Part eight of a nine-part series. Read part seven.
The last part of Jesus' model prayer is perhaps the most misunderstood. Ironically, it is also a prayer that most Evangelicals cannot honestly pray.
In our study of Jesus' model prayer for believers in Matthew chapter six, we now come to what is perhaps the most misunderstood petition: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." Let me suggest to you that an appropriate theme or key-word for this phrase of the prayer is protection.
What kind of protection? In order to see this clearly, let us consider each part of this petition separately, and then take the sum of what we find.
"Lead Us Not Into Temptation"
In the Greek the word that is translated "lead" in this passage is an aorist subjunctive verb. We should never delve into technicalities for the sake of being technical, but in this case it is important for us to understand what that linguistic term means. An aorist subjunctive verb is something special in New Testament Greek. It means that in the original Greek the phrase that is rendered "lead us not into temptation" should really read like this: "Father, forbid even the possibility or potentiality that we should come into temptation."
God does not tempt us. God does not lead us to commit sin. That is not the point here. That is not the force of the original language. As James tells us:
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (James 1:13-16)
The point of this petition in Jesus' model prayer is that we should constantly ask the Father to direct the affairs of our lives in such a way that we are not even tempted to sin, much less give in to temptation.
Notice the order in which this comes. After Jesus instructs us to seek the Father's forgiveness for our sins, we find that little conjunction "and" ─ "and lead us not into temptation" ─ "Father, forgive my sins against You as I likewise forgive the sins of others against me. And, Father, not only forgive my sins, but so that I may become more holy in my walk with You, I ask that You guard me against even the possibility or potentiality of the temptation to sin in my life."
In other words, God forbid that I should fall into temptation! It's the same kind of thought that Paul is expressing in Romans 6:1 when he says, "Shall we therefore sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!"
"Deliver Us From the Evil One"
The next phrase, "deliver us from evil", can also be translated, as we have it in the New King James Bible and some others, "deliver us from the evil one." The definite article "the" is present in the original language, and from what I understand of Greek grammar and syntax, "Deliver us from the evil one" is a far more accurate translation. In other words, "deliver us from Satan and his minions."
Ironically, sincerely praying such a petition is a problem for most postmodern Evangelicals. According to reliable surveys, over 60% of Evangelical church members do not believe that Satan exists. Such unbelief flies in the face of Scripture, which states the personal existence of Satan and his legions over 175 times. Jesus Himself puts the lie to postmodern Evangelicals' denials of a personal devil right here in His model prayer.
We are to continually pray for deliverance from the evil one. He does exist. As we are told in 1 Peter 5:8-9, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith." Professed Evangelicals who don't believe in the devil certainly can't be sober and vigilant against him. And, they certainly can't resist him ─ and obviously don't. That is the cause of much of the man-centeredness, unbelief, and immorality we see within the church today.
The phrase here would be even better translated, "rescue us from the evil one." Jesus prayed the same thing in John 17:15 when He said to the Father, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep [i.e., guard] them from the evil one." 2 Thessalonians 3:3 tells us that "the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one."
Our rescue from evil and from the evil one has three aspects ─ past, present, and future.
We have been, in the past tense, rescued once for all in terms of position ─ sin no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:9 and 14). We no longer need to pray for that kind of deliverance from the evil one. Our prayer to be rescued from the dominion of sin is answered forever when we call on the name of the Lord to be saved.
What the Lord Jesus has in mind in this model prayer has more to do with the believer's present and future.
In the present, we need to be rescued from the evil one each and every day. This has to do with sanctification and holiness. Although we have been freed from the power of sin to condemn us to Hell, as long as we are on this earth we still dwell in the presence of sin. It is within us, it is still in the world around us, and God in His eternal plan still permits Satan to operate in this world.
As we take note of the last phrase of this model prayer, we see that Jesus also has in mind our deliverance from the evil one in the future sense, when we shall be rescued from evil ultimately by being delivered from both the power and the presence of sin forever.
"Thine is the Kingdom..."
Why can we pray this way? Why can we approach God as Jesus tells us to? Why can we ask of God the things that Jesus says we can ask? Why can we pray for protection from Satan? Because "Thine" ─ not the evil one's ─ "is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever" ─ literally, "to the ages." It is in this everlasting security that we come before God the Father in prayer through the intercession of God the Son.
He [the Father] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. (Colossians 1:13-22)
Next: Summing Up