Lead us not into temptation…
Questions for Reflection
- Why do we face temptation?
- Why do we need God’s help when we are tempted?
- How has God promised to help?
- How does this prayer help us grow in our awareness of sin and God’s grace?
- How can you implement this prayer in your life?
What’s Around the Corner
One of the most common ways to imagine life is a path. The image works because we know where we are and where we have been, but we don’t know what is around the next turn. As a result, our view of the future is limited and often a challenge to predict.
The scriptures are full of this image, the wide and the narrow ways, the paths of righteousness, the shepherd that guides us through unknown valleys. It’s no surprise that when we pray, we turn our attention to that unseen horizon of the future. We can’t help wondering and sometimes worrying about what lies ahead.
When Jesus taught this prayer to His disciples, He taught them to pray for daily bread and for the difficult daily work of forgiveness. But He also turned their attention toward the future. What Jesus taught them to pray about things to come was that they might not be led into temptation, that they might avoid evil.
Jesus taught them to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
When we choose to follow Christ, we offer Him both our past and our future. We ask Him to forgive us for the wrongs we have committed. We also entrust Him with our future.
True repentance, which seeks the forgiveness of past sins, also longs to avoid them in the future.
Distrust of Ourselves
The challenge is, we’ve learned enough about our own sinfulness not to trust ourselves. Even the great men of the Bible stumbled their way toward obedience. Peter famously denied knowing Christ. Paul called himself chief amongst sinners.
The truth is, these men loved Jesus deeply and longed for their lives to be obedient to him, and yet they too battled against hearts that were prone to lead them down the wrong paths. As the prophet Jeremiah put it, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
We pray that we might not face temptation because we know these hearts are prone to wrong affections. We hold to Paul’s promise, “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
So, is it that simple? Pray not to be tempted, and you can count on a smooth and easy path toward heaven? If you get this prayer right, can you count on a comfortable and untried life?
You and I both know that isn’t true.
What Can’t Be Avoided
Jesus didn’t just teach them to pray about the temptations they might avoid; He also taught them to pray about the evil there would be no avoiding. He taught them to pray that they would be delivered from evil.
There is no escaping it, not yet at least. This world is broken. It is filled with evil and wrong. In small ways and in painful life-altering ways, we experience it too.
The night before Jesus was crucified, just moments before He was betrayed by a close friend, He knelt in the silence of an olive grove and prayed. He knew what was around the corner. He had long known where His path was leading. He had come to be the sacrifice that took away the sins of the world. But that night, He felt the full weight of it. He had been tempted before. Now too, he prayed to His father.
“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death… Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
It is just as He taught His disciples to pray as well. If it is possible, let me avoid this temptation, let me escape evil, let whatever is around the corner not harm me, but in all things, I trust You.
Deliver me. Not my will, but Your will be done. My life is in Your hands.
What we learn from this portion of Jesus’s prayer is that we should not be naive about the danger of temptation, we should pray and seek to avoid sin, and we should trust God to see us through what is unavoidable.
Deliver us in all things.