Requesting a Break
It’s not incorrect to read deliver as save, as in “protect” or “spare us” from the evil one. But it also misses an aspect that adds understanding to what Jesus teaches us to pray. Deliver in this case also implies vacating space—much like an expectant mother is delivered of her infant. When a mother “delivers,” the symbiotic relationship between her and her child is interrupted. Her body’s involuntary responses to her baby’s needs—his/her hunger, growth, etc.—now become voluntary responsibilities. Admittedly, this comparison is not the best. Motherhood is a sacred trust that begins in the womb and continues through life; it’s humankind’s highest example of our Creator’s power and love. Yet it’s also instructive, I think, to apply a similar dynamic to this prayer phrase. We ask God to deliver us, requesting a break in the symbiotic relationship between the Tempter and us. We want him out and we want God’s kingdom, power, and glory in.
Change that Matters
“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,” Romans 6.4 tells us, “we too may live a new life.” The seed of Christianity’s promise of new life is planted right here, in the closing phrase of The Lord’s Prayer. Asking our Father to unseat the reigning evil influences in our lives—the Tempter and his “What-about-me?” selfishness, insecurity, and fear—is the first step to experience change that matters. It has to happen before new life begins in us.
In his first epistle, John said he wrote to young readers “because the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2.14) When God’s word is alive in us, when we nurture it, let it shape our behavior, and govern our hopes for the future—just like pregnant mothers do in response the new life developing within them—deliverance from the evil one is a fait accompli. We’ve overcome him, released ourselves from his force and influence.
Expelling the evil one’s presence from our hearts and minds doesn’t fully banish him from our lives, though. There are post-partum complications: he continues to beg for our love, attention, and nourishment. For the sake of the new life growing in us, we can’t feed his demands. That’s why John followed his statement above with, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2.15) For some of us, it’s harder to purposefully deprive former desires and habits than it initially was to give them up. We hate what they do to our lives, but we love them, too. We have to let them go, let them starve, let them die slow, natural deaths.
We can’t feed the Tempter and nurture new life at the same time. So we consistently pray that God will deliver us from the evil one—that he’ll remove his influence over us and protect us from his attempts to draw our attention away from what matters. James tells us that when we ask God for anything, we “must believe and not doubt.” The man who asks and yet doubts “is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1.6-8) We ask God to deliver us from the evil one. We believe He will. And then we live and nurture newness of life.
God delivers us from evil so we can nurture His new life in us.
(Tomorrow: Home at Last)