“but deliver us from evil.”
Key Word Analysis
ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ
This phrase in the passage ends the requests or asks of The Father by the believer. It is connected to the previous phrase asking that we not be lead into temptation but also delivered from the consequences of that temptation if it occurs. The two phrases are not connected by and. The use of but/ἀλλὰ in conncecting these two phrases is a significant word choice by Jesus.
But/ἀλλὰ is the gender neutral form λλος which translates as another. It is used to connect two words or phrases that are logically understood together or when a second phrase is intended to add on to the previous one. In today’s English it would be understood as yet, besides, on the contrary, however or certainly. It is used to connect two actions that may or not be connected but are logically understood together. One is not necessary for the other to occur.
“Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” Mark 14:29
“besides, even the dogs were coming”, Luke 16:21
“on the contrary, He leads the people astray.” John 7:12
“However, we know where is man is from”, John 7:27
“yet you seek to kill Me”, John 8:37
“however, the people held them in high esteem.” Acts 5:13
“certainly, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” Romans 6:5
The connection of this phrase and the one previous by but/ἀλλὰ implies that Jesus understood that even if his listeners were protected against being led into temptation by The Father, other evils or temptations would come their way. The next words He chose asks for rescue from those temptations.
Deliver/ῥῦσαι us/ἡμᾶς is the last petition or plea of the passage. Luther described it as the seventh or final one. It is simply translated today as to aid in escape. “Help us escape evil” would be a contemporary translation. There are multiple examples of its use in the New Testament.
“Let God rescue him now”, Matthew 27:43
“being rescued from the hand of our enemies.” Luke 1:74
“The Deliverer will come.” Romans 11:26
“that I may be rescued”, Romans 15:31
“who delivered us from so great a peril of death”, 2 Corinthians 1:10
“The Lord will rese rescue me”, 2 Timothy 4:18
Us/ ἡμᾶς is the same form of the primary pronoun used throughout the passage. Its use continues to bond Jesus, his disciples and listeners together as one unit. Its use in the final petition of the prayer completes the consistency that started with give us this day our daily bread, moving through debts, temptation and now evil. In his language as in his life, Jesus sought to help his disciples learn to help and support each other in part by seeing each other equally in their pursuit of a Godly life. In this verse, Jesus uses the plural version of the pronoun. The singular version of us/ ἡμᾶς is the form that is likely the most familiar to the modern biblical scholar. It translates as I, me, mine or myself.
“who hears these words of mine”, Matthew 7:24
“these two sons of mine”, Matthew 20:21
“these brothers of Mine”, Matthew 25:40
“the inheritance will be ours!” Mark 12:7
“for a friend of mine”, Luke 11:6
“I myself have seen”, John 1:34
“you are truly disciples of Mine.” John 8:31
This word choice clearly shows that Jesus sees himself and the disciples together in the eyes of God. They are earthly brothers and sons of the same Father. He would also seek deliverance from evil later in his earthly ministry. He would seek to be separated from evil, indicated by his use of from/ἀπὸ as the preposition connecting us and evil. From/ἀπὸ is used to indicate separation of one thing from another, of us and evil.
Evil/πονηροῦ translates today as bad, full of labors, hardships or of a bad nature. It can be something given, received or a deliberate act.
“and falsely say all kinds of evil”, Matthew 5:11
“anything beyond these is of evil.” Matthew 5:37
“But if your eye is bad”, Matthew 6:23
“but the bad tree bears bad”, Mathew 7:17
“Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” Matthew 9:4
“And these evil things”, Mark 7:23
“scorn your name as evil”, Luke 6:22
“that its deeds are evil”, John7:7
“and the evil spirits went out”, Acts 19:12
“and the evil spirit answered and said to them”, Acts 19:15
Evil in this use is a general concept, used to indicate a variety of circumstances a believer could experience. It could be spiritually evil or just an undesired circumstance. It be an unusual circumstance or an everyday occurrence, a large or a small issue.
Jesus use of words in their contemporary language would have communicated a clear and simple concept. How the disciples understood his words based on their individual contexts will be our next focus.
