“But Deliver Us from Evil”
Today, we reach the seventh and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer – “but deliver us from evil.” It makes sense that the prayer would end on this note as it is one of the most important, if not the most important thing we could be asking for. The Church teaches us that, in this particular case, “evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil is the one who ‘throws himself across’ God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ” (CCC #2851). When we are asking to be delivered from evil, we are asking specifically to be protected from Satan’s harm, as his very goal is to prevent us from obtaining our ultimate salvation so that we might suffer eternally as he does. What could be more important?
For some people, discussion of Satan can be uncomfortable. The idea that a singular being can encapsulate pure evil and destruction is disturbing. Moreover, the fact that he is specifically targeting each of us according to our own weaknesses, with the intent to lead us to eternal damnation, causes many of us to become paralyzed with fear or worry. However, it is important for us Christians to know and acknowledge who Satan is and what his plans are, because we cannot fight an enemy whom we do not know, especially one who is out to guarantee our defeat.
Who is Satan? “‘A murderer from the beginning…a liar and the father of lies,’ Satan is ‘the deceiver of the whole world.’ Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be ‘freed from the corruption of sin and death’” (CCC #2852). This is important. Satan is first and foremost a liar because he is directly opposed to God, who is Truth. He seeks to deceive us in all things so that we, too, will turn away from the truth of God. Lies are always destructive and are therefore Satan’s most useful tool. He tells us lies in order to get us to justify our sins. He tells us lies about ourselves so that we feel unworthy of God’s mercy. And he tells us lies about our brothers and sisters in Christ to turn us against one another. Lying is his primary weapon and we work to recognize the lies so we do not fall victim to them.
Because Satan’s most powerful weapon is his lies, we must be wary of how he uses them to attack us. For someone who is not particularly spiritually mature or astute, Satan does not have to work very hard to convince them to turn away from God’s will. However, as a person matures in their prayer and spiritual life and becomes more aware of the tricks Satan plays, Satan in turn must become sneakier to ensnare the person. So, as you grow spiritually, it is important that, rather than becoming overconfident and complacent, you continue to hone your ability to identify the traps he will inevitably lay for you.
The Church also tells us that this opposition between God and Satan puts us in the middle of a battle. “This dramatic situation of ‘the whole world which is in the power of the evil one’ makes man’s life a battle: The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity”
(CCC #409). So, while there are some who may want to avoid the uncomfortable discussion of Satan and evil, the Church does not mince words about that with which we are dealing.
Now that we have the ugly stuff out of the way, we can move on to the more encouraging and hopeful news. The war has already been won. Through His crucifixion, Jesus won victory over the power of Satan and his lies (CCC #2853). His free offering of love for our eternal sake is the destruction of Satan who cannot love. It is an act of perfect love juxtaposed with a complete lack of love. It is clear where the eternal victory lies in this comparison and the cross is the sign of that victory. If the eternal war has already been won by Jesus’ self-sacrifice, we have nothing to fear. Yes, we still have smaller daily battles with the evil one to fight, but we can proceed with confidence that they are minor setbacks on the journey to the eternal victory. This confidence allows us to arrest our fears and worries as we fight those daily battles and to lay our hope and trust in Jesus.
In the Lord’s Prayer, “When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator” (CCC #2854). We lay all of our struggles and sins at the foot of the cross, which casts its shadow upon them in triumph. Jesus is our protection against Satan, and He offers us the gift of perseverance through our daily battles as we wait for Him to come again in glory.
Spend some time thinking about the ways in which Satan has lied to you and tried to trip you up on your journey to heaven. Perhaps some of the attacks have been more obvious than others, or perhaps you did not realize it was happening until after you were through it. How does knowing that the war has already been won help your peace and trust in facing your daily battles? When you face the daily attacks from Satan, can you better imitate Jesus when He was tempted in the garden by saying, “Get away, Satan!” (Matt 4:10)? Ask Jesus to protect you from the attacks of Satan by walking with you through them.
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