But Deliver Us from Evil
As this pandemic sweeps the globe, I’m finding a new depth and fervour to my prayer that we be rescued from evil. The existence of evil, injustice and suffering in the world can be a challenge to faith in a God of love and mercy, and always has been. Indeed the Old Testament book of Job, one of the oldest parts of the Bible, wrestles with some of these questions, as we continue to do today. Perhaps we hope our faith might provide us with a kind of magic charm to prevent suffering entering our lives, though we know this is not the case.
Jesus teaches his followers to pray for rescue from evil. Then, in the garden of Gethsemane, just before he is betrayed and arrested, Jesus himself prays in anguish, asking if the cup of suffering might be taken away from him, that he might be delivered from the evil facing him. Perhaps we can identify with his intense prayer at a time of such great emotional turmoil. And yet, as Jesus prays, seeking the will of his Father and ours, he is strengthened by the presence of an angel. Jesus does not avoid suffering, but is strengthened as he faces it in prayer.
In our prayer, in praying the Lord’s Prayer, we are offered strength and reassurance from our Lord who knows what it is to suffer alongside us. We may not, cannot, avoid all the evil in our world. But we can be reassured of our ultimate hope in Jesus, whose resurrection triumphed over all the evil works of darkness in the world. St Paul also endured great suffering as he preached the gospel – shipwreck, arrests, beatings, imprisonment, hunger, riots – yet, in the face of all that, still joyfully proclaimed that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
As we pray in this hope for God’s Kingdom to come – a kingdom of the future when pain and sorrow will be no more – we also pray for God’s Kingdom of justice and peace to continue to break into the here and now. And that prayer can surprise us, when it transforms us as we pray it. In praying the Lord’s Prayer, we pray not just for ourselves, but for our wider communities: “give us … deliver us”, not “give me … deliver me”. But deliver us from evil
As we prayer for daily bread, we become more mindful of how we ourselves might be the provider of bread for others. As we pray for God’s will to be done, we open our own hearts to do God’s will. And as we pray for rescue from evil, we might ponder in what ways we can be a part of delivering others from evil. From challenging the unjust structures keeping people in poverty, to the individual acts of kindness that alleviate loneliness, there are abundant ways we can become God’s agents in the world, when we open our eyes to see them. And in doing so, we remember that Jesus told his followers that whatever we do for the least of our sisters and brothers we also do for him.
Rev Elizabeth Morse