Seriously? The last word in the Lord’s Prayer is “evil”? That’s a terrible ending (Matt. 6:13). An early Christian community couldn’t handle it, so they decided to come up with some nice little flourish they could say that would end the prayer on a positive note. “Maybe something about God’s kingdom and glory or something.” Most likely, they wrote this in the margins of their church’s copy of Matthew. Then, when someone went to make another copy, they saw the note in the margins and thought, “Oh, that has to be the real ending. I wonder how it ended up over there? Oh, well. I’ll put it back where it goes.” And we’ve been saying it ever since.
There’s nothing wrong with, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.” It’s just not how Jesus ended the prayer.
He ended it with evil.
We live in the “now but not yet.” That means we still have to deal with the realities of living in a fallen world. If you think about it, that’s what the entire Lord’s Prayer is: our response to living in a fallen world. That’s why we pray for God’s will to be done—in a fallen world, it often isn’t. That’s why we still have daily needs to pray for. That’s why we have to keep forgiving and being forgiven—in this broken world, we keep sinning and people keep sinning against us. So, if we’re going to be realistic about our situation, there is one reality about the old, fallen age that we can’t ignore.
“If we’re going to be realistic about our situation, there is one reality about the old, fallen age that we can’t ignore. The devil.”
That’s right. Jesus doesn’t just end the Lord’s Prayer with “evil.” He ends it with the phrase “the evil.” In Greek, if you want to say “the evil one” (as in, the devil), that’s how you say it. Most times that Matthew uses the phrase “the evil,” he’s obviously talking about a person (Matt. 5:39; 13:49). Sometimes it’s clear that this “person” is the devil, in particular (Matt. 13:19, 38). But in Matt. 6:13, almost every translation can only bear to put this in a footnote, because who wants to end the Lord’s Prayer with the devil?! Well, if the devil is a reality of the old age that you can’t ignore, where should you put him? Dead last works for me.
And that’s the truth of it. We do still deal with the old age, and it would be madness to pretend that the devil isn’t there. When you woke up this morning, you woke up in a war zone. As you go about your day, you are often operating under heavy fire. You are being hunted. Ignoring this fact is a good way to get yourself killed.
What’s the devil’s deal? The best way I’ve heard it put is based on Revelation 12:7-12. The devil wants to hurt God. But he can’t. So, instead, he’s doing everything he can to hurt the people God loves.
“The devil wants to hurt God. But he can’t. So, instead, he’s doing everything he can to hurt the people God loves.”
But since we have free will, this means that the devil is mostly constrained to trying to get us to hurt ourselves. That’s what temptation is. Technically, temptation is anything that increases the probability that sin will occur. But that’s the English word. The Greek word, peirasmos, has a more varied sense of “seeing what you’re made of.” It’s a kind of a “testing.” It can be constructive, like refining metal in the fire. God does this (Heb. 11:17). Or it can be destructive, hoping you fail the test. God doesn’t do this (James 1:13).
So when we ask God not to lead us into temptation, remember Hebrew parallelism. This is another way of saying, “Deliver us from the evil one.” It’s what you get if you put 1 Corinthians 10:13 into prayer form: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
But when the devil puts you in the fire to reveal your true colors, he’s hoping they will be bad. He wanted to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31) to show that he was nothing but chaff. The devil wants you to fail. So that’s his strategy: increase the probability that sin will occur. If sin does occur, then damage done (as we saw in the last chapter). That’s a win for him.
“The devil wants you to fail. So that’s his strategy: increase the probability that sin will occur.”
Including this in the Lord’s Prayer is a daily reminder that we will encounter forces that are trying to pull us away from God. It’s an attempt to keep us on alert. Sin generally appeals to our unconscious mind. That part of our brain is all about immediate rewards. It isn’t set up at all to process long-term costs. Therefore, operating on auto-pilot is a recipe for disaster. Staying aware helps. So this prayer can be cause for reflection. What temptations usually get us? What should we be on the lookout for?
Of course, Matthew 6:13 isn’t advice. It’s a prayer. This prayer is an expression of humility—a recognition that we could be undone. Our awareness/alertness has limits. You can’t maintain 100% vigilance all the time. Plus, things can come at us from left field. We weren’t watching for them because we never would have thought of them. Maybe I’m trying to keep my mind right about a cute co-worker, but then I get blindsided by the guy who hates me for no reason. I’m going to need God’s help to get out of that well. This prayer would be a great place to start.
“Until the kingdom comes in its fullness, the pull of the old age is a daily reality.”
So, yes, the Lord’s Prayer ends with the devil. Until the kingdom comes in its fullness, the pull of the old age is a daily reality. We could sum up Jesus’ advice on prayer this way:
- Get centered on eternity
- Remember that the small stuff matters
- Enter the kingdom atmosphere of forgiveness
- Keep turning your back on the world that is passing away
Because it is passing away.
This is not the first time Matthew mentions the devil. In fact, he was in the chapter right before this sermon. When Jesus tells us to pray for deliverance, we are aware that he knows what he’s talking about. In Matthew 4, we saw the devil tempt Jesus with everything he had. Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness was the devil’s head-to-head assault—his attempt to take down Jesus like he’s taken down every other person in history.
But Jesus has come to herald a new age. He is beginning a new history.
So, for the first time, we saw the devil lose.
The devil is a defeated foe. In pointing back to Matthew 4, the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that Jesus is already victorious in the battle to usher in the new age. We’ve already seen the powers of darkness melt in his presence, so we know that Jesus can do that for us, too.
“We’ve already seen the powers of darkness melt in his presence, so we know that Jesus can do that for us, too.”
As Sun Tzu said, the ultimate skill is to defeat the enemy before they even get to the battlefield. This is what the devil has to do, because the second we stand and call on Jesus’ name, he’s done. No matter how strongly he attacks us, no matter how much we feel the pull of the old age, we have access to a power that is far greater. In Christ, the new age has been born in us.
The battle may rage on, but the war has already been won.
Deliverance is there for the asking.
The kingdom is coming, and even hell can’t stop it.