Matthew 6:13 (NIV): And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Some people have developed a dualistic theology, a kind of “Stars Wars” way of looking at the way the universe runs. They see everything as being in the hands of two equal and opposite powers, one good, and one evil. They believe that these two forces stay roughly in balance, with one occasionally advancing, only to be pushed back by the other, maintaining a kind of spiritual equilibrium. They apply this model to God and satan, making them the two ends of the spectrum, with neither of them able to gain a decisive advantage over the other. (Or, worse, when they see the evil that exists in the world seeming to advance and grow, they decide that perhaps evil is the stronger of the two, and that it will eventually gain the upper hand!)
The fact is, as God revealed to the writer of the book of Job, satan is a created being, not some kind of primal evil force. God is, and always has been, the Creator, the Almighty. Satan, for all of his bluster, and for all of the authority that people want to imagine him having, can only do what God allows him to do. The only reason that God allows him to continue to exist at all (Read Revelation 20:7-10 to see how God will deal with him in the end) is to act as a refiner for His people, testing us and giving us resistance to fight against, so that we learn to depend wholly on God’s strength; to build our complete dependence on Him. Without the enemy we, as God’s people, would quickly grow spiritually fat and lazy, and would lose our sense of need for God’s presence.
The prayer Jesus taught us is a prayer of complete dependence on God. Even in the matter of temptation and testing, it acknowledges that the enemy, the evil one, is real. It accepts as a given that we humans, in our own strength, are unable to defeat him or stand against his temptations. But it also freely testifies that God is in complete control, even of satan, and that He can, and will, give daily victory over the enemy to those who ask.
Father, this is wonderful stuff. I know too many Christians who believe that we are powerless against the enemy, doomed to fall to his schemes day after day as long as we live. Forgive us for forgetting that You are the creator of all things, and that our temptations, the testings that You allow, are designed to make us strong in You. Thank You for the every-day victory that You make possible. Help us to never forget. Help us always ask for YOU to deliver us from the evil one. Amen.