What if I told you that you have an enemy more stealthy than a virus, more brutal than ISIS, and able to get nearer to you than any human? Actually, you have three such enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
In this final chapter of our series on praying the Lord’s prayer, we’ll look at how to pray in light of each of these unseen – but very real – enemies.
You can find the previous posts in this series here:
- An Amazing Invitation
- Our Father in Heaven
- The most misunderstood, yet exciting, part of the Lord’s prayer
- Amazing invitation: praying for the kingdom
- Amazing invitation – “Your will be done”
- Amazing invitation: “give us our daily bread”
- Amazing invitation: danger and freedom
In Christ’s prayer, He says
And lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil.
As we look through scripture, we see that evil attacks us from 3 sources:
- The flesh: our sinful spiritual DNA we’ve received inherited from our parents. It’s not just a birth defect, it’s an active hatred of God. Even in believers it still lives.
- The world: This is referring to the anti-god cultural influences.
- The devil: Satan and demons are active (at least for now).
Let’s look at examples of praying against each of our 3 enemies.
“Father, deliver me from my sinful nature…”
Listen to some of the ways that scripture describes this first enemy:
- Desires that are hostile toward God (Rom 8:7)
- It makes us slaves (Rom 6:20)
- It results in death, both in this life and the next (Rom 6:21, 7:5, 8:6, Jam 1:14-15)
- We living dead (Eph 2:1)
Of all three enemies we have, this is the most like a terrorist organization. It is a ruthless, brutal enemy… and on the inside. It is often called the ‘flesh’, but it is not referring to our bodies. It is referring to the spiritual nature that all of us are born with that hates God.
Thus, our need to ask God to deliver us from our sinful nature:
Father, I see my tendency toward selfishness and how quickly I gravitate and am drawn toward things that are not true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report. I need your Holy Spirit to empower me! Help me not to try and make peace with my sinful desires, but to be ruthless in opposing them. Help me to be more Christ-like today, moment-by-moment, just as He pled with you in the garden: “Not my will, but Thine be done!”
“Father, deliver me from the evil in my culture…”
Evil in my culture? But I thought cultural differences were God’s idea! They were, and Acts 17:26-27 shows how God even ordains where people live. We see that played out in Genesis 4, and in Genesis 11, we see God took a primary role in the creation of culture through language. And in what God has revealed about the future, we see that the destiny of His children is not some nirvana-like anonymity, but that we retain our ethnic distinctives (Rev 7).
In spite of the wonderful gifts that God has given to different cultures, there is another side to this discussion: the reality…every culture opposes God.
One culture may worship efficiency. Another worships family (as an idol). The next worships freedom or power. Usually, we swim in several cultures and each culture has more than one corporate idol. But like the fish who doesn’t know she’s wet, we are often oblivious to it.
Thus, our need to ask God to deliver us from the evil in our culture:
Lord, please help me not to be conformed to the anti-God values in my culture. Help me to recognize temptation when it comes, no matter how it comes to me… whether from media, education, Facebook news feed, government, or even a loved one. Although I want to love the people around me, please help me not to love the world, nor the things in the world. Thank you that You have overcome the world!
“Father, deliver me from demonic enemies…”
20th century theologian C.S. Lewis summarized scripture well when he said that we can fall into two equal but opposite errors when it comes to demonic beings:
- ignore them (think of them too little)
- obsess about them (think of them too much)
One’s spiritual upbringing and the family that someone grew up in largely influences which of those two extremes they lean toward. Here in the scientific, materialistic West, as well as in conservative Protestant circles, our tendency is to err on the side of ignoring them.
Scripture describes them as being a very present danger from the beginning of our existence (Genesis 3) up through the culmination of history (Rev 20:7-15). Christ (Mat 12:43-45, Luk 21:31-32), Paul (Eph 6:10-20), and Peter (1 Pe 5:8-10) all warned of the very real warfare we are engaged in with Satan and demons.
Thus, our need to ask God to deliver us from demonic enemies:
Lord, you said not to rejoice in victory over demons as much as we rejoice in our relationship with You. so I start by thanking you that nothing the enemy can do can ever change Your love for me or my standing with you. Right now I ask that you would reveal the schemes and attacks of demonic forces around me and those I care for. Reveal the lies that I and others believe. Reveal the temptations we’ve become accustomed to. Clarify the difference between the condemnation of the enemy and the loving conviction of Your Spirit. Open my eyes to areas that the enemy may have influence in my life. Thank You that your truth is greater than their lies, your power is greater than their influence, and that – in You – I cannot lose. In Jesus’ name I pray.
Victory is assured
Outside of Christ there is only defeat, no matter how good things may look for the moment. But for all those who are His, ultimate victory awaits, no matter how dark things may look for the moment.
“Thank You, Jesus, that since we are in You, our victory is assured. You have disarmed our spiritual enemies (Col 2:15) and will one day defeat Satan (Rev 20:10). You have overcome the world (John 16:33). And not only have You already removed the penalty of our sin, but one Day You will also completely remove its power over us (1 John 3:2). So even though we may experience temporary setbacks in this life, we thank You that nothing can ultimately stand against us (Rom 8:31). We are so grateful to be Yours.”
Our summary of scripture, the Westminster confession and catechisms, give helpful summaries as well as plenty of scripture for more study. Here they are:
Q.106 – What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
In the sixth petition, (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, (Matt. 6:13)) we pray, That god would either keep us from being tempted to sin, (Matt. 26:41) or support and deliver us when we are tempted. (2 Cor. 12:7–8)
Q.195 – What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
In the sixth petition, (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, (Matt. 6:13)) acknowledging, that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for divers holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptations; (2 Chron. 32:31) that Satan, (1 Chron. 21:1) the world, (Luke 21:34, Mark 4:19) and the flesh, are ready powerfully to draw us aside, and ensnare us; (James 1:14) and that we, even after the pardon of our sins, by reason of our corruption, (Gal. 5:17) weakness, and want of watchfulness, (Matt. 26:41) are not only subject to be tempted, and forward to expose ourselves unto temptations, (Matt. 26:69–72, Gal. 2:11–14, 2 Chron. 18:3, 2 Chron. 19:2) but also of ourselves unable and unwilling to resist them, to recover out of them, and to improve them; (Rom. 7:23–24, 1 Chron. 21:1–4, 2 Chron. 16:7–10) and worthy to be left under the power of them: (Ps. 81:11–12) we pray, that God would so over-rule the world and all in it, (John 17:15) subdue the flesh, (Ps. 51:10, Ps. 119:133) and restrain Satan, (2 Cor. 12:7–8) order all things, (1 Cor. 10:12–13) bestow and bless all means of grace, (Heb. 13:20–21) and quicken us to watchfulness in the use of them, that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin; (Matt. 26:41, Ps. 19:13) or, if tempted, the hour of temptation; (Eph. 3:14–17, 1 Thess. 3:13, Jude 1:24) or when fallen, raised again and recovered out of it, (Ps. 51:12) and have a sanctified use and improvement thereof: (1 Pet. 5:8–10) that our sanctification and salvation may be perfected, (2 Cor. 13:7,9) Satan trodden under our feet, (Rom. 16:20, Zech. 3:2, Luke 22:31–32) and we fully freed from sin, temptation, and all evil, for ever. (John 17:15, 1 Thess. 5:23)