Make Haste, O God, to Deliver Me

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In this final article in the series, “The Lord’s Prayer During Lent,” Philip Bartelt talks about the 7th Petition (“Deliver us from evil”) and the Conclusion (“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”)

Many modern scholars view Luther and his fascination with the Devil as a product of primitive medieval thought. They might say something like, “Everyone in his day saw ghosts, devils, and ghouls because they were simple people governed by the myths of the church about supernatural powers battling here on the earth.”

Even today, demons and devils enjoy more attention in Hollywood than the pulpit. Shows like “Lucifer”, “Supernatural”, and the latest Netflix release of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” treat the demonic as entertainment rather than reality, as fantasy rather than non-fiction. But when Christians gather together and pray the seventh petition, “Deliver us from evil,” we do not pray against a fantasy, but against the evil one himself.

As such, this petition is a summary of the entire Lord’s Prayer. Luther writes, “So the entire substance of all our prayer is directed against our chief enemy. For it is he who hinders among us everything that we pray for: God’s name or honor, God’s kingdom and will, our daily bread, a cheerful good conscience, and so forth” (Large Catechism III. 113) By praying these words, we make a confession that evil is in this world, not because of fate or fortune, but because of the father of lies, the deceiver and murderer of the world. We confess that evil is not an abstract, impersonal principle, but a very concrete and personal reality.

The evil one declared war on all Christians at the same moment God declared peace by the waters of Baptism.

Unlike life under the so-called “prosperity gospel,” the true baptismal life is lived under the cross and in the kingdom of Satan. As we persevere under this present wicked age, we are subject to all the Devil’s wiles: “poverty, shame, death, and, in short, all the agonizing misery and heartache of which there is such an unnumbered multitude on the earth… [the Devil] often breaks men’s necks or drives them to insanity, drowns some, and moves many to commit suicide and to many other terrible disasters” (Large Catechism III. 115). From all this we pray that God would deliver us and give us every good blessing of body and soul, just as he has promised to do in the first article of the Creed.

While this petition firmly fixes our eyes on this present wicked age, it also draws us into the age to come. In his explanation of this petition in the Small Catechism, Luther writes, “We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would...finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to himself in heaven” (Small Catechism III.7). In this way, Luther doesn’t allow our foes--death, hell, and the Devil--to have the last word. As much as this petition laments evil and the works of the evil one, it also proclaims the victory of the resurrected Lord. It proclaims that, in Christ, God has delivered us from all evil, and will indeed bring us to rest at last in the new creation with him forever.

Thus, just as we began the Lord’s Prayer in view of our adoption by baptism, so we end the Lord’s Prayer with the promises of baptism ringing in our ears.

Finally the only thing left to say is “Amen” which, on the face of it, is an odd way to end a conversation. Usually we say, “goodbye”, or “see you later,” but Christians say “Amen.” The reason for this oddness is because when you say “Amen” you are, as it were, speaking in tongues--you’re speaking in Hebrew.

In Hebrew, when “Amen” is used as an adjective, it means something is trustworthy, sure, or certain. Likewise, as a verb, it means “to believe.” This is why Luther says everything depends on this little word. With this word of faith all meekness and doubt is cast aside. We boldly proclaim, “I believe! I believe that God is my Father. I believe that he has put his holy name on me in baptism. I believe his will is done and his kingdom comes by the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe he is my giver of daily bread and every good thing. I believe that I sin greatly, but I also believe God’s forgiveness is even greater. And I believe that God will deliver me from the Devil and this Valley of Death and welcome me home to everlasting life.” In the name of Jesus, Amen.