v. 13 “but deliver us from evil [or the evil one].”
Every man and woman faces the internal threat of temptation as well as the external threat of evil. In verse 13, the word “evil” may also be translated as “the evil one.” The Bible reveals that the devil coveted God’s power and majesty, and was expelled from heaven along with the spiritual beings that conspired with him (Isaiah 14:12-15). Jesus understood that Satan’s rebellion is the source of all evil in the world.
Though there are people who dismiss the existence of the devil, the New Testament records that Jesus personally encountered him (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:2-13) and that Christ released people from demonic possession (Matthew 4:24, 8:16-33, 9:32-34, 12:22-28, 17:14-18).
If we are to take the Jesus and the Gospels seriously, we must take the existence of personified, supernatural evil seriously.
Few would dispute that there is real evil in the world. Although it manifests itself in man’s inhumanity to man, its source is ultimately spiritual. Therefore, the weapons of our warfare must also be spiritual. The apostle Paul encouraged the first century Church:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
The earth is a spiritual battlefield. Because of Christ’s victory on the cross, the outcome of this conflict is no longer in doubt. Jesus declares, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). For while Satan is God’s adversary, he is not God’s equal. As Martin Luther wrote in the magnificent hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal. . . . .
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure; for lo! His doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
Luther is proclaiming that just one word spoken in faith–the name of Jesus—is not only our surest defense, but also our greatest weapon. So while God does not exempt us from the hardship of battle, he redeems it for his glory and our good:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11)
There are those who challenge the existence of a good God could allow evil and suffering into his world. This is a legitimate question addressed throughout the whole narrative of Scripture. Here is a brief–but hopefully helpful–summary:
In order to have an authentic relationship with humanity, the Lord created us with free will. God did not intend us to be docile pets; rather, he made us in his own image for deep, intimate fellowship. With this freedom of choice came the capacity for disobedience. When Adam and Eve sinned, their rebellion ruined our world and everything in it. Consequently, their son committed fratricide and their grandchildren filled the world with every conceivable sin, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).
Humanity–not God–is responsible for evil and suffering. And yet, from the creation of the world, the Lord had resolved to deliver humanity from the sin it had yet to commit (Revelation 13:8). By sending his Son to pay for our sin, God would demonstrate both his justice and his mercy, showing humanity the extent of his grace, and giving us undeniable reasons to love and worship him. The darkness of sin and brokenness would make the light of his love and redemption shine all the brighter. In the ultimate reversal, he then redeems every circumstance—good and bad–to shape us into the men and women he destined us to be:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
As we mature in Christ, we appreciate how God uses trials and temptations to accomplish our ultimate perfection:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
When we pray “deliver us from evil,” we’re praying that the Lord will use the evil we’ll inevitably encounter for his glory and our good.
We’re saying, “God, rather than being overwhelmed by the extent of sin and suffering, we’ll put on our spiritual armor and run toward the battle, trusting that no real harm can ever come to us because our lives are hidden in Christ.”
We’re proclaiming that God has won, that God will win, and that, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).