Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teach Us To Pray : Deliverance

“but deliver us from the evil one.”

God has committed himself to deliver his people from subjugation to evil, has revealed himself as deliverer. But Jesus reveals to us that the path of deliverance does not turn back from evil, or skirt around it: God delivers his people from the evil one by bringing then through death to life. This is the pattern of Jesus, who died and was raised to life. This is the pattern we are called to: to take up our cross and follow him; to lay down our lives for our friends; to be seeds that fall to the ground and die, in order to bring forth a harvest. This will be our ultimate experience: dying in this body, and being raised to a resurrection body: somehow recognisably us, in continuity with the present, but free from the constraints of our currently perishable and perishing bodies. But this is not a one-off event: it is God’s pattern.

When we pray, “deliver us from evil” God will answer, but his answer will look like a passing through death to life: whether that is through physical death to resurrection life, or through other deaths – the death of a dream, a vision, the death of the Self, of what I want.

And this has implications, both for us who are delivered from evil and for the evil out of which we are delivered.

The implication for us is this: like Jesus, who still bears the scars of crucifixion in his glorious imperishable resurrection human body, we will always bear the scars inflicted on us by the evil one. We will always bear the scars, and, over time, those scars will be beautified. And we bear the scars because it is the scars that carry our story: the scars that remind us and help us to tell others that we were once held captive by evil, in this form or that, and have been set free. Those scars might be physical, or emotional, or simply the evidence of things done to us: of the places in our lives where we experienced a tearing, and heard a testimony. And these scars become like the memorial stones of old: places where, whenever we pass by that way again we say, here we met God: places we return to in order to go on, further.

The implication for evil is this: for God, it is not enough to remove evil, so that it ceases to exist: rather, God always works to redeem evil, so that something good is brought out of it. Read Jesus’ genealogy: there is Rahab the prostitute, dedicated by her parents to a mighty chaos demon; Solomon, whose parents had committed adultery, David cheating on one of his closest friends, and then having him murdered in an attempt to cover his own tracks. And in Jesus’ mission, we see prostitutes and those guilty of adultery and murder transformed by the kingdom of God. This, then, is why deliverance cannot be away from or around evil, but must go straight through the middle, must pierce its heart, must break down the very gates of hell and claim it as a territory of heaven.

So, what is on your heart in relation to deliverance? From what do you seek to be delivered? Or who do you long to see delivered from some manifestation of evil or other?

And what does God want to say to you today?

Does he want to beautify your scars? To take you back to the place they were incurred, in order to hear again the testimony you first heard there – or perhaps failed to hear and still need to hear?

Does he want to see good brought out of evil, evil as you experience it redeemed rather than removed? To strengthen you, or the one for whom you pray, to endure the transformation? To pray for those who persecute you?

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