“Back to the basics: But deliver us from evil”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
It was a child’s dream, but a parent’s worst nightmare.
A little over twenty years ago, back in January of 1996, in Gatineau, Quebec, two boys-- eight-year-old Antony Cerezo and his little six-year-old brother Jerome--somehow managed to visit a Toys ‘R’ Us store, about a mile from their home, all by themselves. After all, they had found two dollars and wanted to spend them! But after a while, it got late, and they were tired, so they decided to crawl into a playhouse where they promptly fell asleep. Later, when they woke up, they found that the lights were turned off and the doors were locked up tight.
Meanwhile, the boys’ parents, recent immigrants from France, kinda freaked out. Imagine what you would do if your boys were suddenly gone!
Quickly, the local police organized a search party, complete with 150 volunteers, helicopters equipped with infrared sensors, and dogs that searched all night. And since the family lived right alongside the Ottawa River, everyone feared the worst!
Now put yourself into the boys’ shoes for just a moment. There you are, eight and six years old, locked all night in a toy store. What would you do?
First, they tried to use the telephone to call for help, but didn’t know how to get an outside line. They also tried to break a window, but that didn’t work out so well either.
So not knowing what else to do, being eight and six years old, they played cops and robbers, then they rode bikes, played ball, and ate chocolate eggs. Only when the manager showed up the next morning did everyone realize what happened.
Thankfully, they were found safe, but hungry.
Later someone wrote: “Two youngsters alone in a toy store--what a great temptation, like heaven on earth! No wonder they didn’t want to leave!”
Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken time to look at the Lord’s Prayer. Last Sunday, we considered the sixth petition, “And lead us not into temptation,” and today we’ll look at the seventh and final petition, “But deliver us from evil.”
I’ll read the words of Matthew chapter 6, starting at verse 5. Jesus said: “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray then like this: ‘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 daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’” (Matthew 6:5-13).
Back in the early 1900s, pastor and author Andrew Murray summarized the Lord’s Prayer like this. He said, “Our Father in heaven…You are our Creator, Almighty God. You are my Father and the Father of all who are called by Your name.
“Your name is holy. In Your name, Your children find all that we need for today and forever. Your name is the sweetness of honey upon our lips.
“Your kingdom come on earth, and Your will be done in our hearts and in our homes. You have promised Your children all spiritual blessings, and You provide for our physical needs, too. Thank You, Father.
“Search our hearts and see if any sins are hidden, and reveal them. Forgive us, Father. In Your forgiveness, we find strength to forgive others.
“Lead us by Your right hand through the temptations and the valleys of death and evil, and deliver us from the evil one.
“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. In Jesus’ name. Amen”
In the words of R.C. Sproul: “Prayer does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important thing it changes is us. As we engage in this communion with God more deeply and come to know the One with whom we are speaking more intimately, that growing knowledge of God reveals to us all the more brilliantly who we are and our need to change in conformity to Him. Prayer changes us profoundly.”
And now as we draw to the close of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “But deliver us from evil.”
What does it mean?
Luther wrote in the words of his Small Catechism: “We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.”
And he wrote in the words of his Large Catechism: “Since the devil is not only a liar, but also a murderer, he constantly seeks our life, and wreaks his anger whenever he can afflict our bodies with misfortune and harm…Therefore, there is nothing for us to do upon earth but to pray against this arch-enemy without ceasing. For unless God preserved us, we would not be safe from him even for an hour.”
And so we pray, “But deliver us from evil.”
It’s been said that even though this petition seems so simple, it’s really quite profound. For while “Lead me not into temptation” is a confession of our weakness, “Deliver us from evil” speaks of our absolute reliance and confidence in God. For when you pray this prayer, you find that no matter what happens to you, you will be delivered. You will not fall. You will not be defeated. And though you endure a time of testing and temptation, no matter how difficult it might be, God will see you through.
If you think about it, that word “deliver” is a pretty strong word. And in the original, it means more than just “deliver.” It also means “to snatch,” “to grab,” “to drag,” and “to rescue.” In other words, we pray, “Deliver us, Lord. Snatch us, save us from Satan and all his evil schemes against us.”
