‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’ (Matthew 6:13). This is part of the model prayer Jesus taught His disciples. But what is evil and how can we be delivered from it? In one sense evil is all around us. We need only pick up a newspaper or switch on a television set to see how prevalent it is. We’re even caught up in it ourselves as man’s inhumanity spills out over us all. So, is evil an entity in itself, or is it just a pattern of behaviour?
The apostle Paul encountered evil. He found it seemed to creep up on him when he least expected it. ‘I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me’(Romans 7:21).
How then can God deliver us from it? Does He give us immunity? Or perhaps He could just command it to go away? The trouble is, it’s intangible. We can’t see it or touch it but we know it’s there, like some spiritual cloud we have to fight our way through.
However, most modern translations of the bible correctly express evil as a living being. ‘Deliver us from the evil one’ (Matthew 6:13). Now we can see this is a positive presence, not just an abstract form.
Peter spells it out more clearly. ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). The enemy seems to have taken over the whole earth. ‘The whole world is under the control of the evil one’ (1 John 5:19). How then can God deliver us from this evil one who permeates mankind and has the whole world in his clutches?
This has been the dilemma ever since the Fall of Man, when the devil inveigled his way into God’s creation and deceived Adam into surrendering control of the world to him (Genesis 3). God can’t just tell him to go away, as he now has rights of ownership, and we’re all held to ransom by sin. ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23).
Of course, the cross of Jesus Christ is the answer. The Man without sin submitted Himself to the death due to sinful man, so that the evil one would no longer have control over mankind. The ‘wages’ were paid and the devil’s work destroyed. ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil' (1 John 3:8).
But it’s only those who’ve accepted the reality of what Christ has done, and appropriated it to themselves, that can claim freedom from the clutches of the enemy. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31).
‘Deliver us from the evil one’ is asking God to help us walk in that freedom which has already been won. ‘For Yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever. Amen’ (Matthew 6:13).
Prayer: Father, may Your will be done in my life, as it is in heaven. Lead me not into temptation, but help me stand firm on the foundation of Jesus Christ, that I may stay true to Your way, guarded from the snares of the evil one. Amen.
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