At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matt. 6:9-13).
The first part of this petition is a prayer that we not be led into temptation. This requires a personal context—that of a tempter. And this in turn helps us understand the translation of the second part of the petition. Should it be deliver us from evil or deliver us from the evil one? While the King James renders this as evil generally (along with the ESV), I think it would be better to take it as evil one.
The word evil is an adjective, and in either case it is being used as a substantival adjective. We are either asking to be delivered from the evil thing or from the evil one. When we say “the good die young,” there is a noun implied in there, meaning that we are intending to say that the good men die young. In the same way, we are asking for deliverance from the evil what? The adjective here is poneros, and there are other places where this same word, without any accompanying noun, is simply translated as evil one.
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15, ESV).
“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3, ESV).
Ultimately the argument here should be contextual. Is the Lord changing subject in the middle of the sentence (from personal temptation to a concern about general evils befalling us)? I think it makes better sense to see the petition as continuous, wanting to be delivered from the temptations of the devil, and from the devil himself.
If this is the case, there is no problem with Christians thinking of the devil in personal terms, and as a personal adversary. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We have warrant for doing this in the Lord’s Prayer, which He Himself taught us to pray, while avoiding the other extreme of thinking that the prince of the power of the air has nothing better to do than to follow Herbert Schwartz around in an effort to get him to give way to the false promises of popcorn gluttony. As individual Christians, we are not that important. But at the same time, we are not unimportant either, and the Lord has taught us how to pray.