Deliver Us From Evil
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 106b)
by Bob Burridge ©2012
In our information age it would be hard to ignore the fact that there is real evil in our world. It surrounds us in the news that comes to us by television, radio, newspapers, conversations, magazines, internet, cell phones, and tablets. Evil did not just arrive. It is not isolated in terror camps, inner-cities, or Hollywood film studios. It has been here from the beginning of human history, and it is everywhere.
People lie, covet, and neglect their responsibilities. They show disrespect, use God’s name in vain, break the Sabbath, and worship gods who are products of the imagination. Some commit crimes and try to get their way by using violence.
There are those who want to justify all these things as if there is nothing really wrong with them. They excuse those who do them as if they are just exercising their individuality, or are the products of a cruel society. Those who believe that these things are absolutely sinful are dismissed as bigots or intolerant.
That does not change the fact that what violates God’s ways is simply evil. Many live in open rebellion against God. Others violate his ways by suppressing the moral truth embedded in their hearts. It is not just Satan and his army of fallen spirit beings who do these things. The whole human race fell into the grip of evil in Eden.
In the Lord’s Prayer, there are three levels of dealing with our continuing struggle with sin. We are to ask to be forgiven of our debts against God, not to be led into temptation, and to be delivered from evil.
The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 106 is, “In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.”
The word “evil” is used various ways in our Bibles. That English word was sometimes used to translate the Hebrew word ra (רע). In the Old Testament that word was used when God brought disasters or calamities into the lives of nations and individuals. The word does not mean moral wickedness. It was used for such things as natural disasters, deserved judgments, sicknesses, or even personal injuries. These things are unpleasant, but they are not morally wicked acts. The newer translations usually use English words like “calamity” or “disaster”.
Certainly none of us enjoy calamities. It is obviously right to pray for safety from them. However, we pray in subjection to God’s will. He knows that sometimes we must go through them. This is not the kind of “evil” we are to be delivered from when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. The word “evil” is used here for something wicked and morally wrong.
Moral evil can’t exist on its own.
Moral evil is not a disembodied force or entity that just floats around looking for someone to infect. It always has to do with an evil person.
The Old King James translates it, “Deliver us from evil.” Many more recent translations say, “Deliver us from the evil one” or something to that effect. The New King James Version translates Matthew 6:13, “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”
Technically, both are grammatically possible. In the original Greek text there is a definite article like our word “the”. That means that it is not speaking of evil in a general qualitative sense. It is not the quality of evilness. The article makes it a specific place where evil resides. It can only exist in a person. So we are most accurate say “the evil.” Ursinus, author of the Heidelberg Catechism, says that here it, “comprehending all evils … yea, and the devil himself.”
The influence of evil in our own fallen natures, or in other humans around us, or in Satan can work to damage our walk with Christ. Twice Matthew uses this exact same word to describe Satan in Matthew 13. Here “the evil one” is in the singular, so it probably is a reference to Satan in particular. We need to pray that God will deliver us from evil, from those who shelter it in their hearts.
Our struggle is hard enough, then Satan does his best to complicate it for us. He is the ultimate evil one. He orchestrates evil to damage the display of God’s glory in the world. Since showing God’s work is our job, Satan does all he can to hinder Christians. Peter tells us that the Devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. He is a real spirit being who hates God and anybody who promotes his glory. Satan is not passive. He is out to get you.
If you belong to Christ, he wants to make you ineffective. It is amazing that he keeps on promoting evil even though he has been defeated and is doomed. Maybe he just does not believe it. Or maybe he just does not care.
Way back in Eden, God said he would lose his battle to destroy God’s plan. He was soundly defeated by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He was bound by the work of Christ so that he can no longer deceive the Gentiles in this era. Yet he keeps on fighting and deceiving whoever falls for his lies.
Don’t let his lies steal your victory! Reject his lies in favor of the promise of God.
God tells what to do along with
your prayer to be delivered from evil.
God generally answers our prayers by means of things he prescribes for us to be doing. 1 Peter 5:8-9 gives this advice for your battle against the evil one, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
First, he says you should be sober. The word translated as “sober” is naepho (νηφω). It is not the usual word used in ancient Greek for being literally sober. For someone not under the influence of alcohol a different word was used.
