Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Not Praying for That

but for the other thing.

John 17:14–19

“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”

The key to this passage is verse 15. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

Trials are coming and Jesus is not praying for them to be avoided. Instead, He prays for God to keep His disciples from the evil one (“tou pon-ay-rou” του πονηρου).

This is profound because Jesus is not asking for anyone’s deliverance from trial, nor even for success. He’s praying for protection from one specific danger. This means that the one specific danger is the big threat.

And Jesus gives this point great emphasis when He says, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world.” What an amazing thing to say in a prayer.

Imagine you’re in a prayer group and someone prays something like this. “I am not praying for …” That’s not wrong, just unusual. Whatever that person prays for next has got to be important.

Here, it’s the Lord Himself. He knows what is and isn’t important. By saying He’s not praying for one thing but is praying for another, He’s transmitting to us His perspective on what’s most important.

What a wondrous lens into what trials are all about.

If you were in a trial, or merely anticipating one, what would you pray for?

Most folks would pray to be delivered from the trial, or maybe for success. We tend to focus on the physical trial itself. That’s like treating the symptoms of a disease instead of treating the disease.

So, that’s not what Jesus prays for here. Jesus prays that His disciples be kept from the evil one. The trial itself isn’t the real issue; it’s the enemy. The evil one is the issue.

That said, not every trial is a spiritual attack. While we need to avoid the mistake of not considering spiritual issues in a trial, we also shouldn’t make the opposite mistake of seeing everything as spiritual warfare. Sometimes things just go wrong—especially when our own errors are the cause.

Still, every trial should be assessed to see if it’s spiritual in nature. Sometimes, it’s an attack from the enemy. Sometimes it’s God’s discipline. Sometimes it’s both.

The calamities that befell Job were both.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Saturday DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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