Eleventh in The Lord's Prayer Series, "The best prayer to pray in times of stress"
Deliver us from evil! How many times has the Lord heard this cry over the centuries? Each plea was recorded in his book, and he easily recalls how often and well he has helped us, though we may forget.
Some of these instances are recorded in the Bible, to remind us to cry out — as though we need any encouragement.
One in particular comes to mind: when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is both a good and a bad example.
It's a bad example because Jesus prayed in agony… earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44) Yet, the cup of suffering he dreaded was not removed. We prefer an example where the person is saved from terrors and death.
But it's a good example because his acceptance of God's will is what made possible our deliverance from evil, forever. As we study this instance, we find both the pattern for such prayers and the certainty that our deliverance from evil in the larger sense, HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED. Now, as we pray, we are to STAND against evil. Christ has triumphed over our Adversary, and if we belong to Christ, we OWN that victory. Why, then, do we so often live and act as though he accomplished nothing at Calvary? We won. The principalities were spoiled. (Col 2:15)
The account in Matthew notes that Christ prayed three times for the cup of suffering to be removed from him.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. (Mat 26:37-44)
By his second time of prayer, it seems he understood that he would drink the cup: O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. Perhaps the lack of prayer support from his friends was a confirmation to him that he was fast approaching his Passion. As we see, the pattern for prayer for deliverance is to pray more than once, and to ask above all for God's will to be done.
How sad that Christ's encouragement to his friends to pray included a proverb that today is used lightly, even laughingly, to set aside the need to make an effort to do the right thing. One succumbs to the temptation to overeat, or becomes "high," or does not avert his gaze from the opposite sex object, or overspends on a desired item: "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," they say to themselves, chuckling. This is an offense to the Holy Spirit, who is willing.
If we truly believed that the Spirit is willing to help us, and understood his immense power, we would take heart and easily conquer our tendencies to weakness and backsliding.
Often we think of Christ suffering willingly, and he did, but it was not a thirst to meet evil head on. He deeply desired to be obedient to the Father's plan.
As we pray, "Deliver us from evil," if we are crying out to be released from torment of emotions, thoughts and habits that have become our masters, it is certain we will gain the help we need.* But if in a complex stressful circumstance, leave room for the Lord to answer your prayer as he wills. Though evil may appear to win, its victory will be short-lived.
*Some exceptions to a speedy deliverance from evil are noted in the Westminster Confession.
WC Chapter XVIII, IV:
True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience, and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness, and to have no light;p yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived,q and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.r Scripture references: p Song. 5:2-3, 6; Ps. 51:8, 12, 14; Eph. 4:30-31; Ps. 77:1-10; Matt. 26:69-72; Ps. 31:22; Ps. 88; Isa. 50:10.; q I John 3:9; Luke 22:32; Job 13:15; Ps. 73:15; Ps. 51:8, 12; Isa. 50:10; r Micah 7:7-9; Jer. 32:40; Isa. 54:7-10; Ps 22:1; Ps. 88.
Also, see WC XVII, III:
Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins;g and for a time continue therein;h whereby they incur God’s displeasure,i and grieve his Holy Spirit;k come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts;l have their hearts hardened,m and their consciences wounded;n hurt and scandalize others,o and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.p g Matt. 26:70, 72, 74; h Ps. 51[The Title]; Ps. 51:14; i Isa. 64:5, 7, 9; II Sam. 11:27; k Eph. 4:30; l Ps. 51:8, 10, 12; Rev. 2:4; Song. 5:2-4, 6; m Isa. 63:17; Mark 6:52; Mark 16:14; n Ps. 32:3-4; Ps. 51:8; o II Sam. 12:14; p Ps. 89: 31-32; I Cor. 11:32.