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Teach Us to Pray -- Part 8: Deliver us from evil
By Philip Foster
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “
I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.
” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said,
“Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.
” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying,
“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been de-creed, but woe to that man who betrays him.
” They began to question among them-selves which of them it might be who would do this. Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them,
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call them-selves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
” But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, be-fore the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Luke 22:14-34

IN this part of our study on the Lord’s Prayer, we come to the petition: ‘deliver us from evil’ or more correctly: ‘The Evil One’.

The Greek word for evil is ‘poneros’. It is an adjectival noun that can be neuter, or masculine or feminine. In the genitive case it is a little difficult (from the case ending ‘OU’) to know whether it is masculine or neuter: i.e. Evil One or evil thing. However, context and other usage help to make things a little clearer.

In many instances in the NT it is clear that it is a synonym for Satan. In the following references it makes little sense to merely translate PONEROS as ‘evil’.
But let your communication be Yes Yes, or No No; for whatever is more than this comes from the evil one.
Mt 5:37

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, theevil onecomes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
Mt 13:19

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from theevil one.
Jn 17:15
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of theevil one.
Eph 6:16
I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

1 Jn 2:13
Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.1 Jn 3:12

In its more general form it means ‘wicked’, ‘evil’, ‘troublesome’, ‘toilsome’, but as the above examples show it frequently refers to Satan. That it means, to some degree, both would make sense, in that this is a method for prayer and to ask to be delivered from troubles (or through them as we saw in the last part) is certainly a valid prayer.
But I think the prime focus is being de- livered from the clutches of Satan:

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
Luke 22:31,32

This is most illuminating in how we can pray for one another. First, all our prayers for another undergoing severe trials and temptations are directed to God. Why do I say that — isn’t that obvious? Well these days maybe it needs emphasising. It was CS Lewis who said: ‘There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about demons — one is to disbelieve in their existence. The other to is to believe, and feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.’

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Appeared in Issue 16 Vanguard - May 2003
"...contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" -- Jude v3

I mentioned last time that when we are tempted to sin, it is true that Satan has something to do with it, but he would have no power over us unless we ourselves de- sire to fall — which of course naturally we do.

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Romans 13:14
In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while youare still angry,and do not give the devil a foothold.
Eph 4:26–27 (NIV)
Having sinned we cannot then turn and say, “Satan made me do that”. The fact is that we sin in a sense by imitation: the thoughts of unregenerate men follow similar lines to that of Satan — we sin by giving opportunity to the devil. A good example is when Jesus rebukes Peter:

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me,Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but thethings of men.
Mt 16:22–23

This is why, when we witness about our faith, we are primarily concerned with the ‘battle for the mind’. This is why the gospel is proclaimed in Word - LOGOS - in reasoned argument and persuasion. In this area engaging in so-called ‘spiritual war-fare’ IS engaging in argument and debate:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature— have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Rom 1:18–21

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary,they have divine power to demolish strongholds. Wedemolish argumentsand every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we takecaptive every thoughtto make it obedient to Christ.
2 Cor 10:3–5

Taking every thought captive in Christ We are to deal with the ‘vain imaginings’ of human beings. We are to break down the ‘god I want’ by demonstrating clearly the God who IS revealed through Jesus.We are to break down ‘the knowing of Christ according to the flesh’(2 Cor 5:16 — a great problem these days), which is that viewing of Christ merely from a sinful perspective. From ‘Jesus the Revolutionary’ to ‘Jesus the cosy lover,’ these are viewing Jesus ‘according to the flesh’.

We are not to try a short cut by rebuking Satan or binding Satan over someone as if that will release him or her to believe. I am pretty certain I am right when I say that only three people in the Bible actually ‘talked’ to Satan — outside God the Father — and these are Eve, Jesus and Michael. Only one was a mere human — Eve — and she lasted about twenty seconds before falling for his wiles!

Eve of course was tempted and fell. Jesus was tempted and triumphed. We read of Michael in Jude:

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals- these are the very things that destroy them.
Jude 9-10

Even he does not rebuke but leaves that to the Lord Himself. Only Jesus rebukes Satan in the gospels — for He is the Lord.

Thus in our prayers for one another or for anyone we are not to start rebuking or binding and loosing Satan — that is not our department! For the Lord is sovereign over all things, and even Satan can do nothing without God’s permission (read the first chapter of Job). Remember what Jesus said to Peter “Satan has ASKED to sift you like wheat.”Thus we must avoid the aggressive attitude that ‘Satan is hindering us’ therefore we go on the offensive against him to clear him out of our way!

Listen to Paul on the rare occasions that he mentions such hindrances:

But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. Wesent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow-worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith.
1 Thess 2:17–3:2

No great fireworks against Satan to break through into victory’. Just a genuinely warm and human desire, apparently frustrated, borne with, and then, in a practical way, dealt with by another route.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Cor 12:7–10

Notice here to whom Paul prays! He does not ‘rebuke this thorn’, nor ‘come against Satan’ etc.

But in our modern world of emergency planning, contingencies etc. this would seem so tame. But I believe we risk delivering ourselves straight to the evil one in some sense if we stray beyond the clear boundaries set by the Word of God in this matter (as in all matters). For Satan is a seducer as well as a dragon, who seeks to take us off the path, the narrow way that Jesus would have us walk.

Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honour and life. In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.
Prov 22:4–5

The sorrows of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell surrounded me: the snares of death seized me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, [even] into his ears.
Psalm 18:4–6 (KJV)

Though the snare of hunter could mean a human trap set for an animal, it also had a natural counterpart in the Judean wilderness: little green areas of vegetation where predators would lurk to attack unsuspecting sheep. A shepherd had to guard the sheep and watch out for the snares — which looked innocent enough, but hid unsuspected dangers. God would keep us similarly from these snares of the enemy -we need to pray for guidance and stick firmly to the path laid out by the Good Shepherd in His Word.

But sadly we do fall and sin. Let us go back to what Jesus said to Peter:

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
Luke 22: 31-32

Now in a sense Peter was indeed going to ‘fail’ as we all know – indeed the next verses make that abundantly clear:

But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me. —
Luke 22: 33-34

The idea of sifting means to be tested to the verge of overthrow but, as we learn elsewhere, the Lord will not let us be tested beyond what we can endure. Peter fails the test but does not completely lose faith. Peter WILL turn back — unlike Judas who destroys himself. Both repent in a way: but Peter’s is the “godly sorrow that leads to repentance rather than worldly sorrow that leads to death” (2 Cor 7:10). Peter’s experience can, in a sense, encourage us. WE DO fail the tests but God remains faithful and it is His grace that keeps the Faith in Him alive in us, so that we turn and are forgiven:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘You know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. —
John 21: 15-18
When we fail a test, then God brings us back to (obviously not the same) but to a similar test. We will have to face it ‘again’ — but by God’s grace we will go through and out the other side!

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(All bible quotes from the NIV, unless stated otherwise in the text)

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-Last revised-30 August, 2004