Damn These Three Enemies; Let Us Pray

Text:  James 1:12-15; 1 Peter 5:6-11; Petitions 6-7 of The Lord's Prayer

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

In 1896, an infectious disease specialist named William Osler said,

“Humanity has but three great enemies: fever, famine, and war.”[1] 

What Mr. Osler was pointing out in this most sobering and realistic assessment was that disease, lack of food, and outbreaks of war have historically been and continue to be mankind’s three greatest threats for survival.  For example: things like the Bird Flu or Ebola have killed thousands upon thousands of people in a matter of months.  Droughts, lack of rain, and torrential rains can also destroy crops, leaving bellies empty, and causing death.  If sickness or the lack of food does not get us, then there is always war.  Who can forget the slaughter of people from the Nazis regime, the various mass murders of maniacal fanatics, and the heartless violence of ISIS?  War has claimed thousands – no – millions.  Indeed, these three enemies are vicious and ruthless, out to destroy and attack mankind.

Now, it would be easy to pin these three enemies up as public enemy number one, two, and three; however, tonight I would like to offer up three different enemies.  Like a rival gang, these enemies are just as ruthless and just as maniacal, wreaking havoc from shortly after the creation of the world until now.  This gang of three is: the sinful flesh, the world, and the devil. 

I do not share this to be a killjoy, but I share this because the sinful flesh, the world, and the devil are not to be underestimated or written off.  In other words, each and every one of us are constantly tempted by these three evils and constantly attacked by them.  While we can avoid the fever with modern medicine and while we can avoid famine by stockpiling food, and while we can avoid war by seeking peace, there is actually no escaping the flesh, the world, and the devil  The reason why?  These three ruthless enemies seek us out and attempt to have their way with us.   

Take the sinful nature, the sinful nature – also known as the old Adam – tempts us and attacks us.  We can’t outrun the old Adam or avoid him, for we live with this sinful old Adam around our necks until the day we die. This means that the old sinful nature goes to work on us daily and lures us daily into sexual immorality, laziness, gluttony, drunkenness, greed, deceit, fraud, and deception.  Why do we see so many acts of evil done by people in this world on the nightly news?  It is because the old sinful Adam – the sinful nature – it clings to humanity and we are incited by it to plunge into whatever makes us happy at the expense of hurting ourselves and others.  The sinful nature dangles a poison apple in front of our eyes and says, “One bite won’t kill you; you’re worth it; everybody is doing it.”[2]  Then after the bite, the poison devastates. 

If it isn’t the sinful nature, then it is the world.  Yes, each and every one of us are in the world, which means that we are constantly attacked by the ideologies and messages of the world.  The words and deeds of the world are enough to drive us to anger and impatience.  In short, there is nothing in the world but hatred, envy, violence, injustice, slander, arrogance, pride, fondness for luxury, honor, fame, and power.  In the world, no one is willing to be the least, but everyone wants to sit on top and be seen by all; therefore, the little guy always seems to be stepped on.[3]  The world is cruel; life is hard in the world.  “You live, then you die, then they throw dirt in your face.”[4]

If the sinful flesh and the world are not enough to depress and overwhelm you and me, then comes the devil.  This sly pathetic enemy baits and badgers us at every turn and at every angle.  His purpose is to make us bored or to despise God’s Word and the Sacraments.  His whole purpose is to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, and to draw us into unbelief, pretend security, and stubbornness.  He throws flaming darts of lies and accusations at each and every one of us and attempts to catch us in his snare – that is his web of false promises and enticements.[5] 

Now, I wish I could say that these three enemies are just for show; however, they are real.  So ‘real’ that they attack each and every one of you.  Maybe not all at the same time, but as long as we live this life in the veil of tears, you and I will be attacked, hunted, and harassed from all sides, from all three of these enemies.  They will not pull back and they will not compromise.  Those of you who are younger, you will often fight the flesh, the sinful nature.  Those of you who are older, you will be tempted and attacked by the world.  And those of you who have journeyed through life and are learning to rest in your baptisms before the shadow of death, well, the devil will generally be there to attack you.[6]

Because this is the way it is with us Christians, we do not foolishly pretend that these enemies do not exist.  We do not put our heads in the sand.  We are not na├»ve.  But rather, we wake up every morning knowing that temptation is before us and that evil is there to kill, steal, and destroy us…

…And because this is the way that it is, we pray the sixth and seventh petition of the Lord’s Prayer. 

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil.”

Yes, we Christians know the fight is before us.  We know it is daily; therefore, we pray against these enemies and their temptations.

As we pray though, we are not helped by our own thoughts or the strength of our meditating heart, but rather, we pray with boldness, as the Lord has taught us. 

You see, we pray knowing that the Lord hears our requests because He has promised to.  And as He hears our petitions, we know that He cares for us. 

And so, we continually pray.  We pray that the Lord would preserve and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and the flesh may not deceive us or misled us into false belief, despair and other great shame.[7] 

We pray so that we may seek and expect help from no one else, but the Lord. 

We pray that we would be continually reminded and centered in the reality that the Lord Jesus Christ has snatched us from the jaws of hell, won us, freed us, and restored us to the Father’s favor and grace.[8] 

We pray that the Lord would continually strengthen our faith, faith that knows that the Lord has given Himself completely to us, holding nothing back. 

We pray that the Lord would strengthen us and give us steadfast faith in the midst of this ongoing battle. 

We pray knowing that the Lord is good and that He will never leave His children alone. 

We pray that the victorious Christ would put these tyrannical enemies into their proper place and that He would be our righteousness, life, salvation, and hope – our ever present help.     

We pray that we would be delivered from evil, evil that would affect our body, soul, property, and reputation. 

My friends, do you see why we pray the Lord’s Prayer?  If we want the flesh, the world, and the devil to be at bay, we must pray that the Lord’s  name be hallowed, that His kingdom would come, and that His will be done in our midst.   The Lord is the only solution and answer to the sinful flesh, the world, and the Devil.

There is also another aspect to prayer.  In prayer we not only call upon the Lord in our time of need, but we also remember all of His promises to us. As we contemplate upon these promises, we shall not despair in the face of these three enemies, but rather, we shall remember that we do not belong to these three enemies.  Truly, you and I do not belong to our flesh, the world, or the devil, but we belong to the one who strangles the old Adam, overcomes the world, and crushes the Devil at the cross.  We belong to the Lord and He belongs to us.

Dear Baptized Saints, tonight, tomorrow, and in the weeks and years to come, let us pray.  May the voices of our faith confess and cry out before the Lord the following,

“Lord, continually teach us to pray.  Continue to strangle my old sinful flesh, overcome the tactics of the world, and crush the Devil’s plans, for I am yours.  Save me and preserve me.” 

In the name of Jesus:  Amen.

[1] Osler W. The study of the fevers of the South. JAMA 1896;26:999— 1004

[2] Martin Luther, The Large Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer, The Sixth Petition.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Partial quote from: David Gerrold. 

[5] Martin Luther, The Large Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer, Sixth Petition. 

[6] Ibid.

[7] Martin Luther, The Small Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer.

[8] Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, The Apostles Creed, Explanation of the Second Article.

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