A few days ago, I took a run in the surprising June heat. Brooke was gone that morning, so it wasn’t until the afternoon that I ran, while the thermostat flirted with 90. I realized, after 10 or 12 minutes, that I would not set a good time on this run, but I was really running so that my next run would be a worthy time, a pace I might be proud of.
I’ve foregone my iPod on runs recently, so rather than listening to podcasts or music I listen to myself. I pray. I think. I try to listen to God but I am very poor at that. That is, I’ve tried enough to realize that I’m very poor, that I often mistake my imagination for God, that I don’t know how to identify the quiet whisper of my Creator. Partially because of that, I have been praying the Lord’s prayer a lot lately: I have needed to lean on a prayer that is not my own.
I enjoy the Lord’s prayer. It is easy to pray that God’s name might be hallowed, that his Kingdom might come. I pray for these things in my own life and for those around me. I am used to praying such things as daily bread, too — for my own needs. I suppose I take some liberties here, and add a few of my desires that extend beyond my needs, but I am reminded that God is my provider, that my desires are subject to greater purposes that I understand. At least, this lets me rationalize my liberties.
Even the debts: I have enough regular guilt to ask for forgiveness quite honestly, and the prayer has been a reminder to extend forgiveness to those who have hurt me, even if they don’t know it. There is freedom in this. I acknowledge the unhealthy guilt and gracelessness I put on myself; I find places where I have not given grace to others.
And, while I am familiar with the prayer to be led away from temptation, I am not so familiar with this idea of evil. In our society, we do not like to label things as evil; I do not like to label things as evil. In many ways, we rightly see the gray in our lives; we see the goodness and the evil intermixed. Yet, there it is. Deliver us from evil.
Traditionally, I look at this phrase as a sort of goodwill plea to God. Keep us healthy. Let us avoid car accidents. No random bombings. Still, for the dynamism of the rest of the prayer, this seems rather shallow.
As I ran the other day, I recited the Lord’s prayer again and again, and was fascinated by this line. Deliver us from evil. I thought of the freedom that comes from naming certain things as evil. There are things within myself that are evil. And,after praying for release from temptation, I prayed for God to shine light in the midst of my darkness to deliver me from my own evil. My selfishness. It is an acknowledgement that my best efforts will still leave evil in me: as David prayed in Psalm 51 I need a new creation — a new heart — something that only God can perform.
Part II coming tomorrow.