Jean’s Gospel: Introducing the Lord’s Prayer: Lead us not into temptation
“Lead us not into temptation”
In this sixth petition, we ask our Father to let nothing become a temptation to us.
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matt 18:7)
Christians live in a world that is littered with “temptations to sin.” In the Parable of the Weeds (see Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43), Jesus portrays the kingdom of heaven as spreading throughout the world, but alongside and surrounded by evil. Temptations are depicted in the Scriptures by a variety of synonyms, such as: stumbling blocks; snares; traps; pits; and darts. “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16) Our sinful nature, the world and the devil all oppose the will of God and afflict Christians with all kinds of temptations.
“For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—yet for us there is one God….” (1 Cor 8:5-6)
Temptations are the calling cards of the many “so-called gods” and “lords” which reign in the world. They are dangerous because they are designed to mislead and deceive Christians into grave spiritual peril. These perils may include drifting away from Christ or falling into false belief, serious vice or despair. Therefore, temptations should never be toyed with. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet 5:8)
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13)
God tempts no one, because temptations have evil designs. However, God does allow us to be tempted for our own good. God’s good purposes include drawing us closer to Him, strengthening our faith, and compelling us to pray. Because temptations are the “schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11) and against those schemes we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Eph 6:12), left to our own resources, we are defenseless against them. Therefore, temptations serve the salutary purpose of driving us to our Father for His protection and deliverance.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13)
Although God may sometimes allow Satan to test our faith (recall, for example, the story of Job), He always remains sovereign over Satan. Satan has no independent power to afflict God’s children. And God provides “the way of escape”.
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41)
Prayer is both a deterrent and a defensive weapon against temptations. Christians are like watchmen who stand at their posts, watching vigilantly for the schemes of the enemy. At the first sign of danger, our role is to sound the alarm in prayer and stand our ground. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul described the armor of God as enabling the Christian to “stand” (see Eph 6:11, 13, 14). “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.” (Ps 68:19)
With the Word of God and by constant prayer, God enables us to stand our ground. “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Eph 6:16-18a) As long as a Christian continues to pray, faith is still active, because without faith no one can pray. As long as faith is present, the devil has not prevailed.
The way to resist and overcome any temptation is to be watchful and constant in prayer. The Lord does not remove all temptations from us, but promises to deliver us: “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Ps 50:15) When, armed with faith and the Word, praying to our Father – lead us not into temptation – we ask our Father to fight for us against the schemes the devil, the world and the desires of our sinful nature. Even in the midst of conditions which are so oppressive that we do not know how to pray as we should, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26). We have His promise that nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Through [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:1-5)
We should never invite temptations; that would be putting God to the test. However, we should understand that we are surrounded by temptations, and we often fall into them before we realize it, because often times we are not watchful and we fail to pray. Then, when we are tempted, our first impulse is to try to fight against it with our own resources, leading to frustration and shame. However, in Christ we have the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, when we fall into temptation, let us repent, stand again, and never despair.
Suffering from temptations is a sign that we are in the world, but not of the world. Our Father uses our sufferings and even our failures for our good, enabling us to rejoice in all circumstances. In ways we may not understand or experience, God fights and prevails for us. In Christ we are children of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
‘I am your salvation!’” (Ps 35:1-3) Amen.
Next week we will continue with the seventh petition: “but deliver us from evil.”
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