The Lord’s Prayer: Deliver Us From Evil…

10th in a series by Assistant Pastor Philip Lawton

Seventh Day Baptist Church of Shiloh, NJ

Check out Phil’s blog at contemplatingkenosis.blogspot.com

 

 

 

The last few months have been alarming. Hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico without power to this day. California has had several fires and now a mudslide that left at least 17 dead. In New Jersey, we had a “bomb cyclone” that left the east cost covered in snow. North Korea gets ever closer to nuking the world. Just last month suicide bombers took out a church in Pakistan during a children’s Christmas program.

Evil is part of the sinful world that we live in. There are times that the world seems so dark we cannot imagine how God can be in control. We wonder if there is anything that can save us from the evil in this world. Every day we hear of another case of sexual assault and abuse of power. Some of us have experienced very real evil in our own homes. When we pray for deliverance from evil we often think of immediate evil. But what Jesus was teaching us was about so much more.

If there is one thing that we have learned from this study of the Lord’s Prayer, it is that what Jesus was teaching us is often much deeper than what we think when we recite the prayer. This is no different for the concept of evil. The real need for deliverance from the suffering in our lives at the hands of the evil in the world is only a fraction of what Jesus is teaching us here. In this simple phrase Jesus is reminding us of the cosmic significance of His coming to earth.

The Evil One

Any discussion of this part of the Lord’s Prayer must deal with the concept of Satan. A valid but not often used translation of this passage could be “deliver us from the evil one.”

At first glance this might seem like a significant translation distinction. After all, if Jesus is talking specifically about Satan then He is referencing spiritual warfare. But the reality is that the whole of what Jesus did here on earth was spiritual warfare and the acknowledgement of Satan in the Lord’s Prayer does not change that.

We could, with this knowledge, claim that when we sin it is the result of the temptation of Satan and therefore not our fault. This is a hallow argument that removes our own agency in the temptation. Further, it can lead us to be in fear and give Satan far more credit than he is due. The sins we commit are our own. The devil may be able to tempt us, but he cannot make us do anything.

This passage is not Jesus teaching us to pass the buck. Nor is it Jesus teaching us to be afraid that there are demons around every corner. Rather this is a passage where Jesus relates the ultimate purpose of the Kingdom of God.

The Evil Within

I began this entry with a list of some of the evils we see everywhere in the world. From natural disasters, to tyrants with their hands on a red button, to public examples of sexual assault, to the horrors within our own homes — the world is full of evil. Yet what all this ignores and what can be lost when we focus on Satan as the tempter is the evil we all have.

Just one verse earlier Jesus reminded us that we are in need of forgiveness just like those around us. We are not innocent. The evil that we see in the world exists within each of us. When we forget our own sinfulness we become like the Pharisee in Luke 7. We often talk about the Gospel as the message of forgiveness of sins, but that means that we have sins to begin with.

Yes, Jesus is teaching us to pray for deliverance from the devil. Yes, Jesus is teaching us to pray for deliverance from our own sins. But He is calling us to see the true purpose of His life, death and resurrection. Jesus is teaching us to look beyond our present circumstances to something much more beautiful than temporary relief from our present suffering.

The Return of the King

When Jesus taught us to pray for deliverance from evil He was teaching us to ask for the Kingdom of God. True and complete deliverance from evil means the return of the king. It means that Jesus reigns. It means that we give up our hold and submit to the king. I have already written about what the Kingdom of God looks like, but I want to remind you that it is a place where there is no evil.

This petition is not just about us. It is not just about being spared from pain and suffering. It is not just about keeping Satan at bay. This petition is a plea to God to come quickly. It is a cry out to the creator of the universe to come and set right all the wrongs in the world. This petition means that we must submit to the king. Asking to be delivered from evil means that we must accept the rule of another.

The Lord’s Prayer is the Gospel

When I began this series I don’t think I really understood what would come of it. I thought that I would just give some information on that prayer that we say nearly every week at church. Yet as I have researched and written, I have come to realize that the entirety of the Gospel is summed up in this prayer. It is a realization that we can do nothing without God. It is a cry to the creator to free us from the suffering of this life. It is a submission to the rule of the one true king.

Since the time of the Fall, humanity has tried to rule ourselves. We have tried kings and democracies and republics and communes. Each of these has failed us. We cannot save ourselves. This is the message of the Old Testament. This is the reality of daily bread. We need a savior. We need a king. This is the reality of deliverance from evil. Yet we cannot have that savior, we cannot have that king if we do not submit. This is the reality of “Thy will be done.”

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer — when we really understand it — we are preaching the Gospel. We are submitting to the only authority that matters. We are crying out to the only One who can really save us. Jesus taught us to pray in this way so that we would never forget what it means to follow Him. The Lord’s Prayer is the Gospel.

May you come to realize that evil

is not just all around you, but within you.

May you cry out to God for deliverance from evil.

May you understand that ultimate deliverance

comes only with the reign of Jesus.

And may God hear our prayer and come quickly.

Amen!

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