For Part I, click here.
Beyond the personal/psychological prayer deliver us from evil, there is a specific and real urgency to it: an urgency like we see in the Psalms, like we see even in the New Testament when we are hard-pressed and wandering.
I have some friends trying to get pregnant, and could not help but think of the evil that is stopping them from conceiving. It is not the way God designed the world, and we see in Genesis 3 that women would struggle to bring new life to this world as a result of evil. I prayed for their deliverance.
I have another friend who has lost sleep due to friction with his boss. When I ask him how he is doing, he has a story to tell and I do not know what to say. My friend is struggling to love his boss well while keeping good boundaries, and I could not help but think of the evil that has invaded that relationship. I prayed for his deliverance.
Or for the larger church. In America, we blindly accept the gospel of prosperity and civic religion — even those of us who rail against it are affected by it. I prayed for our deliverance, from our ignorant cooperation with enslaving and infringing on others, because we want nicer cars or cheaper clothes or better coffee. I prayed against the systems that not only use us to deprive others but actually imprison us, so that we are not free to love and serve others, but rather focus mainly on ourselves. This, too, is evil.
I did not run quickly, but I ran with purpose. I ran and prayed for deliverance. I found freedom in naming things as evil: things which run counter to the way God intended them, systems and relationships meant for good that now exploited and disenfranchised others. They are evil, and we fail ourselves when we do not name them as such; we fail our God as he seeks to use us to bring Christ’s kingdom to earth.
I do not write this so that followers of Jesus may point at those outside the church and paint them all with a dark brush. I write so that those like me, those who find gray all around them, may look at their own lives and at first what is happening in the church — just as Jesus had the harshest words for the insiders — and point to the ways that people are not loved and respected as they ought to be. I write for the freedom that comes in naming things. In Into the Wild, we see Christopher McCandless underline the timeless words from Doctor Zhivago:
For a moment she rediscovered the purpose of her life. She was here on earth to grasp the meaning of its wild enchantment, and to call each thing by its right name. By its right name.
May we call each thing by its right name. May we find freedom and purpose in it.
As for my run: I set a personal best the next time I ran the same course, after my afternoon of running and praying in the heat.