Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
When we pray “deliver us from evil”, we’re joining in a battle for God against these powers in the world. The world lives by the story that our lives are rushing towards their conclusion, the oblivion of death and dissolution. We must, the worlds says, therefore frantically work to make every minute count, because the world tells us that nothing counts other than what we make. The world attempts to convince us that things are in a terrible mess and it is up to us to set things right or things will never be right. The world tells a story that all suffering, confusion, or pain must be resolved now through earnest human efforts, drugs, economic development, or medical technology, or else life is damned.
In praying this prayer, we’re refusing to let the powers rush us into despair or false hope, premature conclusions or frantic busy-ness. We need not be in a hurry to have things worked out, brought to completion, finished and done, because we know that, in Jesus, God has given the world all the time we need.
In praying to God to deliver us, we’re acknowledging that God is greater than any foe of God. The power of evil must be admitted and taken seriously, yet not too seriously. Evil is a threatening power, but an ultimately defeated power. When we pray for deliverance from evil, we acknowledge that we don’t have the resources, on our own, to resist evil. The Lord’s Prayer is so honest. The powers that be are powers over our lives. Alcoholics Anonymous says that “we need to reach out to a power greater than ourselves.”
Being part of the Church, being in a community, is how we can best do that. The community enables us to be free from the powers. Standing alone, as isolated individuals, we are no match for the powers. Yet, as a church, we are the body of Christ, we are set free.
Remember us all, Lord, for good. Have pity on us all, be reconciled with us all. Fill our storehouses; Preserve our marriages, nurture our children; Lead forward our youth, sustain our old; Comfort the weak-hearted, gather the scattered; Restore the Wanderers, and unite them to your Church. Set free the troubled; Voyage with the voyagers, travel with the travellers; Protect the widow, shield the orphan; Rescue the captive, heal the sick. Remember, O Lord, all those who are on trial, In exile, or in whatever affliction, And remember all those who need your great mercy. Remember those who love us, and those who hate us; Remember those who through ignorance and forgetfulness We have not mentioned. Pour out your rich pity and save all your people, O Lord.
Lancelot Andrewes, 1555-1626
The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.