“But save us from the Evil One”

Matthew 6:13

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Luke 11:1-4; Matthew 6:9-13

This line, found only in Matthew’s Gospel, is often also translated as ‘but deliver us from evil’. Whichever way we read it, the point is the same – a plea to God to save us from the power of evil that lurks in the world and often in ourselves.

Why did Matthew refer specifically to the ‘Evil One’? In the time of Jesus, many Jews believed in a personal force of evil called the Devil. The idea of a devil or demons, historians suggest, was picked up from beliefs current in Babylonian religions that the Jews had encountered during their time there in exile. Jesus himself, we are reminded in the gospels, had his own little encounter with the Devil during his time in the desert discerning how he was to carry out his mission.

Many people, including religious people, find it hard to believe in a personal Devil. One good reason to take that position revolves around personal responsibility for one’s actions. How many times have you heard people caught out for wrongdoing making the lame excuse “The Devil made me do it”?

That’s rather pathetic. If you believe in the Devil, the Evil One, as such, you should know what we understand as the Devil’s way of operating. The Devil doesn’t force anyone to do anything; the Devil tempts, confuses and seduces, making evil look good, confusing the moral sense, and subtly leading a person into wrongdoing.

Above all, we must absolutely reject the suggestion – explicit or implicit – that the Devil is the equal opposite of God. If you accept the Devil as real, the Devil is just another creature, albeit a very powerful creature, with a free will like us.

Whether you buy into a personal Devil or not, what one cannot avoid is recognising that evil is a reality in the world. It is seductive and confusing, often tempting us by what seems apparently good. We must always think before we act. We must imagine the possible unexpected consequences of our actions. We must look to principles. We must discern and pray, that we don’t make bad choices and in doing so add more evil to our world.

Protector God,

Give us discernment of good from evil that our actions may add to your glory and the service of others. Protect us from the attractiveness of evil, turn us to all that is good.


Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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