We had been discussing the origin of evil in theology class when my professor, Dr. Roy Austin, began to recall an event that had prompted him to consider evil from a new point of view.
He said, “I remember that morning on September 11, 2001, when the horrific scenes of the attacks on the World Trade Center left me so numb that I seemed to have no words to pray. In the absence of knowing how, or what to do I simply began to pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation…
But deliver us from evil.
He continued, “It became clear to me in those moments that “deliver us from evil” was not simply asking God to protect me from others. It was also a prayer that this evil would not be perpetuated by my own attitudes and reactions. When I pray these words I am praying not only that God would save me from the evil that would harm me, but also that God would keep me from the evil that I could do to others” (Austin).
Evil is not substantive; it is not a person. Just as cold is measured by the lack of heat, evil is a collective term used to measure every thought or action that chooses to empty itself of the righteousness of God. One of the toughest pills for me to swallow is accepting that apart from God’s grace, I am capable of doing just about anything. So when I pray, “deliver us from evil”, I recognize that I am part of the “us”. My capacity for evil is swallowed up only by my God-given capacity for love. Dear Father in heaven, deliver me from my own hatred, bitterness and anger. Deliver me from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21 NLT).
*Many thanks to Dr. Roy Austin for giving me permission to share his thoughts.