The word Peter uses here means having a sober attitude, being “well balanced”, “self-controlled”, and “free from excesses.” In classical Greek it was often used of athletes to describe their disciplined life-style to stay fit. It is used 6 times in the New Testament and 3 times here in 1 Peter.
In your fight against evil you need to maintain a disciplined daily walk with Christ. There should be a balance in your life so you can keep up with what God recommends.
There should be a daily and consistent use of the means of Grace in your life. There should be some time every day to read God’s word. It keeps you informed about what is right and true. God works by it to comfort and strengthen you.
You should talk to God in prayer every day and throughout every day. This is your source of power in your battle with evil. Keep in touch with him to thank and honor him for his good promises and comfort. Bring you needs to him, and ask him for strength and ability to do things well. Pray often for others whenever God brings them into your mind.
You need to be regularly involved in the work of Christ’s Church. The evil one does not like it when you respect the spiritual leaders in your church, when you are faithful in attending worship, and in partaking of the sacraments. Your family members in your local church are here to encourage and help one another. When you stand together like that, you resist the attacks of evil. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”
Satan will try to cut you off from these means of spiritual victory. He tries to get you to neglect God’s word, prayer, and the work of Christ’s church. As you pray to be delivered from the evil one, keep these good things in balance, be sober.
Peter also tells you to be alert. The Greek word here is graegoreo (γρηγορεω) , which means be watchful, vigilant, alert. It is used 23 times in the New Testament. In resisting the evil one you need to watch out! Keep your eyes open for his attacks and stay on the alert.
I injured my right leg awhile ago. Every night before bed I go out to our garage to empty a bucket that catches water that drips from the overflow pan in our air conditioner’s air handler. I had the bucket in one hand while I pushed the door open with the other. I step out onto the little cement slab to secure the door before I dump the bucket. But this time my foot came down on something else — there was an armadillo sitting there, taking a break from tearing up my back lawn. My bare foot came down right on that little creatures back. I’m sure we were both pretty shocked. He took off into the darkness and I twisted and turned trying not to fall or dump the bucket all over me. I guess my leg tensed in such a way that I tore some of the muscles in my right thigh. It healed well, but now I never step out that door without looking at what’s there first.
We have to be on the alert for the unexpected in the spiritual battle too. The evil one looks for moments when you are off guard or vulnerable. Then he strikes. It is important that you know the Bible well so that you do not underestimate your enemy. Satan is not a comic book demon with a red suit, horns, and a pointy tail. He does not prod you with a pitchfork. He is a spiritual being that God says is wise, calculating, and crafty. His goal is to damage God’s glory, and to get his people to disobey God’s ways.
Stay alert. Don’t step on those armadillos that lay in wait where you least expect them. Most importantly, keep your eyes on God’s promises and his work of grace and love. Remind yourself all through the day that you are here for a very specific reason. You are here to glorify God and to obediently enjoy all that he gives you. In James 4:7-8 resisting the devil is closely connected with drawing near to God.
When King David was fleeing for his life from the armies of Absalom, he wrote Psalm 3, “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ Selah. But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”
Satan would like you to look enviously at the enticements of sin, and the fake satisfaction it promises. In those weak moments, he hopes to catch you with your protection down. He wants you to give in.
Refuse to get your attention fixed on things like that. Identify them, pray, repent from any sin regarding them, then — turn away. When the enemy attacks, minds filled with God’s promises will be delivered from evil. Psalm 5:11, “But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.”
The Bible says we are more than conquerors in Christ. It also tells us to be sober and alert. The enemy attacks when we are least prepared, and often in ways we least suspect.
When you pray to be delivered from evil,
you call upon God for spiritual victories.
The victories are those he has promised in Christ, and secured by the his work on the Cross.
We pray that God will not let evil overcome us, that evil will not take us captive, but that we will be delivered from its deception. We pray that the Creator will restrain every effort of evil against us.
Look to Jesus. Keep your eyes off the discouragements and enticements of sin. Fix your heart upon the things of God which set you free by the power of the Cross. Pray that God will turn your encounters with evil into times of growth and victory.
Pray that God will one day fully and perfectly deliver you totally from evil in the life to come. That is the assurance you have in Christ, a final and complete deliverance from evil forever. All that opposes God will be cast away eternally into the lake of fire.
Until then, watch and pray, trust and obey. As the hymn says, “there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus.”
(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)