The fifth petition in the Lord’s prayer is a positive request for God to Lead us, with the additional expressed hope that we not be led into a time of trial or tribulation. The sixth and last petition of the prayer is in some ways an extension off that. Deliver us, we ask, from evil.
The first difficulty with this petition is most people don’t know what they are asking because they do not understand what evil is. That is especially true in this relativistic age. The shorthand version is sin, death and the devil. True, some have described this petition as “deliver us from the evil one” (ie: the devil), but usually that sentiment is not associated with the idea of deliverance. Rather, it is resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Then also, there is little we can do about the death part.
That leaves sin – our own internal inclinations as the specific evil from which we need deliverance. God is good. We know this. Whenever and wherever we turn away from God’s will, word and ways, by definition we are participating in evil. And what else is sin? It is turning away from God and in a real sense rebellion against God. To be sure, it is more comforting to think of evil as something outside of ourselves – something in “Them” that we can point to and condemn. But the truth is it is in us. As that cartoon icon Pogo summed it up, “We have met the enemy and “they” is “us.”
Yes, Jesus gave this prayer before he went to the cross, but you should not need a prophet or preacher to describe what he must have had in mind when he asked us to pray for our deliverance from sin. At the same time, we need to understand the old adage: God accepts us just where we are, but he loves us too much to leave us there. Put that altogether and we see where sometimes trials and tribulations may be needed to root out the sin and accomplish the deliver us request. Temptation might never be inspired by God, but it can be used by God to burn away the dross. It can be like the refiner’s fire that will leave only the purest gold in the end.
Now, if we look at the last two petitions together, they make sense. And the fact that they go together is shown by the big conjunction that joins the phrases: “But.” So we are asking God to lead us, and while we would prefer it not be into temptation, we understand the operative point is to deliver us from the sin nature that so defines us. As the Apostle Paul said of himself, the good I would do I don’t do. But the evil I would not do, that is what I do…
So, this is our prayer:
Lead us, [comma] (preferably) not into temptation (trials and tribulations), but (nevertheless) Deliver us (please) from evil (the sin that stains all of our lives). The marvel of the cross is the promise of that very deliverance – of salvation, yes, but also the promise that God loves us too much to leave us in our sin. He does lead and he does deliver and we are saved.