Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
Prayer to the Father would be incomplete without a reference to our future. What type of home does not prepare children for their future? A good earthly father or mother realize that their mission in life as parents is not just to keep the children alive and maintain peace and harmony in the home, but also to help their children grasp the potential of their life and to prepare for what lay ahead. Our heavenly Father is likewise concerned with our future.
The Lord did not leave off the prayer at the prayer for the sustaining of physical life and the receiving and sharing of forgiveness, but He pressed on to the issue of God’s leadership in our lives. This is the second of the spiritual petitions in the Model Prayer and is a request for guidance, wisdom, and protection. Like the other requests, it is laced with theological perspectives and, in fact, in just a few words reveals a Christian worldview.
Consider these concepts that are derived from this simple request. God is able to help us both in the time of temptation and in advance of it to avoid temptation. He delivers us from evil and as followers of Christ we can expect the future to be bright. Already David had written, “The Lord is my shepherd … he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:1-2), later Paul would write, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14), and without contradicting this truth of God’s leadership Christ placed the emphasis on the fact that both our hearts and this world tend to lead us away from God into temptation and evil. It is to our heavenly Father we must appeal and ask for a redirection in life.
Imagine we are journeying along the path in a forest and at some point the scenery changes. The sun hides behind clouds and the path ahead turns dark and ominous and we feel drawn along it by an irresistible force, toward some place that in another part of our minds we do not want to go. That is what temptation is like to us. It divides the mind and pulls the heart in two – one part of us wants to go the way of God and another wants to go the way of the world. Living in a sinful world as we do, with our own minds, in which “dwell no good thing” (Romans 7:18), susceptible to following the dark path, a believer in Christ longs for deliverance and looks for another path that leads to light. We feel ourselves carried along in the wrong direction by the lusts and pride within us and around us. As Paul wrote, we “have a desire to do what is good,” but we “cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18). So what can we do in such moments? The answer afforded by the Model Prayer is we can pray.
On the Sea of Galilee came an image, a drama acted out in real life that has become larger than just one life, an event in the ministry of Jesus that imaged the struggles of the soul in temptation. Christ was walking upon the water when Peter cried out to Him, asking for a specific command that He too could walk upon the water. Jesus then commanded him, “Come!” Peter was correct in understanding that faith must rest upon a command of God and not upon our own whimsical thoughts. Peter got out of the boat and began to walk toward Christ, upheld by the power of God, but as he saw the wind and the waves he began to sink. As he began to sink his fears rose and his faith lessened. That which he should have been standing above, namely the waves of the sea, he began to struggle with, fight against, and try to swim against, and the waves were winning the battle.
Here is an image that we can relate to, as it is our lusts and pride that allow the evil one to pull us under. The further we are carried along in temptation, the more tempted we become. Temptation is simply a delusion based upon a lie of the devil fueled by our own fallen nature and unholy desires. In temptation we find ourselves fighting against those things which, in Christ, we should stand above. There is no point to arguing with a devil, or to give in to a little temptation as though that would convince him to release us. The evil one and even the weakest of his demons can outwit the brightest of the human race. He is a deceiver who can overwhelm us in our confusion and all but destroy us.
How long Peter struggled against the waves and with his own fears we are not told. It seems only like seconds in the story (Matthew 14:22-33), but in real life this type of spiritual condition can persist for years. We believe but not really, we trust but not completely, we are deceived and dragged under, and we put up a fight but we are overmatched. Where are you fighting the waves of temptation just now? Are you being defeated and mastered by the things you should stand above? Peter cried out finally, “Lord, save me!” This is the only way to rise above temptation, to make an appeal to heaven for deliverance.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13, God promises you that He is working behind the scenes in your life: “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 stand up under it.” The statement of Christ in the prayer reveals an important principle of God: temptations increase when we are following the wrong paths in life. God’s answer to avoid being overwhelmed by temptation is to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11-20). Just as the enemy on the battlefield will extort every weakness, so will our spiritual enemy, so we cannot just have preparation in one area or two or even 100 areas, if we deliberately intend to avoid surrendering any single thing to God. We are to build ourselves up with the knowledge of the word of God and the guidance and filling of the Spirit so that we are able to resist.
The response of the Bible is consistently taking a firm stance against temptation: to resist it, staunchly and completely. It was said that when asked if he would want to be Caesar, Mark Anthony pushed the office away with the back of his hand, not with the front of his hand. The backhanded push indicated a heart that really desired the office but would not admit it – and a backhanded push never allows us to be free from that thing we truly want. A front handed shove, however, is a symbol of complete rejection and resistance to the idea. This is how we are to resist temptation, with hearts submitted to God and with total resistance to the temptation: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
We can be certain that this day we will be tempted. Our success in standing against the temptation is not just to have a few verses of Scripture memorized and hope that will be enough. The evil one’s works are thwarted by the word of God, but that does not mean that we can grab a verse here and there and seek to defeat Satan that way. The word of God that makes the difference is the amount that we have let resonate in our heart to change our perspectives and thoughts, that has become ours, not merely in mindless memorization but in heartfelt and understanding obedience to it. Those who follow the Spirit’s leadership walk closely with God in their values first and their choices second. If we imagine that victory over temptation comes merely by making the right outward choices, we have missed the biblical message and have already given into our lusts and pride. It is in our heart and our values first that we are led.
An attractive girl, we’ll call her Alice, sat in my office frustrated, confessing her sexual promiscuity. Though a professing Christian she went through a period of running from God and before she came back to Christ she had slept with many men. The she began to feel the pain and shame of her life style and came back to church. It was at church, one day, that one of her former sexual partners (the word “lover” here would be incorrect) surprised her by showing up in church. Of course, he was surprised to see her there, too, and they went out to eat and, you guessed it, to his place for sex. Her response was that she it wasn’t her fault! After all she was in church. I am not sure this girl had at that point in her life had really felt sorrow for her sins. Life was still all about her and she came back to church to find a better life, not in contrition of her sins. So, her heart and values were not in agreement with God, so He was not able to lead her in her choices.
During a time of fasting we should remember that fasting does not guarantee that we will have a “temptation-safe-zone.” Christ when He was led by the Spirit out into the desert to be tempted fasted for forty days, yet He faced His greatest temptations during that time. The answer to temptation is to get your life so connected to the word of God and the Spirit of God, in an attitude of obedience and submission, that there is no weakness in your defense.
Lord, we thank you that You do not desert us in temptation, that You go ahead of us and prepare the way, and You stand with us and strengthen us in our moment of need. Burn your word within our hearts and cause us to love its truth and to submit to its commands. Lead us in the way everlasting and deliver us from evil. Amen.