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As this series explores the Lord’s Prayer phrase by phrase, we consider what each petition means and how to apply it to our own lives. A powerful tool for shaping how we think about God, ourselves, and the world, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray and leads us into a deeply meaningful way of talking to and hearing from the Lord.

“Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil”

Jesus never promised that following him will be easy or set us up for success. This petition of the Lord’s Prayer tips us off to that. 

Compared to the more familiar wording of “lead us not into temptation,” the updated translation of the prayer above corrects some frequent misperceptions and misunderstandings about the source of any trials that Christians face. As the Epistle of James states (1:13), “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.” 

Further, when people make the mistake of tempting or testing God, daring God to make a powerful display or interfere in a situation, they’re behaving as the Israelites did to Moses (Exodus 17:2) and the devil did to Jesus (Matthew 4:5-7).

“Save us from the time of trial” meaning

So, what do we mean when we ask God to “save us from the time of trial”?

For one thing, we ask that God would not make us vulnerable to those powers that rage against God’s kingdom and God’s people. Although we cannot see these powers with the naked eye, there are forces at work in the world that seek to harm us and that clearly work against God’s purposes (Ephesians 6:10-13). Some Christians are so tuned into these unseen forces that they consider their life a battleground between God and the “powers and principalities.” We do not know what the future holds, but we know that God is greater than any foe or power that seeks to inflict harm. 

In addition, salvation in Christ is not a solution to everything that ails us. In seeking to live as God’s people, we still need to manage our own shortcomings and weaknesses—what some call our “besetting sins.” A towering figure like the apostle Paul described the daily challenge this way: “I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21). The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely … looking to Jesus” (12:1-2).

“Deliver us from evil” meaning

We have personal sins that we are reluctant to acknowledge to others, but God knows all about them. And there are enormous, mysterious forces of darkness at work all around us that exceed our imagination and comprehension. By asking God to deliver us from evil, we acknowledge that we are helpless by ourselves to follow Jesus on the path of righteousness that he modeled for us. If, as Paul writes, we are not able to overcome our own sinful tendencies, how then can we expect to stand up to forces of evil and systems of oppression? Only with God’s help.

Finally, some people choose to personify evil in this petition, so they may have Satan or the devil in mind. In fact, certain translations of the Lord’s Prayer say “deliver us from the evil one,” which seems quite different from “deliver us from evil.” Which is more accurate? History has trusted defenders on both sides. From his Reformed perspective, John Calvin concluded that arguing this point is useless because the meaning remains the same in either case. 

What is your focus when you pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer? In what ways is it personal? In what ways is it cosmic? Where is your primary focus: yourself or on behalf of others?

Stephanie Soderstrom

Stephanie Soderstrom is coordinator for Short-term Mission for the Reformed Church in America. You can connect with her by email at ssoderstrom@rca.org.

Terry DeYoung
Terry DeYoung

Terry DeYoung serves the Reformed Church in America as coordinator for Disability Concerns. The AIM of Disability Concerns is to create accessible, inclusive, and missional churches where everybody belongs and everybody serves. If you’d like to support this kingdom-focused work, contact him at tdeyoung@rca.org.

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