Deliver Us From Evil

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Matthew 6:13

I hope you don’t think you can handle everything by yourself. Christians always recognize their need for help – especially God’s!

Tradition has it that somebody once asked Daniel Boone, the legendary American frontiersman, if in all his wilderness explorations he had ever been lost. “No,” Boone replied; “but once I was sort of bewildered for three days.” Well, I’m neither as skillful nor as proud as Daniel Boone; I’ll admit that I have been more than “bewildered” in the wilderness, and it is a most unpleasant experience.

Have you ever been lost, really and truly lost? Nothing is more likely to arouse in you feelings of panic and terror. You’re hiking through a forest in unfamiliar country. Somehow you take a wrong turn, and the track you are following dwindles to nothing. You strike out bravely in another direction, confident at first that it will take you back to the path on which you came, but after wandering for some time and a series of twists and turns, you realize with a sinking heart that you have no idea where you are or which way to go. And then, just when you’re starting to become really frightened, you look up and catch a glimpse of a signpost, or better yet, you see a guide approaching who knows the way home. What a relief! There is nothing more welcome to lost and weary travelers than to be shown the right path and led to the way for which they have been searching.

THE MODEL PRAYER

Jesus taught his followers to pray for God’s leading. He said the final thing that we should ask God for is to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (or it could be translated, “from the evil one”).

This sixth petition brings us to the end of Jesus’ model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. Looking back over it we can see its beautiful symmetry and comprehensive nature. After an opening that reminds us both of God’s intimate love (“Our Father”) and his overwhelming greatness (“Who art in heaven”), Jesus tells us to ask for six simple things. The first three all focus on God and his concerns: the glorifying of his name, the coming of his reign, and the doing of his will. In other words, before we rush to pray for ourselves and our circle of family and friends, we must remember the larger concerns of God. In prayer, as in all other things, God should come first.

Then when we turn to ourselves we are given a short but complete list including three more things. First, we are to ask for our daily bread. People must have their spiritual needs met – they need the Bread of Life – but they also have physical needs, and it’s hard to think about the former when the latter are pressing upon us. So Jesus says start with the obvious and the immediate (if you’re hungry, pray about that). But don’t stop there. Go on to pray for your deepest needs, he says, for forgiveness, for the mercy and grace of God for ourselves, and for the spiritual power that enables us to forgive others the same way Christ forgives us. Finally, Jesus tells us to pray for God to lead us out of temptation and deliver us from evil and the power of the devil. Thus he teaches us in praying for our own concerns to pray in three directions: to ask for sustenance for the present, forgiveness for the past, and guidance for the future.

LEAD US . . . DELIVER US

As with each of the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, the request to “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one” is just a starting point. It is a base from which to build a whole series of prayers, a theme upon which a large set of variations can be composed. Let me suggest four areas of intercession toward which this petition directs us.

First, when we pray this we are asking God for strength, strength both to endure the trials and to escape the temptations that threaten our faith. Asking God not to lead us into temptation sounds a little odd. Doesn’t the Bible say somewhere that God never tempts anyone? It does, in James 1:13, a chapter that also has a lot to say about trials. The word James uses is the same as here in the Lord’s Prayer, and it can be translated as either “trial” or “temptation.” But there is a crucial difference between these two things. A trial is a test, as when we take an automobile out on a trial run to see if we like it or not, or when we bring someone into court to try his guilt or innocence. In spiritual terms a trial is suffering of some kind; most often the economic, social, psychological, or physical persecution somebody faces for confessing faith in Christ, but it could also be the general suffering of illness or sorrow or disappointment that can come to us in the course of our lives. Trials come from outside of us, under the control of the Lord, who permits them to test our faith. If we endure them without giving up, without abandoning faith or losing our hope in God, then the results are beneficial. Enduring trials develops our perseverance, which results in spiritual maturity, the Bible says, and the building up of Christian character (James 1:2-4; Rom. 5:3-5). It proves the genuineness of our faith and reflects praise and glory and honor upon the Lord Jesus (1 Peter 1:6-7) whom we refuse to deny or abandon. Those who stand the test will receive a glorious eternal reward (James 1:12).

Temptation, on the other hand, is always destructive of faith and dishonoring to God. Temptation is the urge or suggestion to abandon our faith by disobeying God’s commands or dishonoring God’s Son. The struggle with temptation is inside us, in our own urges and thoughts and desires (James 1:14-15), but it can also be prompted by other people, as when Job’s wife urged him to curse God for his troubles and give up and die (Job 2:9) or when Peter suggested that Jesus try to avoid the cross (Matt. 16:22-23), and it ultimately comes from the Tempter himself, Satan. He suggests to us, as he did in the very first temptation, that God’s word is not to be believed or accepted (Gen. 3:1-7). However, temptation never comes from God. So when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” what we are asking is, “Give us the strength to endure hardship and suffering as your loyal disciples, to turn away from sin, to resist Satan, and to glorify you by our faithful obedience. Give us grace to persevere until we gain victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.” We’re praying for strength.

The second thing we pray for here is guidance or direction. Focus on the very first word of the petition: “Lead us.” Do you remember what happened when the people of Israel escaped from their Egyptian slave masters? They made it across the Red Sea (with a little help from the Lord), but it was one of those “out of the frying pan, into the fire” experiences, for there they were on the edge of one of the harshest, most inhospitable deserts on the planet. Behind them was Egypt; ahead of them somewhere in the distance (the far distance) was the promised land of Canaan; but immediately before them stretched a dry and empty wilderness. The Israelites had no means of transportation, they hadn’t enough food and water, but perhaps worst of all, they did not even know the way across the desert to find their new home. But they needn’t have worried. God provided everything: manna to eat each day, water out of dry rocks, and for their guidance, a pillar of cloud to go before them by day, and of fire by night.

We can pray for the same thing. Not that we will see a column of smoke traveling ahead of us, resting whenever we are to stop and moving on wherever we are to go. Not that we should expect God to set a star in the heavens, like he did for the wise men. After all, he has given us his written word in the Bible; everything we need to lead us safely to heaven is there. But we can also ask for specific direction, and we can be sure we will receive it. We can pray for guidance whenever we come to one of life’s turnings, and God will show us the way to go, perhaps not by spectacular means, but show us he will. After all, Jesus taught us to pray for this very thing, so of course he will give an answer.

The third thing this petition teaches us to pray for is protection. When we ask the Lord to deliver us from evil, we are committing ourselves to him for sake-keeping. We are asking him to guard us from harm and shield us from all threats, both from human enemies and our archenemy Satan. The Lord God is our one true defense, as the psalmists delighted in singing; he is our rock, our refuge and strength, our strong tower and mighty fortress. In prayer we look to him to preserve our lives and our souls from every danger. Another ancient Christian prayer expands our request for the Lord to deliver us from evil in this way:

From all evil and wickedness; from sin; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; and from everlasting damnation

Good Lord, deliver us.

From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared.

Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,

Good Lord, deliver us.

(The Litany, from the Book of Common Prayer)

Finally, in the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to save us in the end, to finish his work of salvation. We are praying for the Lord to lead us all the way home to heaven, and deliver us from sin and from the final evil, which is death.

I think my favorite expression of this prayer to “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” is the hymn, Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah, written in 1745 by a Welsh Christian named William Williams. The hymn uses the imagery of the Exodus to ask God for his sustaining strength, guidance, protection and ultimate salvation.

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land;

I am weak, but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand;

Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,

Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow;

Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through;

Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,

Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside;

Death of death, and hell’s destruction, land me safe on Canaan’s side;

Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.

May God indeed lead us all our journey through, and may we all land safe on Canaan’s side.