The fifth line of the Lord’s Prayer is “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Now that we have hallowed God’s name and his intentions, relied on him for provision, and practiced gospel-centered forgiveness, we have begun “playing offense” in the world of spiritual warfare.
However, we need also to “play defense.” If the Evil One was skillful enough to deceive the first couple, who were not born with a predisposition toward sin, he certainly is skillful enough to deceive we who are born with an animus toward God. Thus, we play defense by praying for God to deliver us from evil temptations.
Like the other utterances in this model prayer, this one is best illustrated by the earthly ministry of God the Son. There is no temptation we might experience that Jesus hasn’t experienced (1 Cor 10:13). His entire public life was characterized by temptations and trials, but he never succumbed, even when the consequence of his faithfulness was torture and slaughter on a cross.
God will deliver us from evil precisely because he did not deliver his own son from evil. Jesus took the full brunt of evil on the cross so that we will never have to feel its full impact in our lives. With God having paid the ultimate price on our behalf, therefore, it is incumbent upon us to live in a manner worthy of our salvation.
After all, the Christian life is warfare. There is a great battle being waged between God the King and Satan the Pretender. Satan, or “the Evil One,” is on the prowl, seeking to kill, steal, and ultimately to destroy us. He is always lurking, tempting us to deny Christ’s lordship in favor of his false rule. We must not fall to temptation because to do so is unintentionally to declare that the kingdom of darkness is more desirable than the kingdom of light. Conversely, when we resist temptation, we give God the Creator his rightful place on the throne of our hearts and declare that his kingdom is infinitely more desirable our own and that of Satan.
Each day, therefore, we must plead with God, asking him us to deliver us from evil temptations. When we look at the world around us, must remind ourselves that we are living in God’s good world and not Satan’s, and we must ask God to empower us to live as faithful ambassadors of his kingdom. In other words, we must pray daily with a “yes” towards God’s kingdom and a “no” towards Satan’s false rule.
In our personal and public lives, this prayer should stimulate us to become more aware of ourselves and the particular shape our sin tendencies take. After all, it is difficult to “beware” temptation without being “aware” of the weaknesses we have cultivated over the course of our lives. One way to become more aware is to reflect upon “seven deadly sins” to which we are likely to succumb. Whichever beset us in the past are likely to plague us in the future.
Consider the sin of pride. Pride is the deepest type of rebellion and is at the root of all other sins. When we are proud, in the biblical sense of the word, we deify ourselves. We place ourselves at the center of the universe, making us more important than God or our fellow citizens.
In our daily lives, pride can manifest itself as arrogance or conceit. This manifestation tends to occur when a person is “on a roll,” somehow experiencing professional success or personal victory. Conversely, pride can manifest itself as insecurity or self-pity. This manifestation tends to occur when a person is “in the dumps,” somehow experiencing professional defeat or personal loss. And, although we tend to be more turned off by an arrogant person than an insecure person, in God’s eyes they are both offensive.
In the political arena, our pride can manifest itself in the well-honed ability to spot the sins of people on the other side of the aisle. The flip side of the coin is that, at the same time we tend to harbor an inability or unwillingness to spot our own sins or the sins of our chosen political tribe. When confronted with the wrongs or weaknesses in ourselves or our political tribe, we simply change the subject or shift the blame, just as our favorite radio show hosts and cable news pundits have taught us.
As a remedy for pride, therefore, we should pray for God to give us genuine humility, the root of all virtue (Matt 5:3; Phil 2:5-11). In humility, we recognize that God is the center of the universe; thus, instead of being navel-gazing me-monkeys obsessed with ourselves and our political tribe, we are liberated to serve our fellow citizens and work for the common good.
Therefore, let us determine to wage war in the heavenly realms by playing good defense. Each day, let us pray that God will deliver us from evil temptations. In so doing, we hallow his name.