Deliver Us from Evil

Preemptive prayer is one reachable way of turning back violence
3 min read

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

-Jesus, Matthew 6:13

Just before the arrival of COVID-19 a few years ago, our nation was witnessing a surging increase in violence. Random mass shootings in schools and various other public places were becoming all too common.

It was in the midst of that dark period, as we were grasping for a response, that we were reminded of a powerful but often overlooked resource that we have in preemptive prayer.

And thankfully, the violence was curbed. With lockdowns and social distancing in place, a positive side effect was that these senseless tragedies all but disappeared.

But now that we’ve returned to “normal,” here comes the violence again. With way too much regularity we are forced to process these awful reports from a school, a shopping mall, a church, etc. And it’s breaking our hearts.

What to do? For sure, the answer isn’t as easy as one-two-three. It is deeper and more complicated than that.

But one this is clear: vigilent prayer is at least one part of the answer. Rather than letting numbness take over, our best response is to bring these circumstances before God in a spirit of contrition and expectation.

And in addition to praying for those who are grieving losses at the hands of evil-doers, we also have the option of praying against those who are hatching similar plans but have yet to carry them out.

Wouldn’t you agree that our prayers are oftentimes too reactionary? That is, we only seem to agree that prayer is the right thing to do after a tragedy. And surely it is. There’s no better step we can take than to open ourselves up to God when we’ve been blindsided by unwelcomed news.

But, what if we were more intentional about praying beforehand?

This is called preemptive prayer, a type of prayer that asks God to thwart the plans of the would-be murderer before they have opportunity to fulfil their wicked intentions. This is exactly what happened, or better yet, did not happen here just a few days ago.

When Jesus taught us to pray “Deliver us from evil,” did He have in mind an after-the-fact request for deliverance? That is, after the father of lies has talked someone into doing the unthinkable? Or, was Jesus giving us the invitation to pray for deliverance from evil before it raises its ugly head?

Knowing Jesus, probably the latter.

In control, but not controlling

But I can hear someone objecting that if God is good and loving, why doesn’t He just automatically protect us from all these dangers in the first place? Why do we have to ask Him? It’s a valid question. And the short answer is that while God is ultimately in control, He is not controlling. People have the prerogative to choose Him or reject Him. Although God is our Creator, He will not abide in those places and spaces where He is not expressly welcome. He is more than willing to help us, but generally He waits to be asked.

So with that, would you join me in prayer?

“Dear Heavenly Father, today we come to you in Jesus’ Name asking that you would protect and cover us as we go about our day, especially our children as they go to school. We realize that our world is not a safe place and that there are threats all around us. In a spirit of humility and deep concern, we ask that you would obstruct the plans of those who have intentions of doing harm. Stop them in their tracks. Divert them. Expose them. Prevent them from causing death and destruction and may by some miraculous means, Your light penetrate the darkness in their heart. Intervene, we pray. Deliver us from evil that we may live for righteousness’ sake. It is in the powerful Name of Jesus that we pray and we thank You in advance, Amen.”

It’s a new day with God. Run with it.

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