“Deliver us from evil”

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It is notable that “Deliver us from evil” is the last, not the first, of the petitions in the Our Father. This is suggestive of the place that “fear of the devil” should have in our lives. On the one hand, we should be aware that, apart from grace, we are not adequate to deal with the Prince of This World. That’s why it’s a petition in the Our Father. As the song says,

For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God’s own choosing.

That man is not you, empowered by your sense of self-worth. It is not Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who overcomes evil through girl power and the affirmation of her circle of friends. It is not any of the heroes of pop culture who invariably look deep within at their darkest hour and find that they have what it takes to be heroes. It is not anybody in Millennial America, filled with the notion that, with faith in the goodness of the American people, Democratic Capitalism, and Therapeutic Moralistic Deism, we shall prevail.

On the contrary, that man is Jesus Christ, and Him only. To be sure, by grace, we can participate in His glorious humanity and, by the Spirit, find the strength within to overcome evil — but only by grace, not because of our native and intrinsic wonderfulness. That is why He teaches us to pray to God the Father through Him to deliver us from evil. Because we cannot deliver ourselves, whatever Yankee myths about Daniel Webster outwitting the devil may have taught Americans to think. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).

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