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“Deliver Us from Evil”

My Facebook friends know that last week, during a political convention, I did not practice what I preached in a recent blog about avoiding making snarky comments on social media.

At one point, I apologized, but couldn’t resist making a few more. As one friend commented, though, snark can be a good way of asserting oneself when taken aback by what one witnesses.

Earlier on this blog I explained why I didn’t take to Facebook or this blog immediately after watching or reading the news: my reactionary self takes over when I would rather be reflective, at least in print or on the internet.

A few weeks back, I did write something passionate about the kind of presidential candidate I would be proud to have in the White House, which I viewed less as a political endorsement than a spiritual intervention. But you have been spared receiving that post today as I further deliberated, not afraid to be political but resisting being partisan. If you have read this blog for any length of time, my choice would not be news to you anyway.

The genius of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples is partly that each simple phrase can represent to the pray-er different things at different times in different contexts.

Such is true of “deliver us from evil.” Now I once surmised that the phrase, following hard on the heels of “lead us not into temptation,” must refer to the evil we ourselves might do, but in practice, I believe it also refers to the evil that others might do to us.

When I consider my own possible “evils” each morning that I pray those four words, all sorts come to mind. I may consider someone I’ve hurt, some malicious thought, feelings of envy, memories of past sins–or a snarky comment on Facebook! The list, unfortunately, goes on and on.

As a relevant aside, let me dare to disagree with Jesus about the thought being equal to the deed.

I agree with him that we cannot feel self-satisfied because we haven’t acted on our lust—whether it be economic, sexual, religious, violent and so on. But I think we do better when we don’t act on our evil or selfish desires. At least then the harm done is only to ourselves, but when we act them out, we harm others, obviously.

I believe those we recognize as saints are those best able to restrain their worst impulses, if only their worst is to ignore the needs of the poor, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the stranger.

Other evils I confront in myself, given the day or context or condition, are enervating fear, failing to stand up for or take care of myself, believing myself unworthy, thinking I have nothing more to say, avoiding conflict at all costs.

Just as often I think of evils outside my control: someone who disrespects me, a health challenge for me or someone else, the death of someone I love, an injustice that affects me or someone I care about, etc. I don’t expect God to “deliver” me from these problems as much as show me the way to deliverance that befits a follower of Jesus.

But “deliver us from evil” includes the qualifier “us.”

It’s not all about me, but all about us, and that expands the possibilities of evil worldwide: war, poverty, ignorance, violence, inequality, disease, divisiveness, environmental destruction, and all the “isms” that divide us. Again, I don’t expect God to solve the problems as much as inspire a solution—in me, and in the spiritual communities collectively praying this prayer.

As you can imagine, I sometimes experience long pauses after reciting each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer.

“Deliver us from evil” particularly gives me pause, especially in this political season.
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