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What It Really Means to Pray ‘Deliver Us from Evil’

Prayers have been answered when we say those four, powerful words.

Deliver us from evil.
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When Jesus taught His followers to pray, He told them to say, “Deliver us from evil.” It is, in all its simplicity, a three-fold acknowledgment.

1)  “Deliver us from evil” acknowledges the existence of evil. 
Jesus doesn’t pretend that evil is a mere state of mind. On the contrary, Jesus says we live in a fallen world—a world in which people steal from others, lie to others, hurt others, hate others and even try to kill one another. 

2)  “Deliver us from evil” acknowledges that we need deliverance. 
We don’t need to deny the evil that surrounds and threatens (and sometimes overwhelms) us or detach ourselves from it. We need deliverance from it. We need to avoid it and escape it, to be shielded from it or through it. 

3)  “Deliver us from evil” acknowledges that we can be delivered. 
When Jesus included the phrase, “Deliver us from evil” in His model prayer, He clearly wanted His followers to understand that deliverance was possible. It is obtainable. It is available. “Pray then like this,” Jesus said: “Deliver us from evil.” 

That’s a lot of meaning in just four words. But there’s even more in that short prayer, if we pray like this:

Pray, “deliver us” from doing evil ourselves
Our first instinct when praying The Lord’s Prayer and saying, “Deliver us from evil,” is to envision the evil that exists all around us—drunk drivers, corrupt officials, angry mobs. But, as Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously pointed out, “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” The most dangerous evil most of us face is that which hides inside. So, when you pray, “Deliver us from evil,” pray for deliverance from doing evil. Pray for deliverance from the evil that “lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21, ESV). Pray for the righteousness of Christ to triumph over the wretchedness of your all-too-human heart.

Pray, “deliver us” from evil done to us
Rabbi Judah ben Tema is said to have prayed, “Let it be thy good pleasure to deliver us from impudent men, and from impudence: from an evil man and an evil chance; from an evil affection, an evil companion, and an evil neighbor: from Satan the destroyer, from a hard judgment, and a hard adversary.” So, when you pray “deliver us from evil,” it’s a prayer to be delivered from armed robbery, from debt and bankruptcy, from crop failure, from liars, gossips and thieves, from evil affections, evil companions and evil neighbors. From every trick and technique of your enemy, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).

Pray, “deliver us” from the evil surrounding us
The final petition Jesus gave His followers in what we call The Lord’s Prayer contains the plural pronoun, “us.” It’s a corporate prayer, one I must pray not only for myself but also for others. We are surrounded by people who need deliverance from evil: an overworked teacher who faces discouragement on a daily basis, pastors who bear heavy burdens and try to meet great demands while also maintaining healthy marriages and families, friends who face unemployment, neighbors who are trying to cope with illness, and more.

It’s a simple prayer, but one that is rich in purpose and power. Pray it daily, fervently, for yourself and for others. Pray it in faith, believing that Jesus would not have taught His followers to pray it if it were not a prayer that would be answered.

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