And the word “evil” is a pretty strong word too! It’s the complete and total opposite of God and all that is good.
And who is the “evil one”? I Peter chapter 5 calls him “Your adversary, the devil” (I Peter 5:8). John chapter 12 calls him the prince of this world (John 12:31), chapter 10 calls him a thief (John 10:10), and chapter 8 calls him a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). The book of Revelation calls him a dragon, a deceiver (Revelation 12:9) and the accuser of the brothers (Revelation 12:10). II Corinthians calls him “the god of this world who blinds the minds of those who don’t believe” (II Corinthians 4:4) and it says he masquerades as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14).
In Luke chapter 4, he threw a man down (Luke 4:35). In Luke chapter 9, he threw a boy down (Luke 9:42). In Luke 22, he demanded to sift Jesus’ disciples like wheat (Luke 22:31). In John 13, he bribed Judas to betray Him (John 13:2). In II Corinthians 12, he jabbed a thorn into Paul’s side (II Corinthians 12:7). And I Peter 5 says he prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).
Not quite sixty years ago, back in April of 1965, legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey said this: “If I were the Devil, if I were the Prince of Darkness, I would engulf the whole world in darkness. I would have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree--Thee.
“I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’ To the young, I would whisper, ‘The Bible is a myth,’ and that man created God instead of the other way around. And I would teach the old to pray, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington…’
“If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed. I’d encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions--just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.
“Within a decade, I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. I’d make the symbols of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.
“And what do you bet I could get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich? I would caution against extremes and hard work in Patriotism, in moral conduct. I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, and that what you see on the TV is the way to be.
“In other words, if I were Satan, I’d just keep on doing what he’s doing.”
Have you heard of a game called “Knockout”? Apparently it’s a fad that’s sweeping teens across the nation.
It works like this--first, you get a camera phone and then you start recording. You focus on some innocent bystander who’s walking along a sidewalk. Then you hold your camera steady as your friend bursts onto the screen. And as you record, he swings his fist and literally “knocks out,” the poor, unsuspecting pedestrian. Then you award points for how you “knocked out” the person you hit.
These are the times we live in! And so there’s never been a better time to pray the prayer the psalmist prayed: “Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 71:4) and “Rescue me, O Lord, from evil, violent men” (Psalm 140:1). And there’s no better time to pray the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “But deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
In an article entitled Satan’s a Goner, author Carolyn Arends tells of a time a missionary couple came to visit her church. She remembered the slides that documented their adventures and their exotic, foreign clothes. But one thing that especially stood out for her was the story they told about a snake.
One day, they said, an enormous snake, much longer than a man, slithered its way right 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 few minutes later, a machete-wielding neighbor came to the rescue, calmly marching into their house and cutting the snake’s head off with one clean chop.
A moment later, the kind neighbor reemerged triumphant and assured the missionaries that the reptile had, in fact, been defeated. But there was a catch, he said. It was going to take a while for the snake to realize that it was dead.
You see, a snake’s neurology and blood flow are such that it can take, not just minutes, but even hours, for it to stop moving. So for the next several hours, the couple had to wait outside while it thrashed around, smashing furniture and flailing itself against walls and windows, wreaking complete havoc until its body finally learned that it no longer had a head.
And as they waited, grateful that the snake’s rampage wouldn’t last much longer, the husband leaned over to his wife and said, “Do you see it? Satan is a lot like that big old snake. He’s already been defeated. He just doesn’t know it yet. And though in the meantime he’s going to do some damage, never forget that he’s a goner!”
Like it or not, we’re in the thrashing time. And the temptation is to despair.
But we won’t despair, because we know that Jesus has already crushed the serpent’s head.
As the apostle Paul once wrote to Timothy: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (II Timothy 4:18).
We thank You, Father, for the power and the promise of prayer, and the joy and comfort it brings. Deliver us from evil that we may remain always safe and secure in You, for Jesus’ sake. Amen