John 17:15 I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one.
Every once in a while, it seems like a good idea if we could have a test. Hand out paper and pencils, and take 15 minutes to consider some questions. A test does 2 things, it shows you what you don’t know – but it also shows you what you know, and sometimes it helps us to get our minds in order. For example – T/F Prayer is talking to God. Most people would mark true, and it is commonly accepted as true – but – is it really prayer, if you do all the talking, and never have time to listen? That’s why a better answer would be prayer is conversation with God, and that conversation begins with God talking to us, doesn’t it? After all if God hadn’t come and called us to repentance, if God hadn’t worked faith in our hearts so that we could grasp the gift of forgiveness, if we had never heard about how that forgiveness came, the very salvation of the world, in Jesus Christ – if God hadn’t spoken first, we would not even know we could talk to him, would we?
While we talk about prayer, I don’t think we study it too well. Question 2 – how many petitions are there in the Lord’s Prayer, and which one is the summary of all. Would it help if I told you that this was the most important thing of all? Probably not, for in our minds, what is most important? The survey would probably show that it was "give us this day or daily bread." We probably talk more about that petition than any of the others. Back to our test, there are 7 petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, and the 7th petition is the one which is the summary of all – the 7th petition is "Deliver us from evil." And the thing that is amazing is that when Jesus prays for us, we hear him praying the 7th petition.
It shouldn’t surprise us, even if we didn’t do to well on the test. We don’t get to heaven because of our prayer – God tells us so – Romans 8:26 "for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." Jesus prays for us, and the Spirit prays for us – that we should need such strong intercession tells us that there must be something strong that is fighting against us, trying to keep us from the love of God which is ours I Jesus Christ – and we see the summary of that prayer in our text – "keep them from the evil one."
And also in the Lord’s prayer – "deliver us from evil."
Sometimes, it seems to us, like it might be a good idea, that as soon as someone would believe, if God would snatch them out of the world. Then no one would ever fall away from faith. The problem is that this forgets who we are and why God made us – a problem that we often have. Who are we? The Children of God. Who are we? We are the branches, we live connected to the vine, which is Christ – and God created us, and God made us clean, so that we could bear fruit abundantly. But more than that, God created us to be disciples, that is, it is not enough that we should follow Jesus ourselves, but we are called to lead others that they also may follow Jesus and go forth and also make disciples. And if God took us out of the world, who would be left to make disciples? Who would be there to tell people about Jesus?
And while it is necessary that we be in the world, so that we might bring the world the good news of salvation – as long as we are in the world, we daily face the powers of evil, which do not want us to hallow God’s name, let his kingdom come, let his will be done, receive our daily bread with thanksgiving, forgive sins, or permit us victory over temptation. And so when we pray, deliver us from evil, we sum up all those things which would keep us from being what we have been created to be in Christ.
How important is this petition? Important enough that Jesus prays this even on our behalf.