The Evil One Matthew 6:13

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. - Matthew 6:13

 "Deliver us from the evil one"

St. Paul says, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." In other words, the temptations that come from visible and tangible sources draw their strength from a source which is unseen. Behind visible foes there is an invisible; behind the visible opposition of evil men there is an invisible prince of darkness and an unseen host of fallen spirits intruding themselves into the highest things, into the heavenly places.

I am quite sure that our Lord speaks so confidently and so frequently of the existence of evil spirits that a sober Christian cannot doubt their reality, and I feel sure also that their existence interprets a good deal which would otherwise be unintelligible in our spiritual experience. When thoughts of poisonous evil, distinct and vivid, are shot into our mind, like suggestions from a bad companion; when a tempest of pride and rebellion against God surges over our soul; when voices of discouragement and despair tell us that it is no use trying, and that human nature is hopelessly bad; when a sinful course of action presents itself to us in a wholly false aspect until we have committed ourselves to it, and then strips off its disguises and shows itself in its true colours, in its ugliness, in its treachery, in its infamy - in all such experiences we do well to remember that besides the weakness or pollution of our own flesh, and besides the solicitations of the world, there is "the adversary," "the devil," that is, the slanderer of God and of our human nature and the "father of lies," actually at work to seduce our wills and sophisticate our intelligences.1 [Note: Charles Gore, Prayer and the Lord's Prayer, 75.]

1. What the particular form of deliverance is which we require must be left for each one to discover in the silence of his or her own heart. The devil does not assail us all alike; he comes to us in many ways. To some he comes in great spiritual dulness or deadness, rendering them unable to lift up their thoughts or hearts to God, whispering that God has forgotten them, and no longer cares for them, His children. To others he comes in all the might of some terrible besetting sin, - anger, pride, impurity, intemperance, - binding them with cords which seem too strong to be broken; while many - all - even if they are not conscious of any one outstanding temptation, and can point to no special hindrance in their Christian path, yet know that their lives are not what they ought to be, and that, consciously or unconsciously, openly or secretly, they are continually led to do those things which they ought not to have done, and to leave undone those things which they ought to have done.

It is told of a Roman youth who, notwithstanding a mother's unwearied prayers, had lived a life of self-seeking and sinful indulgence, that one day, as he sat in the garden, in the cloudless beauty of an autumn day, a great struggle took place in his mind. Throwing himself on his knees he prayed earnestly to God, "O Lord, how long - how long - how long wilt thou be angry with me? Must it be for ever to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow? Why should it not be to-day?" Suddenly in his agony he seemed to hear the voice as of a little child repeating, "Take up and read"; "Take up and read." And taking up the Epistles of St. Paul which he had happened to be reading, and opening the book at random, his eye caught these words: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Rom 13:13-14). The words came to him as a direct message from God, and in one instant strong resolve, he determined for ever to break with his old life and in the might of Christ to enter on the new. Augustine put on Christ.2 [Note: G. Milligan, The Lord's Prayer, 153.]

2. There are temptations to the energetic and there are temptations to the indolent.

(1) To the energetic. - Let us mention just a few temptations. Irritability with others who perhaps do not work quite on our lines, or in our way; self-satisfaction, with that blunting of sympathy for others which so often accompanies it; trust in self, rather than reliance on God; perhaps a disposition to sacrifice means to ends, to be so anxious to attain some good object that we, as Shakespeare says, "to do a great right do a little wrong." We may name also uncharitable judgments; want of consideration for other people's points of view; perhaps thinking we are doing so much for God in some respects that He will not be very particular about our shortcomings in others; e.g., letting our practical duties swallow up all our time for prayer, or being very kind to those we love, but not quite upright and sincere in our dealings with our neighbour, or being very devout, and good to the poor, yet living on in some sinful habit. Let us add, impatience for results, and fretfulness under disappointment.

(2) To the indolent. - Are there no temptations to the timid, the slothful, and the indifferent? Does not Satan come to us in the guise of a false humility? - false humility, as Milton represents him doing to our Lord when he appeared an aged man in rural weeds -

Following, as seem'd, the quest of some stray ewe,
Or wither'd sticks to gather; which might serve
Against a winter's day when winds blow keen,
To warm him wet return'd from field at eve,
or when he departs, baffled at the close -
bowing low
His gray dissimulation.

Does not Satan often come wearing an air of lowliness, or inviting us to assume one, whispering in our ear that we are not the people to put ourselves forward or to exert ourselves, that we are only commonplace, that third-class carriages are the proper ones for us to ride in, that we need not feel any self-reproach when we hear of great acts, great efforts, great self-denials?

We read of a man like Henry Martyn, the evangelist of India, and think we have settled everything by saying, "People like that are born saints; they belong to quite a different category from ourselves." We seem to think there is a kind of virtue in shirking anything that calls us to rise above an everyday level, and that we deserve credit for our very neglect of duty. I do wish sometimes some of us were a little more ambitious, a little more eager, about the best things. We do not seem to realize that Satan can tempt and does tempt people quite as much to be slothful and stupid in religion as he does to be proud and self-righteous. There is no more instructive passage in the Pilgrim's Progress than the picture of the enchanted ground. It has no grim figure of Apollyon with his darts, nor of Giant Despair with his bolts and bars, nor of the worldly seductions and bitter persecutions of "Vanity Fair": the enemy is not seen; he is shapeless and impalpable, but his power is on the heavy eyelids, the stupefied brain, the laggard limbs of every pilgrim who goes through the region and feels its dulling, deadening influence.1 [Note: Elizabeth Wordsworth, Thoughts on the Lord's Prayer, 212.]