When Jesus taught His disciples this pattern to pray, He started by pointing them to their Heavenly Father. I believe that is important to remember at all times, but especially during “lead me” and “deliver me” prayers. We all know that not everyone is safe to follow – and not all deliverers really have the power and wisdom to actually deliver. But our Heavenly Father sees the whole picture. He knows us inside and out, and He sees down the road to where we are going. He can be trusted to lead… and deliver.
To be honest, I never thought much about this line from The Lord’s Prayer. Somehow it was the beginning of the end… part of the Amen. And I really didn’t understand it either. If Jesus were telling us to ask Father God not to lead us into temptation, did that mean that God wanted to lead us there? That didn’t sit right because God is a Good Father…. so I began digging and reading.
The word “tempt” means to “entice or attempt to entice (someone) to do… or acquire something …that they find attractive but know to be wrong or not beneficial.” The apostle James tells us in Chapter 1…
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me” for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.
That verse clarifies that God never tempts us. Period. But what did Jesus mean when He told us to pray “… and lead us not into temptation…?”
The more I thought and prayed about this, the more I believe that I was reading the phrase incorrectly. I have been putting the NOT in the wrong place.
I’ve been reading ….
… Lead us NOT….. into temptation.
I should be reading….
… Lead us….. NOT into temptation.
Do you see the difference? The first reading sounds like God would lead us into temptation and we’re asking Him not to lead us there. The second is asking God to lead us away from temptation!
We are asking God to lead us away from places, situations and people that tempt us to sin. For example, if my problem is that I need to lose weight, I can pray that God will lead me away from the bakery… or all-you-can-eat buffets. If I have trouble staying sexually pure, I can pray that God will lead me away from suggestive movies, books, and too much alone time with the opposite sex. If I have a problem with complaining, God can lead me to walk in gratitude instead. When we ask God to lead us away from temptations – especially ones we don’t even know about – He will. Sometimes these are people who will pull us down… or away.
That is fairly easy to understand. Let’s dig a bit deeper. The second thing I found is the word translated “tempt” is also rendered as “test” or “trial.” God will not lead us into temptations, but He will sometimes lead us into trials and tests. And He does this not to show us how weak we are, but to teach and train us. He may show us where we need to grow – or that we are growing and trusting Him more than the last time… that we are making progress! Sometimes these trials are caused by decisions we have made… or that others have made. They are not always what God really wanted to happen, but He will use our choices and difficult situations to train and teach us… to grow us up!
What else does scripture tell us about being tempted? The gospel of Matthew, chapter 3, records the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Please note that Father God clearly says “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” So what happens immediately afterwards? Chapter 4 continues the story. The very next verse says,
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Does this sound like what a loving father would do? God had just said how pleased He was with Jesus and how much He loved Jesus!
Here again, the word “tempted” is better understood as “tested”. Jesus will encounter some trials designed to teach and equip Him for His purpose. Did you ever think about Jesus, the Son of God, needing to “learn” something? Remember, He is both fully God, and FULLY MAN. He laid aside the perks of heaven to come down here and live as we do. Hebrews 5 tells us that….
8 (Jesus) Son though he was … learned obedience from what he suffered.
Jesus, totally loved by Father God, was “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness, fasted for 40 days, was then tempted by Satan. The correct word here is tempted…. Satan is the tempter! God tests. Satan tempts. Jesus met Satan head on, and was victorious. Satan threw scripture verses at Jesus, trying to entice Him – when He was weak from hunger – to deny or short-cut His purpose here on earth. But Jesus didn’t fall for his tricks. He knew the scriptures too! And He also knew His Father… that He is GOOD, and so are His purposes…so Satan couldn’t trick Him.
This is where the “deliver us from evil” part comes into focus. When Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted, God knew that the enemy would be there! In the same way, when we go through tests and trials, the enemy of our souls will be there – the one who not only wants us to fail – he wants to destroy us!
