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The Lord’s Prayer: Deliver Us From Evil, Matthew 6:13

Deliver Us From Evil

Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4


Psychiatrist Scott Peck wrote of meeting with a depressed 15-year-old named Bobby, who was increasingly troubled after his 16-year-old brother killed himself with a .22 rifle.


Peck tried to probe Bobby’s mind, but got nowhere. Searching for ways to establish a bond, he asked what Bobby had received from his parents for Christmas. “A gun,” Bobby said. Peck was stunned. “What kind?”


“A .22.”


More stunned. “How did it make you feel, getting the same kind of gun your brother killed himself with?”


“It wasn’t the same kind of gun.” Peck felt better.


“It was the same gun.”


Bobby had been given, as a Christmas present, by his parents, the gun his brother used to kill himself.


When Peck met with the parents, what was most striking was their deliberate refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing on their part. They would not tolerate any concern for their son, or any attempt to look at moral reality.


Two decades later and after his conversion to Christianity, Peck wrote about this encounter:


One thing has changed in twenty years. I now know Bobby’s parents were evil. I did not know it then. I felt their evil but had no vocabulary for it. My supervisors were not able to help me name what I was facing. The name did not exist in our professional vocabulary. As scientists rather than priests, we were not supposed to think in such terms.


Interestingly enough, although Peck often worked with convicted prisoners, he rarely found evil there. He finally decided … “The central defect of evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it.” This definition is reflective of Jesus’ far greater severity in dealing with religious leaders than with prostitutes and tax collectors.


We’ve been walking through the Lord’s Prayer this fall in a series of sermons I quite creatively called “The Lord’s Prayer.” When Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray,” (Luke 11:1), this is the prayer he gave them as a model for prayer and a foundation upon which to build a life of prayer. Prayer is the lifeline for a life lived following Jesus. God desires relationship with us, and prayer is the lifeblood of that relationship as we share what’s on our hearts with God and listen to him as God shares his heart with us.


If there ever was a human being who didn’t need to pray, it was probably Jesus of Nazareth. The one who is called Immanuel, God with us. God in the flesh. God in translation. And yet, Jesus prayed more than most. When he was joyful, he gave thanks and praise to the Father. When he was tired, he went to the Father for rest. When he was in need, he asked the Father to meet his needs. And when he was at the end of his rope, exhausted, distraught, heart filled with fear and loathing, he poured his heart out to the Father and sought strength and guidance.


And when Jesus prayed, it was unlike anything his disciples had ever seen, and so they asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And he did, by giving the Lord’s Prayer. God’s instruction on talking with God. The Lord’s Prayer. 57 words. If you base your life of prayer on them, and pray them regularly, understanding what you are saying when you say them, these 57 words will transform you. They will transform your relationship with God. They will transform the way you pray.


As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we begin to understand that life in God’s kingdom is first and foremost a life of devotion. The first two verses of the prayer are words of praise to our good heavenly Father. They are words that turn our hearts from our own agendas and place them in the center of God’s agenda. Life in God’s kingdom is also a life of dependence. The next two verses emphasize our dependence upon God for … everything – our daily needs, forgiveness for our own sin, and the strength and will to forgive others. And life in God’s kingdom is a life of danger. As we come to the conclusion of the prayer, we ask God to spare us from times of testing, and to deliver us from evil. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13).


Evil. It’s a strong word. It represents the complete and total absence of anything good. Malevolent forces that seek to destroy the goodness of God’s creation and the goodness in God’s creation. Forces that seek to eternally destroy that which is most precious to God … his relationship with humanity, which he has created.


When we think of evil, we tend to picture it as the devil, Satan, the adversary of God and of those who belong to God. But there is also plenty of evil alive in the human heart apart from Satan too. I am perfectly capable of all kinds of sin and destructive behavior all on my own. Ecclesiastes 9:3 says, “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” Like the very real evil that Scott Peck observed in the behavior of Bobby’s parents, evil is alive and well in every human heart, even in hearts that could never imagine doing what his parents did.


But Satan is very real. The Greek word, and remember, the New Testament was written primarily in Greek, the Greek word translated as evil here can have two meanings, depending on the way the word is written. In English, most nouns do not have gender, male, female, or neuter/neutral forms. But in Greek, and in many other languages, they do.


It’s kind of like today, people tend to refer to boats as a “she” or a “her,” right?  “She sure is a good boat.” Something like that. They might do that with their car too. If your vehicle is stuck, you might say something like, “Come on girl, let’s get going,” or you might say, “She sure is a fast car.” But those are pronouns, not nouns. Some people even name their vehicles. Aubrey does, but all of her cars are male. She used to drive Kyle, now she drives Barney. I don’t know.


Anyway, most non-English languages have male and female and neutral nouns, and that’s the case in Greek. So the word translated as evil can have a neutral form, and when its in that form, it refers to evil more as a nonspecific force at work in the world. But it also has a masculine form, and when it appears in that form, it is much more specific. In the more specific, masculine form, a better translation would be, “the evil one.” And that’s the form of the word evil that Matthew chose to translate what Jesus spoke here. “And deliver us from the evil one.”


Now, there are three ways people tend to respond when thinking about evil in general and specifically about Satan, which isn’t actually a name, by the way. Satan simply means adversary, and Scripture does put the article “the” in front of Satan, so it’s “the satan,” “the adversary.” But Scripture is also clear that there is an actual personality, a being, who is the adversary. So the first way people respond to evil, to Satan, is the “head in the sand” approach. It’s to ignore the reality of evil in general and Satan in particular, to not really think about it at all. Sure, there are things that happen that could be called “evil,” but there isn’t any kind of personal evil force at work in the world. If we all just got together and did better, we could overcome most of the problems and evils we face.


