- Keith Harris
Jesus Teaches About Prayer, Part 6
Jesus prayed, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Many would respond that certainly God would never lead us into temptation. This verse then becomes the more puzzling phrase of this prayer. Notice a couple of similar texts. Matthew 26:41 says, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:2, 12). Understanding this request requires a look at the Greek word “pārasmos”. This word is often translated as trial or test. This is the same word for temptation. This word is used in Hebrews 2:18 which says, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” The same Greek word (pārasmos) is used of Abraham in Hebrews 11:17, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac...” It is used of Jesus in Matthew 4:1, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Certainly, temptation is a reality for us all. To avoid temptation entirely would be to place ourselves above Jesus. The implication of this verse in Hebrews is that there was benefit in the temptation.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. We make a significant distinction between the words, “temptation,” “test,” and “trial”. Many questions arise in this study. Was Jesus really tempted to give in or was he strong in his resolve? Different people come to different conclusions, and for various reasons. We make a distinct difference that is not easily discerned in the words alone. But two things are clear in scripture: 1) God does not tempt anyone to do evil, 2) Satan is out to get us by pulling us into evil.
First, God does not tempt us to do that which is contrary to his will. James says, “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 is not out to get us. He is not trying to trap us. He is not sitting on his throne, looking down just waiting for us to mess up so he can zap us. God desires for us to do his will. He does not tempt us to do evil. Second, Satan is out to get us by pulling us into evil. Peter says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is real. His desire is for us to turn away from God, to disregard the will of God. And he works diligently to trap us, to cause us to question the will of God, to see the pleasure of sin. It is Satan who is out to get us, not God.
The truth is, we all have areas of weakness. We all have those vulnerable spots in our spiritual journey where Satan seeks to penetrate, driving a wedge between us and God. The request of this prayer is that God keep will us from that place of vulnerability. We need to learn where we are vulnerable. Think about a infants soft spot (anterior fontanel). It’s that place on the top of their head where the bones in the skull have not fully fused, leaving the infant vulnerable to any impact. Where is your spiritual soft-spot? Ask the Lord to help you. And don’t go there.
Jesus asked the Father to protect us from the 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). Paul talked about extinguishing the flaming arrows of the evil one in Ephesians 6:16. Because Satan is alive, active, and often victorious, we fear that we may fall and become his prey. He sows tares in the wheat field (Matthew 13:28). He snatches the Word of God out of men’s hearts (Matthew 13:19). He goes about as a strong lion seeking his prey (1 Peter 5:8). Paul understood this real and present danger. Notice what he says in 1 Thessalonians 3:5, “For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.” Some give it as “the evil one” because this word is singular. Temptation comes from the evil one, and we must constantly be alert. But thankfully, we are not left to deal with Satan using our own power. And thankfully, God provides a way out. Paul teaches us that God provides a way of escape, “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).
Paul illustrates this passage in writing to the Thessalonians. “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3). We need the help of others as we seek to do the will of God. We cannot do it alone. As iron sharpens iron, we sharpen each other. God has provided a place where no one stands alone – the Church. And God stands alongside each one of us as we strive to do his will.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:9-13).