Key: (LP) = Lord’s Prayer
“Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.”
by Dr. John Yates
Two weeks ago a mentally disturbed father murdered his 11 year old son, this week a 15 year old bashed his infant child senseless. My own exhausting week began with the need to confront someone with allegations of child abuse, moved through dealing with a host of other problems, including the news of a young Christian wife and mother attempting suicide, and climaxed with trying to find ways to help a homeless family of 6 who I met camped out by the river last evening. The petition “Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.” has lost none of its urgency. Temptation and evil are not “out there”; they are close at hand.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn puts this very pointedly; “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Such sober reflections are necessary but must not have the final word, James confidently says, “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, ESV). James’ confidence lies in the victory of Christ over all evils.
Our Trial and Temptation
The key Greek word in the petition “Save us from the time of trial” [peirasmos] can be translated “trial”, “test” or “tempt” depending on the context. Trials and testings fill the pages of the Bible.
Adam and Eve were on trial in Eden, Abraham was tested when asked to sacrifice Isaac, Israel was tested by their wilderness experience, David was tested when he sighted Bathsheba bathing …with considerable insight Job says God visits us every morning and “tests us every moment”.
Jesus himself “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matt 4:1).
Marriage struggles, illness, financial stresses, losing a job, being let down by friends, disappointment with the Church… these are all trials that test our faith. Let me share one of my trials.
I was studying in Brisbane some years ago and ministering in a voluntary capacity in a small daughter church. The congregation put forward a request to the rector of the parish that they fund my rent so I could move into the local neighbourhood and be more available to pastor them. Soon after this I found a note in my letter box from the rector. Without prior discussion or prayer the note stated that I no longer had permission to minister in the daughter congregation and our family were no longer welcome to worship in the parish.
The impact of that communication was pretty drastic and certain events of high drama followed. Yet in the midst of this sorrowful trial I went into the forest and prayed to the Lord, “I have nowhere to minister, I don’t even have a church where my family can worship, but if I have you I have everything.” I praise God for that trial because it brought to the surface where my heart really was. As Peter says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV). Some trials however seem utterly overwhelming.
Novelist Eli Wiesel survived the Holocaust but his faith did not. He tells this story.
“During the hanging of a child, which the camp is forced to watch, he hears someone ask: Where is God? Where is he? Not heavy enough for the weight of his body to break his neck, the boy dies slowly and in agony. Wiesel…weeps. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: Where is God now? And I heard a voice within me answer him: … Here He is – He is hanging here on this gallows.”
For Wiesel the agonising death of the child means the death of God; the story of a loving covenant God is a fiction. If we are honest the world’s traumas are totally overwhelming, and our only hope for the triumph of good is found in the life of Jesus.
The Trial of Jesus
Jesus greatest trial begins in Gethsemane and climaxes on the cross. At the height of his Passion Jesus was so weakened that he could perform no miracle nor could he preach, but he had strength to petition God. As Hebrews says, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7).
Jesus trusted the Father in the great trial of the cross and was delivered by the power of the resurrection. In company with Christ painful trails will daily beset us and resurrection power is made available to deliver us (Phil 3:10). But to experience the resurrection victory of the Lord we must turn to him as the only one with the power to deliver us from the control of evil (Rom 8:11; 2 Cor 1:10). Only Jesus can teach us about the dreadful power of evil in such a way that we are moved to desperately prayer to the Father to save us. For only Jesus has ever come to terms with the full measure of wickedness.
Deliver us from Evil
The presence of evil was so powerful in Gethsemane that Jesus said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38, ESV). Christ’s holy soul was being crushed to death there and then (cf. John 12:27). At the hour of his most severe trial all the powers of demonic and human evil fell climactically upon him and Jesus uttered this most dreadful cry from the cross, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34). This is a cry from the depths of Christ’s heart to be delivered from the abhorrent presence of evil in all its forms.
If it were not for the power of the Spirit at work in Jesus’ own life he certainly would have succumbed to the temptation to come down from the cross (Mark 15:30; Heb 9:14).
Jesus’ trials speak to us today.
It was in Gethsemane that Jesus warned his disciples, ““Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation”” (Luke 22:40, 46). Instead of praying the disciples fell asleep for they lacked the supernatural strength which alone makes obedience possible in the hour of trial; as the Lord said, ““The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Mark 14:38). What transpired next perfectly illustrates our urgent need to persistently pray, “deliver us from evil”. When Jesus is arrested in the Garden no one stood with him in his trial, “all the disciples left him and fled” (Matt 26:56). You and I have fled Jesus many times.
The time of trial, when we abandon Jesus for the sake of our own lives, may come in the crisis of a marriage, a financial emergency, a family tragedy, a church quarrel, a time of sickness or a career situation. When people are ridiculing the name of God and we remain silent, when an opportunity presents itself to speak the gospel and we are afraid to open our mouths, when we close our hearts to the poor or can’t find time to listen to the lonely, when Jesus calls us to pray and we stay in bed or watch TV instead, these are all times of trial when our faith is tested and found wanting. Here is where it gets really tough.
We can never pray “deliver us from evil” with urgency unless we have a sense of evil in themselves. Paul describes a titanic struggle going on within him when he says, v24“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? v25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:24-25). Then in Galatians, v16 “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. v17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” (Galatians 5:16-17). The ongoing struggle between the Holy Spirit and the evil which resides in us is a sign of a mature Christian life and the essential prerequisite for the prayer, “deliver us/me from evil”.
Whose Kingdom, Power and Glory?
If Satan tempts us to destroy us, God tests us to glorify us. This is the importance of the familiar liturgical ending of the LP; “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.” These words wonderfully sum up the central motivation of the LP and express the reason why we were created – for the glory of God (Isa 43:6-7).
The most influential Christian book this century begins with the words, “It’s not about you”.
All spiritual growth comes through living for God’s glory instead of living for ourselves. Jesus’ taught his disciples; ““Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?””” (Luke 24:26). We all need to understand that the only way to eternal life comes through standing in the hour of trial.
In Gethsemane a grieved and exhausted Jesus spoke to his disciples, ““So, could you not watch with me one hour?”” (Matt 26:40). Today we are being called not only to pray to Jesus but to pray with Jesus .
To pray that the power of evil be broken – in your church, in suburb, and beyond. To respond to such a burning challenge each of us must feel the urgency to be delivered from our own personal evil (cf. Luke 5:8).
Perhaps you have never come to Jesus, to quote his own words, as the only one with the power to save you “from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” (Rev 3:10 cf. Rev 2:11; John 17:15). This is the trial of the Last Judgment. If you have never asked Jesus to deliver you from evil in your own life you urgently need to do so today.
Others of us need to recognise anew that the depth of our intimacy with God and our authority to minister to others flows from how deeply we are trusting Christ to overcome trial, temptation and evil each day.
We too must ask Jesus to reveal our unfaithfulness in the times of trial and expose the evil which is in us.
The Lord will never expose sin in order to condemn us, but to prove that he indeed has the power to
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
Let us stand together today in the victory of the cross for the glory of God.
To do anything else is simply too exhausting.