The second approach is the opposite of the first one. Instead of having their heads in the sand, pretending evil isn’t there, these people see Satan everywhere. Like there’s a demon behind every bush waiting to strike. These people become paranoid and often wind up living in fear.


The third approach is arrogance and self-righteousness. It’s saying, “Well I’m strong enough to defeat Satan on my own. My faith is stronger than most people’s faith. Satan is no match for me.” Or it’s believing that everything you personally disagree with or everything that doesn’t go your way is the work of the devil and it’s your job to deal with it and defeat it.


When I was in college, I played on my church’s church league basketball team. And during one game, we were beating another church in town, and the other team didn’t like it all that much. They were getting kind of chippy, cheap, hard fouls and overly physical play, stuff like that. And some of our guys were starting to get chippy back. So one of our guys stopped the game and said, “Come on guys, this is a church league game. We all follow Christ. Let’s stop and pray and put this behind us.” Well, the other’s church’s pastor was at the game watching all of this, and got so upset that things were going the way they were and that it was one of our guys, not one of theirs, who stopped the game to pray, that he walked out onto the court and started trying to cast demons out of everyone on our team. This is that arrogant, self-righteous approach. Well, there certainly isn’t any evil in me, and there is obviously evil in you, and it is my job to fix that situation.


Obviously, all three of those approaches – the head in the sand approach, the paranoid approach, and the self-righteous approach are all wrong approaches. C.S. Lewis, in his book The Screwtape Letters, says this: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”


So if these approaches are all wrong, how does a citizen of the kingdom of God respond to Satan and to the forces of evil in this world? The first step is to understand that evil is real, and that there is an enemy of your soul, an adversary of the kingdom of God, that the Bible simply calls the Satan, the adversary. But the Bible also indicates that this “being” is very real. Evil is real, and it is powerful. Understand that evil is real, and cry out to God for deliverance. “Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil.”


You see, the evil one is very real and has power. And this creation of God’s is territory that he has stolen from God and is in control of. And we are living in this now broken, stolen world as citizens of the kingdom of God. That is what St. Paul means when he says, “But our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). In John 17, Jesus prays for his disciples, and ultimately for us, in what is known as his “High Priestly Prayer.” And in that prayer, in John 17:14-15, Jesus prays, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” What does Jesus pray? “Father, deliver them from the evil one.”


Yes, the evil one is real and strong, as are the evil forces he personifies, but he is a defeated foe. Defeated not by you and me, not by our righteousness or our spiritual maturity or the quality of our faith. Defeated by Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection from the dead. Christian author and musician Carolyn Arends has written a very short, 7 day devotional based on the Lord’s Prayer called The Universe in 57 Words: 7 Days inside the Lord’s Prayer. We have copies of that book available for you out in the lobby if you’d like one. Just take it with you. In the devotional for this petition, “Deliver us from evil,” she passes on this story told by a missionary speaking in her church when she was young.


She writes: The missionary couple was stationed in what appeared in photos to be a particularly steamy jungle. One day, they told us, an enormous snake – much longer than a man – slithered its way through their front door and into the kitchen of their simple home. Terrified, they ran outside and searched frantically for a local who might know what to do. A machete-wielding neighbor came to the rescue, calmly marching into their house and decapitating the snake with one clean chop.


The neighbor reemerged triumphant and assured the missionaries that the reptile had been defeated. But there was a catch, he warned: It was going to take a while for the snake to realize it was dead.


A snake’s neurology and blood flow are such that it can take considerable time for it to stop moving even after decapitation. For the next several hours, the missionaries were forced to wait outside while the snake thrashed about, smashing furniture and flailing against walls and windows, wreaking havoc until its body finally understood that it no longer had a head.


Sweating in the heat, they felt frustrated but also grateful that the snake’s rampage wouldn’t last forever. At some point they had a mutual epiphany – that Satan is a lot like that big old snake. He’s already been defeated. He just doesn’t know it yet. In the meantime, he’s going to do some damage. But never forget that he’s a goner.” The head was removed from the body by Christ on the cross, but the massive body is still flailing around and doing very real damage. Still, his end is clear, and he has already been defeated. Our job is to pray, “And deliver us from evil.”


We are not to ignore the evil one. Nor are we to obsess about him in paranoia. And we are not to March off to battle against him on our own. As followers of Jesus, we are to cry out to God, “Deliver us from evil.” When those we love are in his snare, we cry out, “Deliver them from evil.” When our neighborhood, our community, is in his grasp, we cry out as a part of that neighborhood, “Deliver us from evil.” And when our brothers and sisters are spiritually and physically in harm’s way somewhere in this world, in the path of the evil one, we cry out, “Deliver us from evil.”



One of the litanies in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, which the Anglican and Episcopal churches use as a guide for worship, includes a fantastic prayer that fleshes out exactly what this simple phrase, “Deliver us from evil,” really means. It’s written in a call and response format, so I’ll read each line, and when I cue you, you’ll together say, “Good Lord, deliver us.” Are you ready? Let’s pray.


From all evil and mischief; from sin, from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from thy wrath, and from everlasting damnation … Good Lord, deliver us.


From all blindness of heart; from pride, vain-glory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness … Good Lord, deliver us.


From fornication, and all other deadly sin; and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil … Good Lord, deliver us.


From lightning and tempest; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death … Good Lord, deliver us.


From all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and Commandment … Good Lord, deliver us. Amen.