Deliver Us From the Evil One

The following words of St. Silouan are fairly straightforward. God give us grace and good hearts to hear him.

If you think evil of people, it means you have an evil spirit in you whispering evil thoughts about others. And if a man dies without repenting, without having forgiven his brother, his soul will go to the place where lives the evil spirit which possessed his soul.

This is the law we have: if you forgive others, it is a sign that the Lord has forgiven you; but if you refuse to forgive, then your own sin remains with you.

The Lord wants us to love our fellow-man; and if you reflect that the Lord loves him, you have a sign of the Lord’s love for you. And if you consider how greatly the Lord loves His creature, and you yourself have compassion on all creation, and love your enemies, counting yourself the vilest of all, it is a sign of abundant grace of the Holy Spirit in you.

He who has the Holy Spirit in him, to however slight a degree, sorrows day and night for all mankind. This heart is filled with pity for all God’s creatures, more especially for those who do not know God, or who resist Him and therefore are bound for the fire of torment. For them, more than for himself, he prays day and night, that all may repent and know the Lord.

Christ prayed for them that were crucifying him: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ Stephen the Martyr prayed for those who stoned him, that the Lord ‘lay not this sin to their charge.’ And we, if we wish to preserve grace, must pray for our enemies. If you do not feel pity for the sinner destined to suffer the pains of hell-fire, it means that the grace of the Holy Spirit is not in you, but an evil spirit. While you are still alive, therefore, strive by repentance to free yourself from this spirit.

Reading this made me think: “Whose voice is that rattling in your brain?”

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.


29 responses to “Deliver Us From the Evil One”

  1. Diakrisis Avatar

    Megalynaria (as used in the Athonite/Greek Typikon)

    ELEVENTH SUNDAY OF SAINT MATTHEW Matthew 18:21-35 — Let us hearken well to the words of Christ, * and forgive the brethren * when they grieve us by their few sins; * thus we shall find mercy * and clemency from Christ God, * Who also shall forgive us our many grievous sins.

    “Whose voice is that rattling in [my] brain?” . . . Lord have mercy!

  2. FrGregACCA Avatar

    As someone once said, “Don’t believe everything you think or feel.” It is very important that we guard our hearts, minds, and senses.

  3. Lucias Avatar

    Pray that I can forgive all.

  4. shevaberakhot Avatar

    St. Stephen spoke truth because he was illuminated from above. He forgave, because he knew he was forgiven.

    The point about the man not accepting the eleventh hour blessing was not that he rejected God, or sacrament, but perhaps saw in the priest a symbol of past hurts from which he sought to protect himself.

    There is another light which men and women choose to follow. It is never God who refuses to forgive, but rather, it is the soul that rejects grace that cannot then forgive itself and who then opens a door to the evil one.

  5. Paul Avatar

    Father bless,

    How do we begin to forgive others when we (I) cannot forgive ourselves? God help me to get past myself. We are saved as a community. We go to hell alone. May Christ take my hand as He did Peter before I slip too far for help.

  6. shevaberakhot Avatar

    By resisting the temptation to rely on natural understanding. In prayer. We all fall far, far short of the glory of God.

    The Smith Wigglesworth sermons are very helpful, and completely universal.

  7. Benjamin Avatar

    We must always forgive others if we have any spirit of selfishness towards the deed perpetrated against. . . If we feel wronged, we must forgive. For we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

    But what about when we forgive someone and they go and wrong someone else heinously such as the wicked servant? Should we forgive them, in a negative way, by canceling out the trespass against them, or, perhaps, should we withhold forgiveness (the positive way) for the sake of their repentance if we know that the reason we are doing it is not for the sake of our wounded ego, but for the weaker brother who was wronged.

    What I am saying is that to love is to forgive, but to forgive is not always to love.

  8. Benjamin Avatar

    Love encompasses many virtues, including, but not limited to forgiveness. It also includes justice, mercy, and patience, along with all of the other virtues.

  9. Leila Avatar

    I am not a christian and honestly I know nearly nothing about this religion but I liked what you wrote and I agree with you and I find it actually very wise. Thank you for your text.

  10. shevaberakhot Avatar

    Comment to Benjamin:

    By the same token, Christianity is much, much more than water baptism and all the other external signs of conversion.

    Comment to Leila:

    Unless the soul is converted all these signs are useless. Worse than useless perhaps; they lead only to condemnation as all Saints know.

  11. tallandrew Avatar

    I agree with all apart from the first sentence – if our minds cause us to think evil of other people, isn’t that a consequence of our fallen nature, not necessarily an evil spirit. We are still corrupt though as Christians are in the process of being sanctified, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit. However, this process will not be complete until Christ’s return. Until then, as you said, we need to repent, accept our own forgiveness and forgive others.

