And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation…
I have heard of different kinds of animals — the timid hare as well as the sharp-toothed rat — when caught in a trap, actually gnawing through the unfortunate limb that had been seized, glad to escape with life, though they left a foot behind them, furnishing us with an illustration of a text of Scripture, the right meaning of which we would do well to keep in mind: "Wherefore, if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or mained, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire." And so is it with men when danger of an outward kind threatens. They will try to keep as far as possible out of its way, and when they are face to face with it, in the very midst of it, what desperate efforts they will make to escape!
I. WHAT THE PRAYER MEANS — what we ask when we offer this petition. The word "evil" is that upon which this head turns. If you ask me what I think is meant by this, I must give you my answer all at once, by saying, "It is sin and its consequences, in this life and the next." More particularly it asks —
1. Deliverance from sin within. If I break my arm, or suffer from toothache, or am ill otherwise, I think it bad enough, but it is nothing like what is when I have sinned. Sin is the great destroyer of happiness. There is such a thing as a happy poverty, a happy sickness, but there is no happiness possible in connection with sin. Happiness and sin can no more agree together than light and darkness. Now where does sin have its seat — its dwellingplace? Is it not within? Is it not in the heart, so that you have it called in God's Word "an evil heart"? When I speak of evil, you think of something outside of you — some danger, or suffering, from which you need to be delivered. And yet the most dreadful of all the evils that you have to do with, and that you need to pray against, is the sin that is within you. In regard to the evil of it, this prayer asks deliverance from two things — the power of sin, and the love of it. A slave may love his chain, as well as be bound by it. He may like it, and be proud of it, as he looks at its gilded links, and hears the ring of it. He may cease to love it, and it may still be there: its power remains even when the love of it is gone. So, even when we have ceased to love sin — even when we hate it, as seeing what an evil thing it is — it may yet, more or less, hold us in its grasp, and get the advantage over us; and so we need to have its power broken, as well as the liking for it taken away. Both are included when we pray, "Deliver us from evil."
2. It asks deliverance from temptation without.
3. It asks deliverance from suffering and sorrow. These are what we oftenest think and speak of as "evil," and most earnestly seek deliverance from.
II. How GOD ANSWERS THE PRAYER.
1. By granting the request, by delivering us from evil. He does this in a variety of ways.
(1) By His providence; removing the opportunity or occasion of sin from us, or us from it, putting forth some providential restraint, creating some sudden diversion, so that the mind is turned to something else. There is a young servant, fresh from her country home, where she has been brought up in the fear of God. Her fellow-servant is trying to lead her astray, is bringing influences no way for good to bear on her, and there is danger that the attempt will be successful. She prays, "Deliver me from evil." And she falls into bad health, or is not required any longer, or otherwise has to change her situation, to the regret of herself and her friends. It is the Lord's way of removing her out of the reach of harm, and answering her prayer, Sometimes the danger is escaped from by getting something else to do. You have seen a child amusing himself with a knife or razor, to the utter terror of his mother. He might not part with it otherwise, but she holds out to him a whistle or toy, and the dangerous weapon is thrown aside. Or he is engaged in mischief, and is cured of that by getting some useful work to do.
"Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do."
The doing of good is the best preservative against, and cure for, the doing of evil. The best preservative against the love of evil is to have the heart occupied with the love of God. God, in His providence, sends the one in our way, and so delivers from the other.
(2) By His grace. You remember how it was with Esau and Labau in the case of Jacob: God so wrought in their hearts that they were kept from sinning and carrying out their evil intentions. Sometimes we fear the evil, and are delivered from it in another way, by seeing it in its true colours, stripped of its mask. You have heard of men fighting duels. When one person wronged or insulted another, it used to be common to decide the matter with loaded pistols, and one or other was often wounded or killed. It was thought manly and brave; and the refusal so to fight was regarded as mean and cowardly. It Was called an "affair of honour." How was the evil stopped? By seeing it to be murder. Sometimes He makes use of love, and this oftenest and best. He loves us out of our sin. I have heard of boys making an assault on an old lady's garden to steal the fruit, and being caught. She had them brought into her parlour, and when they looked for punishment, she told them she would "like them to get what they wanted in a right way." A plateful of cherries was accordingly brought in, they were kindly treated, and were told that the next time they wanted anything of the kind, they were to come in and ask for it. I need hardly say there was no more stealing. Kindness killed and cured these young thieves. The grace of God working in the heart is indispensable to any real and lasting deliverance.
2. God answers the prayer by refusing the request. I mean this, especially in the ease of such apparent evil, but real good, as I spoke of before. A boy begins to learn Latin, and when he comes to find it so hard and difficult, he would give anything to get out of it again; pleads to be allowed to give it up, and thinks it very hard to be refused. By and by he becomes a famous doctor or scholar, and how often he thanks God he did not get his own way when he was a boy, for then he never would have been what he is. So we often ask deliverance from fancied evils, when it would not be good to get it.
(J. H. Wilson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.