is not praying against the Cross God permits in our lives to make us more matured. Rather it is praying against hazards against life which are satan’s construct and diabolical programmes of the devil aimed to destroy our life and frustrate God’s divine plan for us. Example – hedge of protection against accident, Armed Robber’s attack, occult manipulations, Witches and Wizard’s attack, hedge of protection against satanic seduction and so on. These are purely satan’s construct which the good Lord cannot will for His children, as John 10:10 shows.
Similarly, it is not only the book of Job 1:10, i.e. through the mouth of the accuser that the word ‘the hedge of protection’ was mentioned, other passages like Isaiah 5:1-6, Psalms 125:1-2, 34:7.etc equally give us insight about God’s hedge of protection.
Summarily, I will say that praying for hedge of protection is not theologically wrong, however, I will add that God can permit the removal of the hedge around us in two ways:
1. As a judgement against a fruitless Christian life, a Christian who has enjoyed God’s hedge of protection without being fruitful, as shown in Isaiah 5:1-6
2. To prove satan a liar – example God permitted the removal of a hedge around Job, to prove satan a liar over his accusation against Job that, he was serving him because of the hedge of protection God puts around him. Job 1:10.
3. The third way is not God’s own doing, but, through sin. Sin destroys God’s hedge of protection around families and make them vulnerable to satanic attack. Example – The first family in Eden became naked as a result of sin… Genesis 3:1-19, Eccl 10:8.

22 Dave Miller April 14, 2014 at 7:25 pm

I granted you your silly trade. Stop whining.

23 Mike Leake April 14, 2014 at 7:29 pm

This is great. One less Yankee I have to cheer for.

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