“Pray then in this way: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”
Every Sunday as we offer up the Lord’s Prayer in worship, I like hearing my friend Sue pray the last petition in its literal sense, as Jesus would have taught it: “…but deliver us from the evil one.” We are not asking to be delivered from some generic and nameless evil, but to be rescued from the power of the archenemy of our souls, “the evil one”: Satan.
Greek grammarians tell us that we best understand this last petition of the Lord’s Prayer as “deliver us from the evil one.” The grammar demands it, and that is how many contemporary Bible translations render it, e.g., New King James Bible, New International Version, Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, The Living Bible. Bible scholar William Barclay reminds, “The Bible does not think of evil as an abstract principle or force, but as an active, personal power in opposition to God.” (William Barclay, Matthew: Daily Study Bible)
Jesus frequently warned about “the evil one” (Matthew 13:19, 38; John 17:15), as did the apostle Paul (Ephesians 6:16; 2 Thessalonians 3:3), and the apostle John (1 John 2:13-14; 3:12; 5:18-19). At the Last Supper, Jesus told Simon Peter about the evil one’s schemes to spiritually demolish him: “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32a). We ought not to be surprised when later that night Jesus asks Peter and the disciples, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” It is because we are all facing the trial and the temptation to deny the Lord that we pray to be delivered from the evil one.
It is important for us to see this last petition in the Lord’s Prayer closely connected to the preceding one, “And do not bring us to the time of trial or temptation…but deliver us from the evil one.” Jesus faced the evil one in His temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13), and it the evil one that we face today! The “evil one” wants us to put God to the test and to doubt God’s promises to protect and provide for us.
Peter learned first hand the powers of the evil one to tempt and distract him, and gave this important warning: “Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Frequently I like to read C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. I do that because I need to be reminded of the subtlety and fiendishness of the dark enemy of my soul. I especially appreciate Lewis’ reminder about the “two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.” One error, Lewis says, “is to disbelieve in their existence.” The other error is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
It’s because of those “two equal and opposites errors” to disbelieve or to believe excessively in the powers of the devil, that I like to hear Sue praying “…but deliver us from the evil one.”
Lord, you know the great battle we are facing today, so deliver us from Your enemy and ours!
Grace and peace,