John A. Braun
The prayer Jesus taught us begins, “Our Father in heaven.” With those words Jesus directs us to look beyond our space and time to our Father above who cares for us while we are here. Each time we pray to our heavenly Father, we turn our attention above to the source of all our blessings.
But because we are here, our attention often drops to our own challenges. We get so wrapped up in our troubles, struggles, and burdens that we do not look up enough and we do not consider what our heavenly Father has given us. His love gave us the promise of heaven—citizenship where he will wipe away our tears and dispel death, sorrow, and pain. In Christ, he claimed us and made us his children, but he did not remove us from this world. Not yet.
Each birthday brings us face-to-face with a relentless truth: We are closer to the end of our earthly journey. Yet even the birthdays somehow turn our attention away from that reality. We think one day will be just like the next, and we will continue to be as we are. No change. And sometimes we pray, “Deliver us from evil,” thinking that God promises to keep us and those we love just as we are—young, healthy, and happy.
God listens to our prayer and responds, but not in the way we often expect. Instead of removing our burdens and struggles, he leaves them as our crosses to bear while we are here. Those troubles are often especially painful and shattering. Then the sour notes of our anguish prompt a question: “Why me? Did God forget to deliver me from evil?”
We cannot always understand enough to answer the question, but God has his reasons. For one thing, when we suffer, God points us to heaven. We come to know: “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for a city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Our presence in that city is the greatest good God could provide for anyone. He teaches us in our tragedies to groan and long for the complete absence of our earthly woes and to be in the peace and joy of heaven.
We are not only to look above, but also around. When you pray this prayer with your fellow Christians in worship, look around. Among your brothers and sisters in Christ some carry crosses of all sizes and shapes: cancer, disability, poverty, loneliness, heartache—a host of anxieties. It’s a much longer list. These children of God come to their heavenly Father with their own versions of “evil” and pray for deliverance. Their crosses give you an opportunity to show your compassion. Your compassion, caring, and prayers—for your own family and for your fellow believers—is one answer to their prayers for deliverance.
For all of us, troubles are a time to look up to our heavenly Father and patiently wait. He continues to care for us in good and bad days. So when we pray, “Deliver us from evil,” we must not think as small children who cry when they scrape a knee and think everything is coming to an end. As children of God, we know that our heavenly Father comforts us, picks us up, and gives us the strength and courage to face the next challenge. In the process, we mature and grow knowing that we need each trouble to learn and also to treasure the final deliverance God promises. He does not desert us. “Heavenly Father, deliver us from evil.”
John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 105, Number 3
Issue: March 2018
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