Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sunday Reading “The Lord and His Prayer” by NT Wright #5

15830This is the next-to-last week for my Sunday reading series on the book, The Lord and His Prayer, by N. T. Wright. The book was a result of a series of sermons preached in 1995 for Advent and published in 1996. In this book Dr. Wright looks at the Lord’s prayer phrase by phrase in six chapters. Each week we have been looking at one chapter and praying through the book as well, each Sunday focused on one phrase of the prayer. This week, we focus on the 5th petition in the prayer, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I have already posted some quotes from this chapter on my Facebook page and this weekly chapter summary will continue to appear here on my blog. I welcome comments on my Facebook page. It would be cool to hear from you as you pray the prayer along with me. Quotes from the book are in blue.

Do not let us be led to the Test! Deliver us from Evil! This is part of the prayer for the Kingdom: it is the prayer that the forces of destruction, of dehumanization, of anti-creation, of anti-redemption, may be bound and gagged, and that God’s good world may escape from being sucked down into their morass. It is our responsibility, as we pray this prayer, to hold God’s precious and precarious world before our gaze, to sum up its often inarticulate cries for help, for rescue, for deliverance. Deliver us from the horror of war! Deliver us from human folly and the appalling accidents it can produce! Let us not become a society of rich fortresses and cardboard cities! Let us not be engulfed by social violence, or by self-righteous reaction! Save us from arrogance and pride and the awful things they make people do! Save us—from ourselves … and Deliver us from the Evil One. 74–75.

Wright began the previous chapter by showing how the story of the “Running Father” illustrates the petition for forgiveness. He begins this one by using Mary the mother of Jesus as an example of how one lives out the petition, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Mary willingly took on the task of giving birth to Jesus, despite knowing the hardships, sorrow, opposition and spiritual warfare it would bring, because she knew that she would play an important part in bringing in the eternal kingdom of God that would vanquish all evil and pain. This petition again is mainly about the kingdom of God. We are asking God for deliverance from the Tribulation and for daily victory over the forces of evil that will bring it about.

To say ‘lead us not into temptation’ does not, of course, mean that God himself causes people to be tempted. It has, rather, three levels of meaning. First, it means ‘let us escape the great tribulation, the great testing, that is coming on all the world.’ Finally, it means ‘do not let us be led into temptation that we will be unable to bear’ (compare 1 Corinthians 10:12–13). Finally, it means ‘Enable us to pass safely through the testing of our faith’. 73.

To pray ‘deliver us from evil’, or ‘from the evil one’, is to inhale the victory of the cross, and thereby to hold the line for another moment, another hour, another day, against the forces of destruction within ourselves and the world. 72

Interestingly, when Jesus prayed this prayer, it was not answered “Yes” by the Father. He went through the full force of evil at the cross but triumphed over it. Now, when we pray this prayer, we must pray with a willingness to follow King Jesus in this battle. We recognize that evil is a formidable power, but that Jesus has already won the battle and we join the victory as we live by the Spirit. We fight the daily fight that he won at the cross and will consummate at his return.

You can only pray them when you are saying Yes to God’s Kingdom coming to birth within you, as Mary was called to do; when you are saying Yes to the call to follow Jesus to Gethsemane, even when you don’t understand why; when you are saying Yes to the vocation to go to the place of pain, to share it in the name of Jesus, and to hold that pain prayerfully in the presence of the God who wept in Gethsemane and died on Calvary. 75

The call to pray this clause of the prayer is therefore the call to be Annunciation-people; Gethsemane-people; and, yes, Calvary-people. We are called to live and pray at the place where the world is in pain, so that the hopes and fears, the joy and the pain of the whole world may become, by the Spirit and in our own experience, the hope and fear, the joy and pain of God. 76

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