Prayer, the Problem of Evil, and the Place of Tradition
God’s solution to the universal problem of evil doesn’t change, from place to place or culture to culture. Prayer is the standard. In fact, part of the transformation that Christianity brings to each culture is how it seeks supernatural intervention. Philippi was also the place where Paul met a slave girl with a spirit of divination. Through that spirit she “brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling” (Acts 16:16). Other spiritual forces and religious practices existed in Philippi. They even appear to possess a degree of power and ‘success.’ Yet Paul says to the people living there: pray about everything. The Christian faith doesn’t deny supernatural intervention. Instead God redirects us away from the traditions, things, places, and people to himself. Thus we pray: “deliver us from evil.”
The problem of evil is one that all humans face. We might debate the details of its origin or how to resolve it, but we generally agree on its existence. In this article I will be reflecting on how the Bible exhorts Christians to seek deliverance from evil, in relation to the temptation to combine African traditional religions with the Christian faith.
In traditional African religions, as Adamo says, evil is both moral and physical; it “concerns any misfortune that befalls an individual or community or any voluntary antisocial behaviour or any infringement of the decrees of God, the deity or the ancestors.” This is why “propitiatory sacrifices become one of the major ways by which Africans deliver themselves from the effects of evil in the world.” Because the need for sacrifices are embedded both in many Africans’ religious outlook as well as culture, it’s a very difficult practice to abandon.
In this article I reflect on the biblical solution for seeking deliverance from evil, and how this speaks into our traditional practices. Can Africans be in Christ and continue with sacrifices? Should African Christians consult the ancestors or the local sangoma for deliverance? How does the Bible exhort Africans to seek deliverance from the problem of evil? Will we find salvation through a blend of the Christian faith and traditional practices?
The Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver Us from Evil”
The Bible gives one solution for seeking deliverance from evil: prayer (Matthew 6:13). Now, this can be difficult for us to hear, especially considering that our worldview provides us with various alternatives that promise to resolve our problems. Practices handed down by our forefathers, which we’ve implemented and seen fruits from. When we ask our neighbours or family, they recommend one thing when we’re suffering. But Jesus teaches that prayer is foundational. It is the greatest tool at our disposal, when seeking deliverance from evil.