The major reason, though there are many, that I believe in the nature and reality of personified spiritual evil is this: Jesus did. Jesus took the personal nature of evil very seriously and when he taught us to pray he said we should ask God to “deliver us from evil.” In fact, some manuscripts have the translation as “deliver us from the evil one.” So let’s briefly look at the biblical picture.
There is mystery surrounding the origin of this personified evil, but it is taken as real and malevolent. The serpent in Gen 3:1 is identified in the NT (Rev 12:9) with Satan; Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by Satan (Mt 4:1); in Lk 13:16 Satan is responsible for a woman’s crippling disease; in Jn 13:2 the devil prompts Judas to betray Jesus Christ; Paul says his mission plans were blocked by Satan (1 Th 2:18); Peter noted that the devil is active in seeking to harm believers (1 Pe 5:8); John wrote that the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 Jn 5:19); and the risen Christ warns the church that the devil is planning to persecute some of them (Rev 2:10).
There is one thing in particular that knowledge of the reality of spiritual evil should produce in us, and that is humility. When we pray for God’s protection we are acknowledging our need and our dependence upon One greater than ourselves. And this means that when we suffer, go through hard times, we don’t needlessly blame ourselves or falsely imagine that we didn’t say the right prayers in the right way. Not at all. In praying for protection we acknowledge that ultimately nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Furthermore, we are not talking here about magic spells or charms that we say to ward off evil; this is not the biblical picture of God’s protection. Our security and protection come from our walking with God, doing his will and enjoying his grace. When we specifically pray, affirm, or express thankfulness to God for his protection, we do so out of a heart of trust and a posture of faith. We have nothing to fear, though this does not mean we will not have troubles, encounter persecution or experience personal suffering. We pray for God’s protection in the light of the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ over death, the powers of evil, and our own sinfulness. Through Jesus, nothing in this life can separate us from God. Not anything, not ever.
So how should we pray in the light of the nature of the real and active presence of spiritual evil in the world? We should pray and ask God for protection just like Jesus did in John 17: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” And when we pray we do so from a position of authority in and with Jesus as he taught: “He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk 10:18–20).
Father God, I come to you in the strong name of Jesus the Son of God to thank you for the peace that is mine in Christ. When I face trouble and trial, Lord would you help me be of good cheer because you have overcome the world (Jn 16:33). Holy Father, please protect me this day by the power of your holy name and in the holy name of Jesus Christ (Jn 17). Thank you that nothing will ever be able to separate me from your love Heavenly Father which is mine in Christ Jesus my Lord (Rom 8).
Lord, I acknowledge and believe the truth that you have rescued me from the power of darkness and brought me into the kingdom of the Son you love, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of my sins (Col 1). Lord you are utterly faithful and have promised to strengthen me and protect me from the evil one, and I trust you in this today. I praise you that you have given to me your Holy Spirit, not a spirit of fear, but the Spirit of love, power and a sound mind (2 Tim 1).
I trust your word Father which says that you will never leave me or forsake me, and so I boldly declare that the Lord is my helper, I will not fear, what can man do to me? (Heb 13). Father God, give me today wisdom and humility that I would not be tricked or outwitted by Satan (2 Cor 2), may you the God of peace, crush Satan under my feet (Rom 16). Thank you Lord that the power of Christ who lives in me is greater than any power of evil in the world (1 Jn 4).
Father God, lead me not into temptation today, but deliver me from the evil one. I praise you for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, amen.