A Prayer for Deliverance
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr.
All Church Prayer and Leadership Conference
Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr.
O God, “Life is given for wisdom, and yet we are not wise; for goodness, and we are not good; for overcoming evil, and evil remains; for patience and sympathy and love, and yet we are fretful and hard and weak and selfish. We are keyed not to attainment, but to the struggle toward it.” (T. T. Munger)
“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” (Aristotle)
“The lion who breaks the enemy's ranks is a minor hero compared to the lion who overcomes himself.” (Rumi)
My lecture is a prayer for deliverance. According to Matthew 6:9, Jesus taught us to pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil…” Psalm 139:23-24 says: “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
The problem of evil is the most serious problem in the world. The existence of evil is the basic argument for non-belief in the existence of God. How can a loving and just God permit evil to exist in a world of God’s creation? Evil is the greatest test of faith and the greatest temptation to evil. If God is so good, why is God’s world so bad? If an all-good, all wise, all loving, and all powerful God is not an absentee landlord in the world that this God created, how can our minds be confused with doubt and disbelief about the world’s relationship to an originating, continuing, and sustaining creator?
It seems a good God would destroy evil. An all powerful God could destroy evil. Evil is not destroyed. It seems therefore, there cannot possibly be such a good and powerful God.
On the other hand, it is not possible for the ethical, moral, and just God to create human beings with the gift of free will; the gift of choosing good or evil, unless this Creator decided to withhold the gift of freedom so that those created by the hand of God would simply be robots to be manipulated by the hand of God.
Had God made you and me to be robots, we would not be responsible for human actions. Human actions pre-determined by God or an impersonal fate have no choices to make or no responsibilities for which to be accountable.
With the framework of human choices, evil becomes destructive, damaging, and demonic when egocentric evil replaces the faithful obedience of the creature to God, the Creator, with disobedience and doubt. What a tragedy! Evil disguised as a talking serpent raises doubt in the mind of the first couple. With the persuasion of a lying used car sales person or a dishonest lawyer; Lucifer, whose name means morning star or light bearer, introduces his lying word to Eve. “Has God said, you shall not eat form any tree of the garden?” Eve answers: “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat but from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said you shall not eat from it” – and she added words that God did not say, “you should not touch it lest for die.” And the serpent told his second lie by saying, “You surely will not die.” Poor Eve. Poor Adam. They listened and obeyed a voice other than God’s voice.
This evil one disguised as a snake as Lucifer, who was expelled from heaven. Isaiah 14:12-13 reads, “How you have fallen from heaven O Star of the morning, son of dawn you have been cut down to earth. You who have weakened the nations. But you said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recessed of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. I will make myself like the most High.”
Lucifer was thrown out of heaven only to have a new job; that of bringing down to shame as many persons as he could, starting with Adam and Eve. Jesus Christ, the second Adam who gives life instead of death, provides for us a formula for overcoming evil with the power of good with a call to prayer and action. Prayer is action. Let us marry active prayer with prayerful action. Jesus asked us to pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The secular mind rejects the Christ minded solution. It goes against the grain of the secular mind. The modern, secular mind is over-confident. It feeds on pride. It says, “Lead me to temptation so that I may test my strength of intellect and will. I am the master of my fate. I will overcome The Temper and the temptation.”
The Christian mind does not lie to itself. The Christian mind admits to be no match for ageless evil and ancient temptation.
The Christian mind is not an arrogant mind that feels superior to Adam and Eve who were outclassed by The Tempter.
Psalms 64:4 says that evil shoots at the godly from a concealed location. Evil seeks to shoot at you from a hidden location. Evil silently and secretly places stumbling blocks and snores in your pathway. Evil is cunning and deceptive.
The Christian mind knows that one must pray for the powerful protection and powerful presence of God. Without the providence of God the Father, the priestly intercession of the Son who sits at the right hand of the Father, and The Holy Spirit’s ever abiding presence; the Christian is totally defenseless in the hour of trial and temptation.
The Bible has two temptation stories. The first story is the temptation story of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. They, the father and mother of the human race, failed their moral test, lost their innocence of believing God and God’s Word. Like Lucifer, they fell. The second story is about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness; a forty day test of fasting, abandonment, and dangerous living among wild animals. Satan presented three challenges to Jesus:
- An appeal to the appetite of the flesh; turn stones to bread, for his own personal needs… to use non-acceptable means of turning stones for building into bread…;
- An appeal to public visibility and the spectacular… Jump from the pinnacle of the temple to use the miraculous for self glora;
- An appeal to be a world power broker at the expense of worshipping the wrong God… Jesus said no to Satan and contributed to Satan’s fall again.
When the Adam and Eve in us is tempted, we fall. When the Christ in us is tempted we rise and Satan falls. Like Jesus Christ, you will be tempted in your flesh, your faith, and your allegiance to God. But active prayer and prayerful action for ushering in God’s Kingdom of prophetic justice on earth will be the hallmark of worship, work and witness.