“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Growing up in the Syriac Orthodox church, I remember Psalms 91 and 121 and other prayers for protection being sung each evening.
“O Lord, You are the one true God, save us –
- From all evils and all wickedness, from all malice, and from thoughts of adultery, from all enemies, from deceitful companions, from temptations of the devil, and from the wickedness of men;
- From unclean passions, from unseemly lusts, from devilish thoughts, and from evil dreams; from all hidden snares, from idle words, from great treacheries, from revengeful utterances, and from all temptations of the world;
- From rods of rage, from sudden death, from anger, from hatred, from ligtnings and thunder-bolts, from plagues, and from hell fire;
- From hard-hearted and wicked deeds, from undying worms, from unquenchable fire, from the gnashing of teeth, from lamentations, from bitter occurances, from evil hours, and from tormenting powers, from famine, from fears, from sudden shocks, from all unbearable punishments;
- From Your words uttering ‘depart from me I know you not’, and from all that will separate us from You. Amen.”
Christians in past generations believed in the importance of daily prayers for protection from evil. As a young adult attending evangelical churches, I remember being taught the importance of praise, which ‘silenced the foe and the avenger’ (Psalm 8), but rarely about the need to implore God for protection. There was a popular acronym ‘ACTS’ – adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication – to help us remember the areas we ought to cover in prayer. I wondered why this was. I discovered that the prevailing belief in our evangelical circles was that as we praise God, we surround ourselves with divine protection.
Some also believed that we could expect God to protect us from all evil without making any specific request. He was duty bound as our heavenly Shepherd to deliver us from all harm, and therefore special prayers were unnecessary. This is a mistaken notion of what trusting God actually means. Asking God for something is hardly a sign of unbelief, quite the reverse. Yes, God is our Provider, Sustainer and Protector, but our prayers are crucial to His working out His purposes on the earth. As we make our requests, we connect ourselves to the divine realms where all power and blessing lie, and we publicly acknowledge before men, angels and demons, that our dependance is on God alone. When we do this the hand of God moves powerfully on our behalf, and shields us from danger, whether physical or spiritual.
Now the subject of prayer has always fascinated me, and as a young Christian I would often ask more mature believers about the ‘best ways’ to pray. As I reflected on the Lord’s Prayer, I observed that this model prayer which Jesus used to teach His disciples ‘how to pray’, contained 4 main topics – 1. praise and adoration, 2. prayers for the establishment of God’s will, His kingdom and authority, 3. confession and supplication, and finally 4. prayers for protection from hard testing and the devil.
Many modern evangelical groups pay little attention to the fourth aspect – “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” – and there is an unspoken tendency to view constant prayers for protection from the evil one as almost superstitious. Yet the emphasis Jesus placed on this aspect of our spiritual safety both in the Lord’s Prayer and in His prayer following the Last Supper – “Father, protect them from the evil one”, and “Protect them by the power of Your name” – shows us that we must do likewise. When we omit praying for our safety, we open ourselves to hard testing, innumerable temptations and excessive opposition from the enemy.
The benefits of praying each day to be shielded from the enemy of our souls, should never be underestimated. Those who never pray for protection and deliverance can find themselves trapped in the same current of temptations and testings as the unbelieving world, and with fewer resources to counter it than those who regularly and faithfully call upon God to save them from such troubles. Although ‘all who live godly lives’ will face opposition and trouble in this world, God’s desire is that, on the whole, we live peaceful and quiet lives in the midst of every storm, and experience His supernatural protection even in a swirl of spiritual assaults. Such protection is accessed when we specifically request God for it in our prayers.
Recently I found some prayers for protection on a Church of England website, and found the words deeply moving –
May the cross of the Son of God,
which is mightier than all the hosts of Satan,
and more glorious than all the hosts of heaven,
abide with me in my going out and my coming in.
By day and by night, at morning and at evening,
at all times and in all places may it protect and defend me.
From the wrath of evildoers, from the assaults of evil spirits,
from foes visible and invisible, from the snares of the devil,
from all passions that beguile the soul and body:
may it guard, protect and deliver me.