Historical Theology Analysis
To be delivered by God from trials or troubles would have been a familiar concept to the disciples. The word combination of this passage is completely unique in scripture. But deliver as a word combination is found only in this passage, no other place in all of scripture. Jesus connected the previous portion on temptation to this part on deliverance in a completely unique way. While putting temptation and evil together directly may have been unique from a language perspective, the concept of deliverance by God was very familiar.
“deliver him into your hand”, Deuteronomy 2:30
“the Lord your God will deliver them”, Deuteronomy 7:23
“will you deliver him?”, Judges 6:31
“deliver up the men”, Judges 20:13
“How can this one deliver us?” 1 Samuel 10:27
“but now deliver us form the hands of our enemies”, 1 Samuel 12:10
“ but God did not deliver him”, 1 Samuel 23:14
“He might deliver them”, 2 Chronicles 25:20
“The righteous of the upright will deliver them”, Proverbs 11:6
“Deliver me, for you are my god.” Isaiah 44:17
“who can deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:15
To be delivered by God from an enemy or other negative force was common in scripture. This passage called on God to deliver us, plural, not singular. It showed the sense of community Jesus sought to communicate. This was also very familiar to the disciples.
“deliver us into the hand of the Amorites”, Deuteronomy 1:27
“deliver us this day.” Judges 10:15
“deliver us from the power of our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:8
“Who shall deliver us”, 1 Samuel 4:8
“How can this one deliver us?” 1 Samuel 10:27
“if there is no one to deliver us”, 1 Samuel 11:3
“The Lord will surely deliver us”, 2 Kings 18:30
“And gather us and deliver us”, 1 Chronicles 16:35
“You will hear and deliver us.” 2 Chronicles 20:9
“And deliver us and forgive our sins”, Psalm 79:9
“The Lord will surely deliver us.” Isaiah 36:15
“O Lord our God, deliver us”, Isaiah 37:20
. The disciples were familiar with being delivered by God, being delivered as a people not just as individuals and they were also familiar with God helping separate them from evil.
“kept his servant from evil”, 1 Samuel 25:39
“turning away from evil”, Job 1:1
“fearing God and turning away from evil.” Job 1:8
“Keep your tongue from evil.” Psalm 34:13
“Depart from evil and do good.” Psalm 34:14
“Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 3:7
“taken away from evil.” Isaiah 57:1
“Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem.” Jeremiah 4:14
But deliver us from evil was a historical and cultural familiar concept and phrase to the listeners of Jesus that day. The combination of words was unique in some ways but the phrase would have been very familiar and comfortable to the disciples. This last petition of the passage may have been the one most comfortable and most welcomed. Israel had long sought God’s deliverance from the world. These last words would have possibly fulfilled much of what the disciples wished Jesus would bring to their lives at that time. The modern application of this phrase is the next focus.
Contemporary Theology Analysis
In this request of The Father in this passage, Jesus changes the focus. The focus previously was around The Father, Heaven or earthly challenges. The disciples were to acknowledge God the Father and his power, Heaven’s connection to Earth and ask that the same Father sustain them in this world. In this final petition, the focus of Jesus moves to the unheavenly and unearthly powers, those of evil.
Jesus acknowledges the presence of evil in the world and gives his followers a way to combat it. He encourages them to not only pray for the avoidance of temptation but also the deliverance “from the clutches of the Evil One.” In this simple phrase, Jesus acknowledges the presence of evil and instructs his followers to have a plan to combat it; primarily to ask The Father for his help in that struggle. It indicates the same to us, to acknowledge the existence of these forces and understand that we must also have a plan and ask for help.
This is a significant statement from Jesus. We cannot now “claim that we are ignorant” of evil in the world. Jesus has stated that it exists. In our modern history, there are many examples of the unwillingness to acknowledge evil’s existence. Those who originally served Hitler did not recognize the evil in him. His evil “grew invisible” because they were a part of it. As it became more obvious, it was a reality that was difficult and painful to face. But it was reality without doubt.
