“…but deliver us from evil.”
It is impossible to follow Christ while Satan has free access to our minds. Our souls are ill nourished when Christ and Satan both contribute to our sustenance. If we would retain our steadfastness, we must open our ears only to the promises of Christ, blocking out whatever is not of him. For this reason, we must always pray that God would deliver us from evil, knowing that without such deliverance, we cannot reach our eternal rest.
The word for “evil” in the Lord’s Prayer, according to many scholars, refers not to generic evil, but to “the Evil One” – who is also called Satan or the Devil. This same word occurs in two other places in Matthew, both of which are best translated as “the Evil One” (Matt 5:37; 13:38). When we pray, therefore, that God would deliver us from evil, we are asking primarily that God would protect us from Satan. We must reckon that, in this life, Satan will be our continual foe. And we should not be surprised when he invades our homes, our work, and our entire lives in Christ. The Lord has warned us so that we would not be caught off guard when Satan assaults us, and so that we might prepare ourselves for how to escape.
When we pray “deliver us from evil,” we are asking that God would shelter us from Satan’s strategies. Our normative mode of combating Satan, therefore, is to evade him entirely. Though there might be extraordinary times when we must engage in a more direct combat with Satan, such as in the case of exorcism, our normal lives are to be characterized by a resolve to flee always from the presence of Satan. To that end, we must continually ask that God would deliver us from the Evil One. The reason for this seems to lie in the greatness of Satan’s power, especially when compared with our own impotence. Whereas we are pots of clay, filled with treasures asymmetrical to our worth, Satan seems to be designed as a vessel of magnificence. It was with good reason, then, that many theologians posited that angels are higher beings than humans. Indeed, the author of Hebrews says this much when he claimed that Christ, in cloaking himself with our humanity, made himself for a time “lower than the angels”(Hebrews 2:7). Because our strength is incommensurate with our foe, let us always fortify ourselves in the safety of Christ’s blood, believing that all our vulnerabilities are shielded when our Lord protects us.
We should avoid false humility, thinking that we are too insignificant for Satan to contend against us. Surely there are others, we might think, who are more strategic targets for Satan. Yet this form of thinking is simply a philosophy of demonism, rather than faith in Christ’s teaching. None of us concocted the idea to pray for deliverance from Satan. We were rather commanded to pray this way by Christ, who knew that we would not reach our eternal rest without passing through many assaults. Yet we must also grasp that Satan, for reasons unknown to us in full, has chosen to make it his perpetual aim to destroy our faith. Let us be content with our ignorance concerning Satan’s psychology, but let us only resolve to do that duty which God has given us. If we would live our lives properly in the service of Christ, we must weigh our vocations with eternal significance, and we must expect that Satan will continually seek to derail us from accomplishing our mission. Let us never esteem our gifts and talents as miniscule in the scheme of things, but let us remember that all our power has been entrusted to us for a purpose, and that Satan wishes to dethrone Christ from reigning in us.
Yet we must never estimate that we, in our own power, are sufficient to tangle with Satan. It is telling that Michael, the great Archangel, when contending against Satan over the body of Moses, did not seek to overpower Satan. Rather, Michael said to Satan, “the Lord rebuke you”(Jude 9). And in the great battle that Revelation pictures between Michael and Satan, it was not Michael’s angelic strength which ultimately defeated Satan. Rather, it was the blood of the Lamb, in nourishing the Saints, that secured the victory (Revelation 12:11). We have a lesson here. We best fight Satan by escaping into the arms of Christ. Let us make it our aim never to meet Satan without Christ standing between us. We must take flight, on the wings of the Spirit, so that we might soar away from the atmosphere of Satanic oppression. Because we are tender of heart, we are vulnerable to his many tactics. There is a thorn which Satan places in our side, and there is a medicine he offers us for relief. Let us pray, therefore, that we might be delivered from Satan’s power.
With such a loving Father, who watches over us with his approval, let us ask him for all our necessities. With such a strong Savior, whose blood heals all our wounds, let us find in him the forgiveness for our sins. With the Holy Spirit as our constant helper, who makes our hearts his dwelling place, let us cast aside all our fear and doubt, and cleave only to the promises of God. We can succeed in our mission; we can overcome the power of Satan. With the blood of Christ as our eternal nutrient, let us grow bold in our confession, and resolve to live and die for him. “Lord I know that I am unworthy to receive you,” says the church of God, “but only say the word and I shall be healed!” We will make it our goal to always be near to Christ, being brought safely through our many difficulties, until we have reached that eternal rest which God has prepared for us. On that day, though Satan’s bruises will cover us, it will be declared, “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”(Revelation 12:11).