Lead us not into temptation, and/but deliver us from the evil one.
The previous bit of the Lords’ Prayer seems to deal a lot with something that takes us out from the inside: unforgiveness, lack of reconciliation, whatever you want to call it, it boils down to a betrayal of the idea we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, because we don’t want those who forgive us to kick us out of their lives, or to repent for a sin and show up for God to have him still slap you down with it. Scary stuff.
So from there I think the Lord’s Prayer makes a transition from the innermost parts to the outside world.
Don’t lead us into temptation, or perhaps deliver us from temptation I have heard it used. There are things out there that tempt us. It doesn’t matter what they are, they are out there. Temptation seems to me to occur at the intersection of the heart and the world. I see, and I covet. I notice, and I lust. I feel angry, and murder in my heart. I focus on self and do not love God with all my heart, on and on we go.
Jesus taught us that if we loved him we would obey his commands, (Jon 14:15, Deuteronomy 11:15, 1 John 5:2). Temptations, then are the things within us that lead us away from a perfect love of God. It’s that simple. It’s that universal.
It’s that impossible. I fail. You fail. We all fail about this all the time. St. Paul dedicated the second half of Romans 7 to the conflict between the good that he wants to do and the evil that he keeps on doing in the face of temptation. Clearly, we fail as he failed (Romans 3:23) and we have the same resource that he has in his inability to do it himself: Jesus Christ.
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. -Romans 7:24-25
So here I’m asking for God’s help, more than his help, his divine power to pluck me out of the snares of sin that tie me down like a barbed-wire straight jacket. I can go to him whether my temptation involves eating chocolate or murdering puppies (neither are my deals, btw) and he will listen without shame, because when he was a man he was tempted in every way, and he turned it down, but he has compassion. He has felt what we feel, and since he dwells with us forever he feels what we feel, so there is the reminder that shame is a con-game of the Enemy to keep us from coming to the Lord for help with problems he already knows and cares about anyway!
Moving on then, this prayer daily reminds me that there are powers that can destroy me that lay outside of my own flesh and my interactions with a fallen world full of temptations.
I have an Enemy, an Accuser, a supernatural entity of power so far beyond my own that I could never hope to out-think, out-fight, or out-run him. The Evil One has an army of 1/3rd of all the angels ever created at his beck and call, and though his battle with God has been lost, he prowls about the world seeking to devour and destroy as many of the images of God (that’s us folks) as he possibly can.
He’s got my number, this Enemy. He’s got an invisible army of bad guys watching and listening to our lives all the time. Sure, he can’t discern the thoughts of our hearts but he’s got 7000 years of manipulating people and reading them to rely on, so I have no prayer on my own.
But we have a God who is a Mighty Fortress, a powerful shield and weapon. The Lord’s Prayer reminds me that though Satan is real, though he is worse than any comic book villain or horror film plot, there is someone more awesome (in the original sense of the word) and more powerful by my side.
This request for God’s deliverance and salvation calls back the opening line of Psalm 23. “YHVH is my Shephard, I will not be in want.”
David didn’t pick the name for God’s role as creator, or even his role as commander of heavenly armies, that we might put our trust in angels who watch over us. YHVH, he says, Ha Shem, the Name given to Moshe (Moses if you must), the Power that conquered the world’s Super Power with plague and miracle, who split the seas and called forth water and bread from rock and air to provide for his people, the ultimate bad-ass in all creation is the one who watches over me.