    I guess my question is – is all evil a result of an evil spirit, or could it simply be as a consequence of our fallen (sinful) nature as humans?

  12. […] From Mount Athos and St. Siluan … a prayer. […]

  13. […] From Mount Athos and St. Siluan … a prayer. […]

  14. fatherstephen Avatar

    What I have offered are the words of a saint. It suggests to us that many of our evil thoughts are whispered to us from elsewhere. The sin comes in making them our own. So it’s not just the fall producing the thoughts.

    But in no case does “the devil make me do it”. We cooperate, or we resist. But we should know that there is freedom. No one “makes me angry, etc.” Plenty of evil is of our own making – but I have seen this process in work in people before, and many times I think there is something more than human at work. It quickly separates them from communion, and then the body. Which is where the evil one wants us. Alone.

  15. Matt Avatar

    I’ve come across this idea in Orthodoxy a few times before: that the Enemy often whispers evil thoughts to us to either deceive us into believing that those thoughts originated with us, or to tempt us to make those thoughts our own. It often reminds me of this passage from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress:

    “One thing I would not let slip. I took notice that now poor Christian was so confounded, that he did not know his voice; and this I perceived it. Just when he was come over against the mouth of the burning pit, one of the wicked ones got behind him, and stepped up softly to him, and whisperingly suggested many grievous blasphemies to him, which he verily thought had proceeded from his own mind. This put Christian more to it than anything he had met with before, even to think that he should now blaspheme Him that he so much loved before. Yet, if he could have helped it, he would not have done it; but he had not the discretion either to stop his ears, or to know from whence those blasphemies came.”

    Now that I think of it, it may be an interesting exercise to go back and read Bunyan’s classic in light of what I’ve learned about Orthodoxy. I’m curious, do you know of anyone who has done this?

  16. shevaberakhot Avatar


    After receiving the grace of salvation, the pace of sanctification is generally up to the individual (according to faith it shall be given).

    Christ’s victory is all encompassing. While it is complete, eternal and spiritual in nature — there is some linear progression of time involved in the sanctification process with the last enemy to be defeated being death (physical death and it’s contributors).

    The more we live lives of love and service, the more we are able to access the holy of holies and abide in the presence of God.

    Some Christians preach a rather gloomy picture of life here on earth, perhaps because they themselves are suffering, or because there is unresolved guilt or unforgiveness (be it spiritual or psychological in nature). Call it unconscious projection if you like.

    Smith Wigglesworth speaks much about the inheritance of the flesh. It is here that the battles of sanctification take place.

  17. shevaberakhot Avatar


    You’re very much on the right track here. Jesus’ warned against the blasphemy of the spirit.

    The flesh alas, has it’s own “logic”. We need look no further than Baalam’s beast to understand the logic of our own (and poor Christian’s flesh).

    Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian living in much the same time as Smith Wigglesworth, has much to say on the mind of the flesh, the mind of the soul and the mind of the spirit.

    Blasphemy invariably involves demonic possession or severe oppression.

  18. fatherstephen Avatar

    I don’t off the top of my head. One thing I do know: Christians put up with these thoughts and temptations far too easily and make them their own, thus not properly struggling.

    I’ve seen the extreme of charismania where there’s a demon behind every bush.

    St. Silouan’s advice isn’t, in this case, the rite of exorcism. But good hard spiritual struggle. First – go to confession. It’s a sinful thought you’ve entertained. Second resist it and pray for God to give you a heart of humility to learn to pray for those who are the object of your troubled thoughts. Pray with tears if necessary asking for deliverance. Humble yourself before God and pray for salvation.

    For far too long we’ve allowed psychology to describe what’s going on inside us and to ill effect in some cases. It is possible to be changed and to have love for all, even enemies. It may take a lot of healing and deliverance for us, but this is one fight we should refuse to lose.

  19. grinningthorn Avatar

    Thank you for this text. Not for its theology, but for its simple spirituality. Here is the message of Christ shining in yet another beautiful facet. Love of neighbor! And as some above have wisely pointed out the paradox of forgiving others begins with recognizing Christ’s forgiveness for us. We accept that forgiveness for ourselves and then, once recognizing we are freely and gratiously forgiven, rejoice and are moved to see the beauty of forgiving others. One of the strongest motivations I feel for forgiving those who hurt me and wish me harm is I think of how much God must love me, to have given me a completely clean slate in Christ!. How incredible. How much he must love all of his children and what a sorrow it must be that any remain in sin, outside the protection of his love. For the sake of Christ I wish those people forgive and hold them free because I know how much they mean to him. After all he thought that much of me and I am certainly no better than anyone. I want God to forgive all, embrace all, reconcile all– for the sake of him who has been so kind and loving and gracious to me, the undeserving.

  20. Seraphim Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,
    From what book do you get all of these quotes from St Silouan?