Jesus was prepared for this battle. First of all, He knew His Father. And He knew His Word. I’ve been told that when people are being trained to recognize counterfeit money, they study the real thing! This helps them to recognize the fakes. As we spend time in prayer and read the truth of scripture, we learn to really KNOW God and what He is like. We can then recognize the enemy. You see, when the devil whispers in your ear….
- “Where is God now?”
- “You are never going to make it!”
- “You are worthless!”
- “God lied to you!”
- “You are a failure!” … and so on.
… it sounds like your own voice rattling around in your head, but it’s not. We need to recognize those thoughts and who is really doing the talking . They are the enemy’s propaganda!
We need to focus for a minute on God’s purposes for us. Did He just want servants? No. He already had the angels. Remember “In the beginning,” when God created man, He made man in His image. His desire is to have us as His children, created in His image. But after the fall of Adam and Eve, everything changed. Yes, mankind is still a triune being – spirit, soul and body – but with dead spirits until “born again” by the Holy Spirit. God’s goal is for us to become like Jesus. Does that seem impossible? It is – in our own strength. There is absolutely no way we can pray enough, do enough, learn enough or suffer enough to be more like Jesus.
So, is it hopeless? No! We are told in Philippians 2 that He is working in us…
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Our spirits, once born again, must grow up. Ephesians 4 tells us…
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Jesus is growing His church. He is the Head… we are His Body. The body follows where the head is leading.
When I think of tests and trials I think of a child learning to walk. We watch our little one pulling up on furniture… and falling on her bottom. Then she tries again, and plops down. She may even throw a temper tantrum! Finally, she pulls up again and stays up. She attempts a first step… and down she goes. Soon she is tottering between mommy and daddy. We make sure nothing is in her way, and we are there to catch her just in case. As she progresses, we don’t move everything. She learns to navigate around toys and furniture. She learns to get up when she falls. She is getting stronger. The next thing you know, she is running… everywhere. She has progressed through the “trials” of toys in her way and not being caught every time she wobbles, and falling down. She is growing.
This is really a very simplistic picture of our growing into Christ. Father God knows His purpose for our lives. He knows where He is leading us and what we need to be capable of when we get there. What lessons will we need to have learned? What strengths will we need to develop? The bible is full of examples of God using trials (life lessons) to prepare His people to fulfill their purpose. If David hadn’t learned to shepherd sheep, fight off the lions and bears, and lead a small army of men while running for his life, would he have been ready to lead the nation of Israel? If Joseph, the youngest son who was left to care for the sheep, hadn’t been sold into slavery by his brothers, hadn’t learned to be a good steward of his master’s household, hadn’t been in prison so he could interpret dreams for the baker and cupbearer of Pharaoh, would he have been in position to save the nation of Egypt – and his father’s whole family? No. In Romans 8 we have a really great promise…
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
So, should this verse more accurately be translated “and lead us not into test and trials”? What did Jesus do? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew He was about to face a really intense trial. Was He looking forward to it? Humanly speaking, I don’t think so because He prayed and asked His Father “Is there any another way?” And then He said, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
Terry’s paraphrase…. “Father, lead us away from temptations, and when we are tested, help us to remember that You are GOOD, and to recognize the enemy and use the Sword of the Spirit – Your Word.
Father God, I thank you so much for your unending love that you lavish – pour on extravagantly – upon us… upon me. Father, your ways are so much higher than my ways, and you are Good. Please lead me. Lead me away from people, places and thoughts that will harm me. Lead me closer to You… closer to Your heart … closer to your people. Keep my feet on the right path, going where you want me to go.
And Father, help me to discipline my mind to stay on track, too. When thoughts go racing through my mind, make me aware of their source. As I read your Word, sink YOUR TRUTHS deep into my heart. Help me to focus on You, Your many blessings, and Your truth – about me, about You, and about those around me.
In Jesus Name, I ask these things.