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…and deliver us from evil

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

The words of the Lord’s Prayer, even for those not of the Christian faith, are quite familiar to many of us. The opening, “Our Father” bespeaks of the relationship between the Creator and we, the Creation. It is at once, both audacious and comforting, as it allows the quite inferior to interrelate and communicate directly, and quite informally, with the most superior.

Christ Jesus gave us these deceptively simple words, after He was asked “what is the proper way to pray?” His response is brevity itself, as it contains the mandates and promises of our relationship with Him, and a way for us to begin to understand this relationship.

However, we penitents always “see through a glass darkly.” This is the view we see, as though we have a veiled perspective in all that we say and all that we do.

Consider, if it were otherwise, then we would have absolute clarity and be able to, not only see, but also always understand what our God seeks from, and for, us. In our imperfect-ness, we are unable to have this in-sight, as we demonstrate with such regularity.

In our prayers, we ask for ourselves to be delivered from evil. From our oh-so-human perspective, we are asking God to mount the battlements with us, as we stand resolute in thwarting the onslaught of the evil world surrounding us. In any analysis this is only partially correct. Indeed, we are surrounded by an evil world, subject to the vagaries and vanities of our fellow neighbors.

Yet, in our concentrating on the forces outside ourselves we fail, frequently miserably, in truly understanding our entire selves and our role in perpetuating the evil, within ourselves.

Acknowledging there is evil within, is a most difficult challenge, as we do not readily acknowledge our failures. It all has much to do with our egos, which we readily allow to overshadow our relationship and understanding with God.

Given our predilections towards our own superiority, even at the best of times, we fight this battle too. This is a conflict we cannot win by ourselves, for we are told in Scripture it requires the Holy Spirit to give us Godly strength, as only He may provide. Indeed, it was given to us, by the Son of God, to pray and to pray often for forgiveness, strength and guidance. Yet, in our failed condition, we may seek alternatives to the unalterable mandate.

James Weldon Johnson, in his poem about the Prodigal Son, made a most apt observation. In his discourse he related, “Young man, young man, your arm is too short to box with God.” It is a graphic truth for all of us. No matter how impassioned our attitudes and actions, we shall always fall short and succumb to the forces of the pervasive evils of living in this sinful world.

It would be very simple to offer up ourselves to the altar of darkness as if there were no hope.

Yet, there is the omnipresent hope of salvation and the steadfast belief, called faith, in the goodness of God and His plan for our everlasting lives, with Him.

It requires of us an acknowledgment of evil itself, and that it resides in all corners of our interiors and exteriors. This truly why we are to pray to our Creator, “and deliver us from evil.”