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Deliver us

September 24, 2010

At the end of the Our Father, we have this prayer: Deliver us from evil. Amen. Sometimes it is rendered: Deliver us from the evil one.

In Dr. Ken McAll’s book, Healing the Family Tree, he says that God taught him that this prayer at the end of the Our Father is an exorcism. It is the exorcism, at least in the ordinary sense. It’s the daily exorcism of the ordinary Christian going about his business in a world full of sin, temptation, ugliness, and failing relationships.

This brief prayer from our Lord, the Our Father, starts with praise, continues with a heartfelt desire to see the kingdom, expresses hope and trust about daily needs, pledges us to forgive and accept forgiveness, — and finally has also an exorcism. If there’s something more to say in prayer, I don’t know what it is. Not that there aren’t a dozen embroideries and personal expressions of each element, but it’s really all there. A meditative Our Father covers the ground, and if you’re feeling confused about how to start your prayers, or if you think you might be leaving something out, Jesus has a suggestion:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen

In this closing exorcism, Jesus also teaches us something very important about our life with him. Just as he sent the 72 and they returned rejoicing because the demons were subject to them, he also sends us, and the demons do not have power in our lives. At least, they don’t need to. Have we asked? Expected? Do we recognize this vocation to free the world — not just ourselves — from darkness?

Of course there are extraordinary circumstances where a depth of evil is too great to face without the full sense and weight of the Church; then it is appropriate to call an exorcist. This is a special vocation. We are not to bandy about this power from Jesus or be conceited about our relationship with the King’s Son and take on all comers. But in a simple way, we are called to confidence in God, even in the perceptible presence of evil. If we maintain a sense of this depth in the ordinary praying of the Our Father, we will be stronger in even the smallest encounters with evil. And that’s the best preparation for larger encounters.

Be not afraid.

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