From a Saint Monica Sojourner June 18-19, 2022
Lord, Deliver Me from Evil
“But deliver us from evil . . .” (Matt. 6:13b). Why did Jesus include these words in the prayer, the Our Father, that he taught his apostles? “Deliver us from evil” acknowledges the existence of evil. Jesus doesn’t pretend that evil is a mere state of mind. To the contrary, Jesus says we live in a fallen world—a world in which people steal from others, lie to others, hurt others, hate others, and even try to kill one another. I admit that it’s the evil inside me that hooks me to the evil outside me, and I must seek grace’s rescue especially when I repeat the same sins over and over again.
What’s a common scenario? If Billy pushes Joanie, causing her to fall and hit her head, and you ask Billy why he did it, he won’t talk about himself. He’ll talk about what Joanie did or how he tripped over the toys in the room, but he won’t say: “I’ve got sin in my heart that makes me selfish, so, I push others when they get in my way.” You won’t hear that because, even though Billy is only five years old, he has already bought into the lie that his biggest problems in life exist outside him, not inside him. He wants to believe that the big dangers are all “out there.”
If we’re honest, we will admit we are all very skilled at explaining away our wrong behavior by pointing to the situations, locations, events, and people in our lives. We work very hard to convince ourselves that the problem cannot be us. We take ourselves off the hook by saying: “She misunderstood me.” “I was busy.” “I really didn’t mean it that way.” “I wasn’t feeling well.” “It’s just my personality.” “Sorry, I just forgot.” “I must not have heard you.” “He talked me into it.” “You don’t know how difficult he/she is to live with.” “I just ran out of time.” “I’m sorry—other things just got in the way.”
We are all very good at convincing ourselves that what God says is wrong isn’t so wrong after all, or that our words and behavior tell us more about the situations and people in our lives than they do about us. We resist the truth that it is only ever the evil inside us that links us to the evil outside us. When grace has made you able to pray “deliver us from evil,” you are admitting that the evil that is the greatest danger to you is the evil inside you. You are admitting that you can escape the evil in a certain location, you can avoid an evil situation, and you can run from an evil person, but you cannot run from yourself. Only grace has the power to rescue you from you and to deliver you from the most threatening evil of all—the evil that still resides in your heart. We need to cry out for that grace.
Compose a short prayer that you can keep in mind and have ready whenever you need to fight off the temptations of sinful habits. Here’s an example:
“Lord, I pray that You would break any stronghold of fear or doubt, shame or unbelief that weakens my walk and witness and that makes me so vulnerable to the lure of Satan. Help me, I pray to resist the devil and to take every thought that starts to drag me down captive… and to hand it to You for You have not given us the spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, self-discipline, and a sound mind. In the name of Jesus, Amen.”
However, taking the truthful road is not always easy to do. When I was younger, I got into the habit of covering up my shortcomings by saying that I did what was asked of me when I actually didn’t. I didn’t want to appear that I wasn’t following through or doing what was expected of me. I wanted others to think well of me. Sometimes when I took that route, it made the situation even worse. Although this habit hasn’t totally disappeared, taking the situation to Jesus first has weakened this stronghold.
Blessings and peace to you as we journey together in Encountering Christ in Word, Liturgy, Charity, and Community.
A Saint Monica Sojourner