  21. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    St. Silouan’s last sentiment there (the “if you do not feel pity…” statement), reminded me of this C.S. Lewis idea:

    In a thousand years the person next to you will be more beautiful than you can comprehend or more hideous than you can imagine. (Heavily paraphrased)

    That quote has stuck with me for a while now. I try to recall it whenever I find myself in the all-too-frequent position of being angry or irritated with my “enemies”.

    God came to save all…not just some sanctimonious few. Would that I could keep that in my mind more!

  22. fatherstephen Avatar

    Saint Silouan the Athonite. These quotes of his are from the smaller second section of the book which is his own writings.

  23. fatherstephen Avatar

    I’m relying on His saving a broad swath. My sanctimoniousness is in ill repair. 🙂

  24. Diakrisis Avatar

    This posting brought to mind this prayer from the Jordanville Prayerbook:

    Prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ

    My most merciful and all-merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ, through Thy great love Thou didst come down and take flesh to save all. And again, O Saviour, save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee, for if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty. Indeed, in Thy infinite compassion and unspeakable mercy, Thou O my Christ hast said: Whoever believes in Me shall live and never see death. If faith in Thee saves the desperate, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. Impute my faith instead of deeds, O my God, for Thou wilt find no deeds which could justify me, but may my faith suffice for all my deeds. May it answer for and acquit me, and may it make me a partaker of Thy eternal glory. And may satan not seize me, O Word, and boast that he has torn me from Thy hand and fold. O Christ, my Saviour, whether I will or not, save me. Make haste, quick, quick, for I perish. Thou art my God from my mother’s womb. Grant me, O Lord, to love Thee now as once I loved sin, and also to work for Thee without idleness, as I worked before for deceptive satan. But supremely shall I work for Thee, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

  25. Logismon Avatar

    so . . . works ‘in’ Christ. . . . ‘works’ of Faith, as St. Serafim of Sarov mentions: “”Acquiring is the same as obtaining,” he replied. “You understand, of course, what acquiring money means? Acquiring the Spirit of God is exactly the same. You know well enough what it means in a worldly sense, your Godliness, to acquire. The aim in life of ordinary worldly people is to acquire or make money, and for the nobility it is in addition to receive honours, distinctions and other rewards for their services to the government. The acquisition of God’s Spirit is also capital, but grace-giving and eternal, and it is obtained in very similar ways, almost the same ways as monetary, social and temporal capital …

    “”Acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit also by practicing all the other virtues for Christ’s sake. Trade spiritually with them; trade with those which give you the greatest profit. Accumulate capital from the superabundance of God’s grace, deposit it in God’s eternal bank which will bring you immaterial interest, not four or six percent, but one hundred percent for one spiritual ruble, and even infinitely more than that. For example, if prayer and watching give you more of God’s grace, watch and pray; if fasting gives you much of the Spirit of God, fast; if almsgiving gives you more, give alms. Weigh every virtue done for Christ’s sake in this manner… []

    Thank you for posting Father, it has brought many things to mind.


  26. mic Avatar

    some of this sounds very similar to what is written in the “commandments” of the “shepherd of hermas.”

    it is exceeding terrible how many evil thoughts slip by in my mind unchecked, and all the more terrifying when they are acted on…woe is me! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner!

  27. Benjamin Avatar

    Shevaberakhot. . . I agree with you wholeheartedly. My comments were not meant as an affront or argument against the saint, but as complementary from what I have been learning from Orthodoxy. Also, I agree that we should not seperate the outward from the inward.

    It is terrible. . . because this exact thing is why so many people flee from religious expressions of Christianity such as Orthodoxy, Catholicism, etc. They see some people practicing it in a way that makes the religion the God, and negates Him of all the glory that is due to him. So, though it may not be right, they throw the baby out with the bath water. It is very important that we learn and teach others a holistic spirituality, not one that is fully intellectual nor one that is fully religious, but the both existing just as Christ, in his incarnation exists, as Fully God and Fully Man.

    Obviously I could expound on what I mean by this for ages, but that is for another conversation entirely.

  28. […] 2, 2008 Posted by Jonathan under Uncategorized   I am stealing the quotation below from Fr. Stephen; it sums up the way we must relate to a very unjust and violent world, stuff like this and this and […]

  29. tallandrew Avatar

    Father Stephen – your last quote
    “St. Silouan’s advice isn’t, in this case, the rite of exorcism. But good hard spiritual struggle. First – go to confession. It’s a sinful thought you’ve entertained. Second resist it and pray for God to give you a heart of humility to learn to pray for those who are the object of your troubled thoughts. Pray with tears if necessary asking for deliverance. Humble yourself before God and pray for salvation.”

    Thanks – this clarified what I think your post was getting at – humility and prayer and spiritual struggle.

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