Teach Me To Pray!: Ask to be Kept from Doing Evil

We often pray the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer after sinning.  We should learn to pray the sixth petition before similarly sinning again, remembering, ye have not because ye ask not (James 4:2).

The essence of the sixth petition, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13), is seen in how our Lord Himself prays in John 17:15 for us to be kept in the world but out of its evil (James 1:27 calls this real religion).  Following both our Lord’s Prayers, we too should ask to be kept from doing evil.[1]

First, recognize in your prayers that many evils are working against your doing good.

The Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 195 teaches that in this petition we are to be “acknowledging … that Satan, the world, and the flesh, are ready powerfully to draw us aside, and ensnare us,” because the Word of God is often choked by fruitless caring for the world’s deceitful riches and lusts (Mark 4:18-19).  Ask God to expose the Devil whispering wicked whimsies as he seeks to lap your blood (1 Chronicles 21:1; Matthew 13:19; 1 Peter 5:8-9). Thomas Watson warns, “Satan has gained much experience by being so long versed in the trade of tempting.”[2]  You are not so experienced in resisting him. So ...

Second, realize in your prayers that you are working against yourself to do good.

While God allows Satan to knock, only we open the doors of our deceitful hearts to him (James 1:14).  Matthew Henry’s prayer for this petition begins, “Lord, a wicked inclination remains in us that is bent toward backsliding.”[3]  The Catechism says we must also be “acknowledging … that we, even after the pardon of our sins, by reason of our corruption, weakness, and want of watchfulness, are not only subject to be tempted, and forward to expose ourselves unto temptations, but also of ourselves unable and unwilling to resist them, to recover out of them, and to improve them.”  Paul laments our problem (Romans 7:19-24).  Even Peter wept bitterly for denying Christ after denying he would (Mt. 26:61-79).  Thus we are “worthy to be left under the power of them.”  Though we should be overcome by our sins, yet ...

Third, rejoice in your prayers that God is working for you to do good so you learn and fall less.

The Catechism teaches us to “pray, that God would so overrule the world and all in it, subdue the flesh, and restrain Satan, order all things, bestow and bless all means of grace, and quicken us to watchfulness in the use of them, that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin.” Yet it continues, “or, if tempted, [we should pray] that by his Spirit we may be powerfully supported and enabled to stand in the hour of temptation.”  Pray to pass God’s tests while also with the Catechism “acknowledging, that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for divers holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptations” (2 Chronicles 32:31).[4] Nonetheless ...

Fourth, when you fall, be relieved as you pray that God is working for you to stand back up and do good.

The Catechism counsels us to pray without ceasing to cease with our sinning: “or when fallen, [pray to be] raised again and recovered out of it, and have a sanctified use and improvement thereof: that our sanctification and salvation may be perfected.”  So ask that we all be preserved wholly sanctified and that we do no evil (1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Corinthians 13:7), requesting that “Satan [be] trodden under our feet, and we fully freed from sin, temptation, and all evil, for ever.”  And be encouraged that Jesus prayed for Peter and us not to be undone (Luke 22:31-32; John 17:15).

Finally, let Luther guide you, “Say: ‘O dear Lord, Father and God, keep us fit and alert, eager and diligent in thy word and service, so that we do not become complacent, lazy, and slothful as though we had already achieved everything.  In that way the fearful devil cannot fall upon us, surprise us, and deprive us of thy precious word or stir up strife and factions among us and lead us into other sin and disgrace, both spiritually and physically.  Rather grant us wisdom and strength through thy spirit that we may valiantly resist him and gain the victory.  Amen.”[5]

Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Evangelical Church of America in San Diego, CA, since 2010.  A widower, he is the adoring father of his four covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, and Isaac.  He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.

[1] This article is adapted from the author’s sermon, “Ask to Be Kept from Doing Evil”, based upon the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 195.

[2] Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1972) , 261.

[3] Matthew Henry, A Way to Pray, ed. O. Palmer Robertson (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2010) , 303.

[4] For pastoral counsel on why God allows His own children to sin for a season and how He uses it in and for them, see the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 5, “Of Providence”, section 5.

[5] Martin Luther, A Simple Way to Pray (... for Master Peter the Barber), (Aurora, Colo.: Hope Lutheran Church, 2006) , 6.


Grant Van Leuven