LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Take a few minutes to pause in silence, to breathe deep, and to recenter your thoughts, your focus, and your affections on God.
“As I enter now into prayer, I pray the words of Psalm 23:1-3:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.”
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE. -MATTHEW 6:13
The first question that is posed when we arrive at this portion of the Lord’s Prayer is, “Why would God ever lead us into temptation in the first place?” That question, though, comes from a misunderstanding of the word that is translated here into “temptation”. In James 1:2-3, that same word is translated into “trial”:
CONSIDER IT PURE JOY, MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, WHENEVER YOU FACE TRIALS OF MANY KINDS, BECAUSE YOU KNOW THAT THE TESTING OF YOUR FAITH PRODUCES PERSEVERANCE. -JAMES 1:2
Under the duress of approximately 725,000 pounds per square inch, and at temperatures of 2000 – 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, carbon materials become a diamond. And in the same way, God will often use struggle, trials, and tests to help us become more dependent on Him, and to become who He’s called us to be.
Take some time to reflect on your life, and how God has used trials to form you more and more into his image, and to prepare you for the things that were yet to come. Spend a few moments praising God for those trials, for “the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
EVEN THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE DARKEST VALLEY, I WILL FEAR
NO EVIL, FOR YOU ARE WITH ME; YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF, THEY
COMFORT ME.” - PSALM 23:4
If God will often use tests and trials as a good thing, then why should we pray that God would not lead us into them?
First, Satan will jump on the opportunity to take our moments of testing and exploit them for our ruin. 1 Peter 5:8 describes him as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He knows that it is in trials that we are most susceptible to temptation, so we must remain alert.
Second, we should pray that God would steer us away from temptations, tests, and trials because they are not for the faint of heart. Even Jesus, in the Garden before he was betrayed, prayed (Luke 22:42), “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” However, he also gives us the model of submission and obedience to God, when he followed up that prayer with, “yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Lastly, if we truly know ourselves; our weaknesses; our vulnerabilities; then it only makes sense to pray, “lead us not into temptation.” Temptation may be our lot, but only a fool will make it his preference. The rest of us will embrace Paul’s warning: SO, IF YOU THINK YOU ARE STANDING FIRM, BE CAREFUL THAT YOU DON’T FALL! - 1 CORINTHIANS 10:12
“God, may You guide me far away from temptation. I don’t want to risk damaging myself or dishonoring You, lest I fall. Nevertheless, I pray with Jesus, ‘Not my will, but Yours be done.’ And I trust that with any trial I face, You will work in and through it for my good and Your glory.”
NO TEMPTATION HAS OVERTAKEN YOU EXCEPT WHAT IS COMMON TO MANKIND. AND GOD IS FAITHFUL; 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 ENDURE IT.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 10:13
This scripture gives us an incredible promise. While temptations, tests, and trials are inevitable, as long as our faith remains in Christ alone, we can be sure that we will be able to endure. And the thing about endurance is that it is built up over time.
If you want to run a marathon, you’re not going to show up on race day having not trained. You’re going to put in the time and the work to build up your endurance so that you’re ready. In the same way, we shouldn’t wait for the trials to stretch or develop or build up our faith. We should take every opportunity we have, so when the trials come, we are ready to endure.
This is why fasting is so important, and not just as a beginning of the year exercise. Fasting is an intentional test; a trial of sorts; where we learn to depend fully on God to give us strength and sustenance. It is an opportunity to stretch our faith muscles and to build up our ability to endure. Fasting should be incorporated into our regular habits and routines, whatever that looks like for you. Maybe it’s to fast one week a quarter; maybe it’s to fast one day a month; maybe to fast one meal a week. There isn’t a specific formula for everyone, but the principle remains the same: to deny the FLESH in order to seek a response in the SPIRIT, even if that response is simply that your spirit is built up through testing.
“So do not be unrealistic in not budgeting for temptation, nor foolhardy enough to court it; but when it comes, do not doubt God’s power to deliver from the evil it brings, and to keep you from stumbling as you pick your way through it. When you are not conscious of temptation, pray, ‘lead us not into temptation,’ and when you are conscious of it, pray ‘deliver us from evil,’ and you will live.”
- J. I. Packer