Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:13c “. . .but deliver us from evil:. . .”
Again, note the first person plural. It is given to prevent selfishness, the vice of prayer. Pray for one another. Intercession has become a vital, vibrant part of my own prayer life. I urge us all to develop a personal ministry of intercession.
“Deliver us from evil,” the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer, brings us face to face again with our recurring nemesis–evil. “It surrounds the purest, clings to the holiest, shadows the brightest” (Vaughan, in B.I.). Sin is not only outside us, but also lurks inside us. “When I would do good, evil is present with me” (RM 7:21). Temptation, a pervasive, present and persistent reality, is common to all, but specific to each, able to adjust itself to differing personalities. “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind” (RM 7:23). Since sin is in us, it adapts itself to our inner structure, it knows how we think, what we like, and through long habit becomes a law, something which works with regularity.
Because evil is a constant, formidable foe, our Lord here teaches us to pray boldly against it. The word translated “deliver” is a power word, picturing snatching away, pulling out, dragging from, rescuing someone from a perilous situation. It is the urgent cry of people who know they can not rescue themselves, but also know they serve a God who can break every yoke and let the oppressed go free.
For many years I have sought to heed the wisdom contained in the admonition, “Pray yourself empty; then pray yourself full.” Many Christians mistakenly try to skip the first step. They desire the ecstasy of fullness, but do not want to undergo the agony of first being emptied of self. An oft quoted verse is, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (JM 4:7b). Many often overlook the fact this is only the last half of a verse which begins, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” The sequence in the verse is significant–self abasement must always come first.
We are foolish to engage Satan on our own. Even the angel Gabriel could not by himself thwart Satan. Daniel agonized in prayer for three weeks, yearning to receive an answer from God. When Gabriel finally arrived, he told Daniel he had been resisted by evil forces for twenty-one days, and had eventually been able to break through only when Michael the Archangel came to help (DN 10:6-13).
Evil assaults us every direction we turn, and we are inadequate to deal with it. We forget at our own peril that only God can curb the power of Satan. Adam, Samson, David, Peter–they all fell because they lacked a sense of self-weakness.
Evil is so strong that only God can deliver us, and He can and does. Thus, once we have prayed ourselves empty, it is time to pray ourselves full. “Many have puzzled themselves about the origin of evil; I observe there is evil, and that there is a way to escape it, and with this I begin and end” (John Newton).
We need a power greater than ours, but bless the Lord, such power is always available in abundant supply. Despite the pervasive presence and power of evil, we who are believers can go from victory unto victory, for “we are more than conquerors” (RM 8:37) due to the Holy Spirit in us. The same power which raised Jesus from the dead in total victory over forces of evil now resides in every believer.
Never despair. Do recognize, confront, and acknowledge our own abject weakness, but once this is done, reach out and take of God’s absolute power. Our walk with God should not be one of despair, but rather one of confidence. We can always triumph over temptation. This is our birthright. When praying for victory over evil, expect an affirmative answer, for deliverance from sin is always God’s will for our life. “This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 TH 4:3).
May God forgive us, His own children, for our seeming failure to remember the awesome power He makes available to each and every one of us for daily living. Two hundred years after our Lord walked on earth, a rich, worldly pagan named Cyprian fought to eradicate Christianity from the Roman Empire. His life was so totally engulfed by sin and debauchery that He finally became bloated on it. Disgusted with himself, and wanting out, in agony of mind he began to seek a way he could be born again. He desperately sought a change of heart and soul, but felt hopelessly chained to a lustful, immoral body. As his private life continued to crumble, desperate for a new beginning he began considering all options, including the very Christ he had long despised. “How?” he wonderingly asked. “Is conversion still conceivable? How can the impulses of natural temperament and the indurations of ingrained habit be laid aside, how can avarice, luxury, ostentation, ambition, be changed for self-denial and humble simplicity? Will not the drunkenness, the pride, the passion, the lust in which I have been entangled still retain their seductiveness for me?” Cyprian in utter desperation finally laid his life at the foot of the cross, and received a moral resurrection through the power of Jesus. The old vice-corrupted heathen became a godly Christian who after many years of pure and holy living died a martyr to his Lord by being beheaded in 258 A.D.
Oh brothers and sisters, the power to behave is real. We have the option to overcome. God Himself empowers us. Note the personal element in “Deliver us from evil.” The appeal is to God for God to do it–some things angels and others can not perform. God comes personally to intervene. An illustration might help.
At sixteen Alexander Maclaren took his first job in Glasgow, six miles from his country home. On Monday morning his dad walked with him to town and told him to come home after work Saturday night. Alec did not want to do this, for between his house and Glasgow was a deep ravine believed to be haunted. Terrible things had happened in it and he feared entering it by day–at night it was out of the question. Thus, Alec said he would come home Sunday morning. His dad adamantly refused, “No. You have never been away from home before, and this week will seem like a year to me. Come home Saturday night.” Alec consented, but all week worried about the dark ravine. Saturday night, scared to death, he headed for the gulch. He whistled to bolster his courage, but upon reaching the ravine, began to weep. To make things worse he heard footsteps. He tried to run, but was petrified, frozen to the spot. He later recalled, “Up out of the darkness into the pale light, as I watched, came the head and shoulders of the grandest man on earth. He was bound to have known I was scared, but he only said, “Alec, I wanted to see you so badly that I came to meet you.” So shoulder to shoulder we went down into the valley and I was not afraid of anything that walked.”
This beautifully pictures what God does for us. The power is not something detached from Him, it is Him, the Holy Spirit active within us, walking with us through dark evil infested ravines, giving us His strength to deliver us from evil.