But deliver us from evil.
What does this mean? 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.
In this last petition we pray that the Lord would deliver us from evil. According to Greek grammar, this phrase could also be understood to say “Deliver us from the evil one.” The Large Catechism emphasizes this understanding of the text. After all, there are many evils present in this world, but there is one that stands behind it all, one primary enemy who knowingly and willingly stirs up evil, and that is the Devil. The Small Catechism is offering a brief summary and so it goes with a more general treatment; “all manner of evil” it says. Evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation. But there is one who stands behind this evil and who initiates this evil, and that is the Devil.
You and I live in a very secularized society, one that places a high priority on reason and rationality. People will say, “I'll believe it when I see it.” “I’ll believe it when you can prove it.” This makes it very easy for the devil to hide from us. Our world is full of very outspoken atheists and agnostics and skeptics who doubt that there is a spiritual realm, who believe the world is only material. As far as Satan is concerned, that is just fine. It fits into his game plan. He doesn’t want to give people a reason to believe in God so he stays behind the scenes. But he is still there and he is only all too real.
We know this because the Scriptures tell us. The Lord records for us in Genesis the first appearance of the Devil in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Adam and Eve to sin. We also see him battling Jesus with temptations in the Wilderness. The Gospel of Mark tells of a boy who was possessed by a devil and this devil tried to destroy him. It would throw him into the fire to burn him and it would throw him into the water to drown him. (Mark 9:22) We see terrible things like this that happen in our day and age; drownings and murders, insanity and suicide. Our news media loves to report these sorts of things and so we hear about them often. We look for material explanations. Drugs, Despair, Greed, Coincidence. Luther finds evidence of the work of the Devil. [LC III p. 115]
The devil works on us too. His tools are lies and deceit. His goal is to destroy us. His strategy is much like that of a lion hunting its prey. When a lion goes hunting it will look for one who is vulnerable in some way, weak or injured. He will separate that one from the rest of the herd and give chase. Wear it down until its tired and then pounce. Satan does the same with us. When we are weak or injured, when our defenses are down. When we are tired, stressed, grief stricken or angry, Satan will come to attack us. If he can he will try to separate us from Christ and His body the Church and he will try to wear us down through repeated attacks. He will get us to blame God, to blame other Christians for our suffering. He will push us to sin. And he will try to destroy our faith.
The battle ground for this attack is always the conscience. Satan wants to destroy your conscience. Your conscience is a gift from God. It lets you know when you have broken God’s Law and it lets you know when you need to confess your sin and receive forgiveness. When it is functioning properly it points you to Christ. Christ wants you to have a good conscience, a clear conscience. He wants you to be sure and confident of your forgiveness and salvation. That is why he died for you; to set you free from sin and free from the accusations of the Devil. (1 John 1:7-9; Hebrews 9:14) How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:14 ESV) You can face your sin with confidence because of Jesus. Satan knows that the Forgiveness of Christ undoes all his work and so Satan attacks you to and tries to pull you away from God’s forgiveness.
Satan attacks your conscience first with temptation. He entices you to violate God’s law. Since we are sinful and weak, we are only all too happy to give in. And then, once we have given in, once we have broken the commandments he sets to work on the conscience. When your conscience is working correctly it tells that you are guilty when you are guilty and it tells you that you are innocent when your are innocent. A broken conscience works just the opposite – it tells you your are innocent when you are guilty or it tells you that you are guilty when you are innocent. Either one is bad. A presenter at the conference I attended this past week compared it to a broken gas gauge. If your gas gauge tells you your tank is full when it’s empty that’s bad. If it tells you you are empty when you are full, either one is bad and either one can get you stuck on the side of the road.
So here’s what Satan does. God’s law says you should not slander. God’s law says that you are guilty when you say things about another person to destroy their reputation. Satan questions that Word of God. He gets you to doubt whether or not that is true. “Yes, gossip and slander is wrong, but it’s okay in certain situations. It’s even necessary. It would be wrong not to tell what I know.” And so we give in. And once we have given in, Satan now has what he needs to work on conscience. He tells you that you are innocent. That you haven’t done anything wrong. That you did what was right. Others might say it was wrong but what do they know. This compounds the sin. It pushes you do it again and again and again. And that sin has consequences. It causes offense. It alienates you from other people, from other Christians, from your church. It’s dangerous.
But then there is the other side, the other strategy. Let’s say you slandered another person – shared some piece of information and caused offense. But you knew it was wrong, you went to that other person, those you sinned against and confessed that sin to them. They forgave you. You confessed that sin to God. You received absolution. You are forgiven. God’s Word says you are forgiven. But Satan says you are not. He brings this sin up again and again. How could you have done that? You hurt that person. You destroyed their reputation. You know how gossip is, once it goes out you can’t ever get it back. Who knows that gossip is probably still going around and it’s all your fault. And so your sin comes up again and again and again. God has said you are forgiven. Satan says you are not. You believe the devil.
All of this is really no different from Satan’s usual tricks. He attack the Word of God. God has two Words, words of law that condemn you and words of Gospel that save you. He attacks both, he gets you to doubt both. His ultimate goal is to destroy your conscience so he can destroy your faith.
Our prayer in this petition is that God would deliver us from the Devil, that he would deliver us from these tricks that the devil plays against us and that we would not be overcome by them. Luther says “There is nothing for us to do but pray against this arch enemy. For unless God preserved us, we would not be safe from this enemy even for an hour.” [LC III p.116] On our own we have no hope of defeating the Devil and standing against his attacks so we must pray that God will deliver us.
Luther says, “If we are to be preserved and delivered from all evil, the name of God must first be hallowed in us, His kingdom must be with us, and His will be done. After that He will finally preserve us from sin and shame, and, besides, from everything that may hurt or injure us.” [LC III p 118] You see, God has already delivered us from this evil. God has already delivered us from Satan. This is the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Luther says the name of God must first be hallowed. It has been.
God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father! God does this for you. He gives you His Word and Spirit to bring you to faith and keep you firm in that faith. He provides for you teaching and instruction in the Word. That’s what we are doing now!
God delivers us when his kingdom comes. It has come. God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. That has been done! You have received the Spirit. It was given in your baptism, when you also received the Name. The Spirit gives you faith so that you turn away from sin and to the Cross! You see there the life of Jesus given for you. Your sin is forgiven!
God delivers us from the devil when His Holy Divine Will is done. God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.
God’s Will has been done for you. It is being done for you. That, again, is why we are here this morning. To receive the forgiveness of sin in the absolution. To hear the word of God preached and the forgiveness of sins declared to you as if by God himself. To receive the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith in the Lords Supper where you receive the body and blood of Jesus given for us Christians to eat and to drink. The work of Satan is being undone right here and right now. God’s name is here right now! God’s Kingdom comes, right now! God’s will is done! Right Now! We have prayed to the Lord the prayer he gave us to pray and he is answering that prayer with a resounding YES! Right Now!
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus gives to us everything that we need. He invites us to pray for those things that are most necessary for us. God’s name, his Kingdom, His Will, daily bread, forgiveness, deliverance from temptation and finally deliverance from evil. When we have prayed these things, when we have believed them and received them in faith, there is only one thing left for us do. Only one response left for a Christian and that is to say Amen. Yes it is so. I do believe it.
I have challenged you to pray this prayer. I offer that again. Pray this prayer in faith. Believe and do not doubt. Receive the gifts God has given. As we make our way through this 2012 calendar year, let us carry this prayer with us in faith know that God will do what he has promised this year and every year.