Evil has Old Testament roots. In Job, Satan emerged as a “clearly defined figure.” He is described as the “leader of forces of evil who delight in causing troubles for humans and leading them astray.” With this Old Testament foundation and these words of Jesus to his disciples, evil is a factor in Christian life that cannot be ignored if of one is choosing to be a Christian.
Jesus calls on us to use this passage as a “prayer of defense” in our daily lives. We are powerless against Satan and the forces of evil without The Father’s help. Just as the early parts of the passage taught us acknowledge The Father as the creator and most high power in the universe and depend on Him for our nutritional needs, this portion teaches to ask and depend on him equally for the safety of spiritual needs. God expects us to do this and knows in advance that we will. He encourages us to ask for help and promises that “he who seeks finds.” (Matthew 6:8)
In some ways, this past petition “summarizes the whole prayer” and completes the path it provides to successful Christian living. Martin Luther wrote that we should live in an approach to evil that puts it on “personal terms.”
“We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Heavenly Father in Heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possession and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in Heaven.”
Today, there are many evils. To deny their existence is to ignore the words of Jesus. We can seek to be delivered from its impact on our lives and to help combat it in the world. To become delivered from evil may not mean a complete avoidance of these now obvious factors in our lives. “Such deliverance may not come as relief.” We may not avoid them but we can be delivered from them. Acknowledging the presence of such evils is the first step to that deliverance.
Evil is not just external. Some, if not evil in the world “originates in the human heart.”
It could be the heart of the believer of one of another. The human heart is “so susceptible and weak before the temptations of the devil” that it may be Satan’s favorite target. The believer is just as vulnerable to the evil of their own heart as they are to the evil of others. Regardless of the source, Jesus indicated here that we should ask for and expect the protection of The Father from this evil as a normal part of our daily prayer and life routine.
To some this last phrase in the words of Jesus that day is “disturbing anticlimax.” After acknowledging the power and glory of God earlier in the passage, here at the end we pray to avoid testing in our daily lives because “we would fail it.” The passage seems to sum up where have been, where we are and where we can go in life. We have been created by a hallowed God who deserves our worship. Every day He will supply our daily bread if we ask him for it. And, He will deliver us from evil if we ask for that as well.
He will deliver us in spite of ourselves. We seek to live in a way where God does not lead us into temptation BUT delivers us from evil. If he does not lead us there, we often go on our own. Even in our weakness, walking into temptation and evil on our own, He will deliver us from evil if we ask. We need only to ask for that deliverance and protection.
This phrase concludes the petition portion of The Lord’s Prayer, our guide for living. The final phrase serves as the benediction or ending of the passage and is the next focus.
Jesus began this passage by honoring The Father by declaring His holiness and ended it with a plea for protection. Within the passage he taught his followers to ask for the daily needs for human life and then includes the protection from evil as part of that everyday routine. It is powerful and significant that Jesus put all of these things together in this lesson. Evil is presented here as common as bread. This is not the approach of the normal contemporary believer to daily life. Just as believers are offered basic necessities they are offered protection from the evil of the world. Jesus taught that both of these things would be common occurrences in their pursuit of a Christian walk.
 Frederick William Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 46.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism, (Saint Louis, MO: Condordia Publishing House, 2005), 198.
Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996) , 564.
Frederick William Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 851
David E. Lanier, “The Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13 A Thematic and Semantic Structural Analysis”, Criswell Theological Review 6.1, 1992, 61.
Robert Ellsberg, “Truth Makes Demands on Us”, The Living Pulpit, October 1992, 17.
Shaye J. D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 86.
Dr. John Mark Hicks “The Theology of the Lord’s Prayer”, Theology Website, Faithsite.com, http://johnmarkhicks.faithsite.com/content.asp?CID=46567, Accessed June 20, 2014.
James Arne Nestigen, “The Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s Catechism”, Word and World, Volume 22, Winter 2002, 47.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism, (Saint Louis, MO: Condordia Publishing House, 2005), 198.
Albert Haase, Living the Lord’s Prayer, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 214.
Telform Work, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, Living through the Lord’s Prayer, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 188.