We are approaching the end of ‘The Lord’s prayer’ within my ‘sermon on the mount’ series. Last week we looked at the huge issue of forgiveness and forgiving others just as we have been forgiven.
Verse 13 is split up into two phrases which go ‘hand in hand’. This week I am going to look at the negative aspect “And lead us not into temptation” and next week the positive statement of “but deliver us from evil.”
Today’s phrase on the surface could give us cause for concern. Surely God is not tempting us? After all it says in James 1:13 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.
We understand the word ‘temptation’ today in purely negative ways, however at the time of Jesus it did not just mean to cause to sin. The meaning had the idea of being tried and tested or put under trial. It is clear from the bible that God did allow certain trials to come people’s way to see if they would prove true. A classic example is Abraham who was prepared to sacrifice His son Isaac. When Abraham passed the test, God said “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12)
Joseph too, in Genesis 39, was severely tempted when Potiphar’s wife kept pressing him to sleep with her. He passed the test even though it meant being in prison for at least another 2 years. Through this trial, God had seen his character and rewarded Him in due time.
And what about Jesus? He was tempted in the wilderness after fasting for 40 days, as recorded in Matthew 4. This was of course not the only time Jesus was tempted. Even in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion He was in torment and asked the father if there was another way possible. But He stood firm. The bible makes it clear that Jesus went through every temptation that we go through, He did not receive special privileges;
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
I believe this prayer about God not leading us into temptation, means we are asking not to be tempted prematurely or unnecessarily. We are asking God to restrain us from heading into trials and temptations of our own making. We want His help rather than coping on our own. Praying this prayer earnestly, reveals your utter dependence on God and a realisation of your own weakness and a determination to do what’s right. You will do all in your power, as far as it depends on you, to avoid temptation. You are following the example of Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Notice that the first thing to do is ‘watch’, you need to be mindful of what temptations you are vulnerable to. The phrase “Don’t play with fire” springs to mind. Find out what the fire is and then don’t play with it!
After we have done all we can to avoid temptation, sometimes God still allows them to get through, but take heart that He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
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)
Next week we will look at what it means to be delivered from evil.