Easter 7 – St. John 17:11b-19
What do you pray for?
You certainly pray for the weather, for your health and the health of others, and for those who are not with us this morning for one reason or another. You pray for our leaders and for our country. You pray for things that have not yet happened yet, in the hope that one day they would or would not. In the Prayers of the Church, we will pray for our seminaries, for our fellow Christians, for missionaries, for those who are in danger, and for the faith in our own hearts.
As you can imagine, our prayers could go on for quite some time with all of the things we could pray for.
There are times of course, where we do not know what to pray for; where the moment overwhelms us, and we are at a complete loss of words; and in those cases of distress, and even in times of joy, there is the Lord’s Prayer which we pray.
Yes, no matter the situation, there is always a reason to pray.
You pray for one simple reason. Your prayers are heard by your Father who is in heaven. Your prayers go directly from your lips to God’s ears. They are heard, and God in His compassion and mercy answers your prayers in the way that He knows best.
And yet, without knowing your personal prayers, without even looking in the bulletin to see who and what we will pray for today, without even referencing the Prayers of the Church, I can summarize all of your prayers in a single petition.
Actually, so can you. For we pray this petition every Sunday, and every time we gather for worship, no matter the day. You pray this petition countless times throughout the week; you say these simple words more times than you even know.
In fact, if you wanted, you could save a lot of time in prayer just by praying these few simple words that capture the entire breath and scope of all the prayers that are offered by all the believers in all the world, throughout all of history.
Deliver us from the evil one.
That final petition of the Lord’s Prayer is the summary of every prayer that is offered, whether it be in church, or in your home, or wherever you find it suitable to pray.
Deliver us from the evil one.
Prayer really is that simple.
After all, who is the evil one?
It is Satan himself; he is the evil one who desires to do you harm and bring about death and destruction in God’s creation.
Every petition of every prayer that you offer; every petition of every prayer that we pray here in church; every petition of every prayer throughout the history of prayer comes down to this simple phrase: deliver us from the evil one.
The evil one desires to send destructive weather in the form of flood or drought upon the land.
The evil one desires to cause more pain, more suffering, more death upon ourselves and upon those close to us.
The evil one desires to cast this world deeper and deeper into chaos through the continuing destruction of the family at home, and through war and tribulation here and overseas.
The evil one desires to drive from the church through conflict and through deceit all those firmly in the faith, and all those on the border of the faith.
The evil one desires to create in you a hardness of heart that refuses to forgive, that does not hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness, and that is deaf to the Word of the Lord.
The evil one desires to create a great schism between you and the Lord of heaven and earth, thus casting you out of heaven, and into the depths of hell.
Every petition, every prayer, every time you call upon the Lord, you are asking for deliverance from the evil one.
For the evil one, Satan himself, desires to destroy you, he desires to consume you, he desires to claim you for himself.
And so you pray, in one way or another, using more words or less, deliver us from the evil one.
But you do not pray alone.
For Jesus prays this same prayer for you as well. Jesus prays that the evil one would be kept far from you; that you would not be led away from the faith; that you would be kept safe from every evil that might come upon you; that you would not suffer, or lose hope in the promises of God.
For Jesus has seen firsthand what the evil one can do on more than one occasion. Yet there is one particular occasion that is mentioned in our readings today.
Judas started out as a faithful disciple. He was one of the 12 called by Jesus to leave everything and follow Him, and Judas did so. Judas was such a trusted disciple that he was even given the job of treasurer for the group.
And yet, Judas was tempted by the evil one; lured away from faith in Christ and drawn into darkness and despair by the lies and treachery and deceit of Satan. Judas eventually lost his faith in Christ, denied the promises that Jesus made, turned away from the light of the world; and he betrayed Jesus to the leaders, so that He might be crucified.
Jesus knows the power of the evil one firsthand. He knows how appealing his lies are, how even those who find themselves firmly planted in the faith, can fall away.
And so Jesus prays for you, that the evil one would be kept far from you, just as you pray that the evil one be kept far from you.
For you know the hope that you have in Christ Jesus. You know that there is salvation in no one else, outside of Christ’s own death and resurrection. You know that the Word of the Lord is true, and unchanging. You know that the gifts offered here, in Baptism and Lord’s Supper are gifts given for you for the forgiveness of sins and for the gift of eternal life.
Yet you also know the power of the lies and tricks of Satan. You know that as a baptized child of God, you are a prime target for the attacks of Satan, for there is nothing that Satan desires more, than to make you into another Judas. Satan desires to turn you away, handing Jesus over to those who will crucify Him, and leaving you all alone.
And so you pray deliver us from the evil one; keep his hordes of sin and death far from us, expose his lies for what they really are, and keep us firm in the one true faith this day and every day.
For your hope, your faith, is found in none other than Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit; who not only suffered, died and rose for you, but who also prays for you.
And who has delivered you from the evil one.
For by His holy and precious blood, and by His innocent suffering and death, and by His glorious resurrection, Jesus has delivered you from the evil one by winning for you forgiveness. Each time you fall for one of Satan’s lies, each time you betray Jesus for something or someone else, each time you fail to pray; Jesus stands ready and willing to forgive your sins.
For through Christ’s resurrection, you have been delivered from the trap of the evil one keeping you in his grasps.
And you have been delivered from the evil one for all eternity, for Christ Jesus has secured for you a place far from the evil one, in His kingdom, in the presence of God for all eternity.