Pray Then Like This: Meditations on the Lord's Prayer part 8

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

This petition is somewhat troubling. On the face of it, it seems to suggest that God leads us into temptation. But how can that be?

The Greek word translated ‘temptation’ (peirasmos) has two related meanings. It can refer neutrally to trials in general, or negatively to temptations (i.e. enticements to sin).

The Bible is not afraid to ascribe trials (or testing) to God.

After these things God tested (peiraz┼Ź) Abraham… (Genesis 22:1)

Moreover the Bible presents trials as inevitable and expected, and calls Christians to view them in a positive light.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Trials have the obvious purpose of bringing us to Christian maturity. Like the refining furnace for gold and silver, they are the fires of testing that purify and strengthen our faith. When God leads us into trials, His aim in doing so is always for our good. His purpose is to purify and strengthen our faith, so that we attain Christian maturity.

Here is the rub. Every trial inevitably brings with it temptation. They are two sides of the same coin. As Douglas Moo says, ‘Financial difficulty can tempt us to question God’s providence in our lives. The death of a loved one can tempt us to question God’s love for us. The suffering of the righteous poor and the ease of the wicked rich can tempt us to question God’s justice, or even his existence. Thus testing almost always includes temptation.’[1]

God’s intention in leading us into trials is not to entice us to sin. He has no desire or delight in seeing us fall into sin. As James tells us, ‘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 leads us into temptation only in the sense that the trials He means for our good necessarily bring with them the opportunity of temptation. It is this opportunity that Satan (the evil one) makes the most of in trying to entice us to sin.

The prayer then, while recognising the inevitability of trials, requests deliverance from the enticements to sin that always accompany the trial and which are inflamed by the evil one.

This request reminds us of our desperate need of help in overcoming temptation. Jesus’ words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane apply to each one of us. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Despite our weakness, we ought not to surrender to the enticement to sin. Rather, the prayer reminds us of our Heavenly Father's willingness to provide the help we so desperately need to triumph over the evil one. God invites us to pray to God for deliverance from the evil one.

The Bible promises that God’s answer to this request is always yes. He will always provide us with the deliverance we need. There is no temptation that we cannot be victorious over.

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 Corinthians 10:13)

If we sin after we have asked God for deliverance, we do so by neglecting to make use of the deliverance He has provided. ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ To pray this prayer with sincerity, we must be committed to resisting the temptation to sin.

A suggestion for integrating the Lord’s Prayer into family devotions/home groups:

  • Divide a white board up into 6 sections. 
  • Use the 6 petitions of the Lord’s Prayer as topic headers for each section. 
  • Under each petition jot down specific prayer items. (e.g. see below) 
  • As a group prayer through each petition.

Your kingdom come
Pray for:
·        Church supported missionaries
·        Opportunities to share gospel at work
·        Parents, friends to be saved (be specific)
·        Church evangelism programmes
·        Boldness and desire to share the gospel
·        etc

[1]Moo, D. J. (2000). The letter of James. The Pillar New Testament commentary (72). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.

Pray Then Like This
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

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