STUDIES IN THE LORD'S PRAYER

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2002

STUDY ELEVEN: DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE

A. WHAT ARE WE PRAYING HERE?

We need to realize that what we have here is the second part of a twofold prayer in which both parts express a very similar thought; in the first part the thought is expressed negatively - 'lead us not into temptation'; in the second, the thought is expressed positively - 'but deliver us from the evil one.'

'Temptation' in the first thought parallels 'the evil one' or 'evil' in the second thought, so that they amount to the same thing at a comprehensive, foundational level.

The 'lead us not into' of the first thought parallels the 'deliver us from' of the second thought.

The two thoughts are connected by the strong adversative alla - 'but', which expresses a strong contrast or opposition: don't do this, rather do this.

[1] 'lead us not into temptation'

The Greek text is literally 'do not bring us into temptation'. [GNB: 'Do not bring us to hard testing'. NEB: 'And do not bring us to the test.'] The grammatical construction used here is very interesting. It is the form of the verb known as the Aorist Subjunctive, which, when preceded by the negative me,expresses a command (or entreaty) not to begin an action . To bring out the significance of this Greek construction we really need to translate it: 'do not begin to bring us into temptation'.

A further point of importance is that eis - 'into' occurs twice in this phrase - firstly as a prefix to the verb translated 'lead' or 'bring', and secondly, as a preposition before 'temptation'. It would be clumsy to try to fit these two 'into's into an English translation, but their double presence emphasizes their significance. We are not telling/entreating God not to bring us to the point where we are confronted by temptation (temptation/testing confronts us at every turn, at every decision; we are surrounded by temptation/testing); rather, we are telling/entreating him not to bring us to the point where we actually give into the temptation (testing) that confronts us, and actually do what is being suggested by or provoked by the temptation (testing). We are expressing here that we do not want even dip our finger into the temptation and just taste it, that we do not even want to dabble our toes in it to see what it's like: that we do not want even to begin to get involved, not even in an initial, exploratory way, in whatever it is that confronts us. We can represent this in a diagram:

' ... bring us to ... ' would be represented like this:

bring us to

 

'bring us into ' would be like this:

bring us into

 

Why are we commanding/entreating God so strongly here in this prayer? Because we are aware of three things:

  • our commitment to his honour, his kingdom and his will, which we have already expressed earlier in this prayer
  • our own weakness and sinfulness which we have just acknowledged in 'forgive us our debts'.
  • the power and the deceitfulness of the enemy whose desire and purpose is to dishonour God and discredit and destroy God's people.

Here in this prayer we affirm our commitment to God, we acknowledge our own vulnerability and weakness (see 1 Corinthians 10:12), and we express our awareness of the enemy and his nature. We are saying 'our Father, we love and honour you so much that our whole being shrinks from the thought that we might prove unfaithful to you, so we beg you, we even 'command' you, if it is possible for mere humans to command you, that you never even begin to bring us to the point where the temptation is so alluring, so strong, that we actually begin to even think about doing what it is provoking us to do.' [Job acknowledged his own weakness and expressed his dominant desire for God's honour, when he asked God to kill him rather than let the pressure/temptation get so strong that he ended up denying God (Job 6:8-10).]

We must be careful here that we do not ascribe the source of temptation to God. The source of temptation is

  • not God (James 1:13)
  • our own desires (Galatians 7:17; James 1:14,15; 1 Timothy 6:9 )
  • the devil (Matthew 4:1; 1 Corinthians 7:5)
  • our common human lot since the fall (Romans 7:23; 1 Corinthians 10:12)
  • 'the world' (James 4:4; 1 John 5:3-5).
Read the above references in their context in the Scripture.

Rather than attribute temptation to God, this prayer is acknowledging his sovereign control over all things - that even temptation's content and purpose, which is utterly opposed to him and his purpose, is not beyond his power and his authority. Here, knowing that it is inevitable that we will be the targets of Satan's opposition to all that God approves, we express our confidence that God can limit it, that he can control it, that he can stop it. We are not alone, victims of our own sinful weakness, confronted by this device of the enemy: God is in control. (Job 1:9-12; 2:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:12-13). This bold faith we acknowledge here in this urgent, trembling entreaty.

[2] 'but deliver us from the evil one'

The introductory 'but' in this part of the prayer releases us from the tension posed in the first part. We quickly move from the foolishness of the unthinkable thought that God himself would ever bring us into temptation, to the very opposite of that thought. Not only will he 'lead us not into temptation', but he will rather 'deliver us from the evil one' or 'evil', and for this imperative rescue we urgently entreat him.

The 'deliver us' means us to drag out of danger, to rescue, or to save. The Greek word translated 'from' means 'away from' not 'out of':

'out of' would be:

deliver us from 1

 

'away from' would be:

deliver us from 2

 

Here we are asking our Father to snatch us away from the evil one and his temptations before he deceives us and sucks us into his schemes and purposes - before we get sucked in by his temptations or overpowered by his provocations, to snatch us away from the evil one even before we have to struggle against him. Again, this is an acknowledgement of our weakness and vulnerability, and an acknowledgement of the subtle deceitfulness of the evil one. If Jesus Christ, who was perfectly committed to and desiring nothing else but to do the will of his Father, struggled so intensely against the evil one's alluring suggestions, what hope have we sinners of surviving the struggle with our faith and commitment intact, apart from God's rescuing us?

 

D. GOD'S PROMISE OF THE MEANS OF DELIVERANCE FROM THE EVIL ONE AND HIS TEMPTATIONS

When we pray 'but deliver us from the evil one' that deliverance will be in keeping with what God has already promised and provided. At those promises and that provision we will now look.

In 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 we read: 'if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.'

This teaches us

[1] we are vulnerable, even if we think we are not.

[2] the testing/temptations that come to us are 'common to man'; in other words, we can expect testing/tempting situations to confront us, and none of them will be in a new category that has not happened before, and that doesn't happen to everyone generally. [The specifics of the individual circumstances may vary, but the end result sought by the evil one, (along with the techniques he uses) is the same: that we deny and dishonour God.]

It also promises us:

[1] God is faithful . Here we are reminded of other promises:

John 6:37,39,40

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. ... And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 10:28,29

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.

Philippians 1:6

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

1 Thess 5:24

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

2 Timothy 1:12

I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

Jude 24

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy ...

These verses anchor the assurance of salvation of the true believer firmly in God's hands.

[Go to the study on Assurance of salvation on this website to check out a great number of passages which affirm this grand truth.]

[2] he will not let us be tested/tempted beyond what than we can bear .

This promise assumes:

  • that God knows us
  • that God knows our circumstances
  • that God is able to, and does, set a limit or restriction on the testing/temptation.

We can see this clearly in the case of Job, where Satan was limited by God in what he was allowed to do to Job. We also see it in God's obvious confidence that Job will come out of the testing unscathed, that his faith will be proved to be genuine, and that Satan's accusations of non-genuine faith and lack of integrity are false. God knew Job, and he knew that Job's faith was his gift to Job, and therefore genuine. [Go to Studies on Suffering on this website.]