“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6: 9-13)
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”
This sixth petition – which is made up of two sections – is linked to the previous one: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”. Having found forgiveness, it is fitting that we now pray that we would not be led to temptation and sin again. While we live on this earth, it is inevitable that we will be tempted time and again. But we must strive to keep our lives pure and clean.
Though short and simple, this prayer provides deep insight into how we might grow in personal holiness. At first glance, we may think that the first and second parts of the petition serve the same purpose. Dr Peter Masters explains the difference. The first part “And lead us not into temptation” is about “preparing for the great battle against sin. It is a prayer of preparation. ‘Deliver us from evil’ is a prayer to God to use all means to correct, keep and deliver us once we are in the battle. It is a prayer for when temptation is flooding over us and we must resist it by the power of the Holy Spirit … One asks for sanctification to equip us for this battle, while the other asks for sanctification in the thick of the battle” (Sword & Trowel 1998 No. 4).
Some of us may be baffled by the words, “Lead us not into temptation”. Surely God will not lead His children into temptation? The Bible tells us that God is never the author of evil. The Lord is pure, holy and righteous in all His ways. He is good, loving and kind to His children. His thoughts are always of us, to do us good: “Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Ps. 40: 5). He will not harm us nor tempt us to sin.
The apostle James reiterates this truth: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (Jas. 1:13-14). God will not promote anything that is repugnant to His holy nature. The true cause of evil lies in our own depraved hearts. Hence, when we sin, we cannot excuse ourselves or charge its cause to God.
What further thoughts are included in this petition?
When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation”, we acknowledge our inability to fight the battle without God’s help. Conscious of our weaknesses and vulnerability, we tell the Lord that we are helpless in our warfare against sin. We need to depend wholly on Him to guard us against the wiles of the Devil and our own fleshly lusts.
Our adversary, the Devil, is a wily and dangerous foe. Constantly seeking our downfall, he hurls evil thoughts into our minds and makes sin appealing to us. Described by the apostle Peter “as a roaring lion”, Satan is ever on the prowl “seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5: 8). As we offer up this petition, let us be mindful of our own frailties and the insidious devices of the evil one.
o Tender conscience
Because of our daily struggles with the flesh and the assaults of the devil, it is needful to ask God for a tender conscience – one that will be stirred at the first sign of temptation. Such a lively conscience will warn us early of the dire consequences of sin so that we will refrain from any wrongdoing.
When offering this prayer, we are asking the Lord to help us to know ourselves better. Every Christian has his or her own particular sinful tendency. It may be self-love, pride, anger, malice, laziness, covetousness or an uncontrolled tongue. Knowing our failings helps us to be conscious of them so that we will not put ourselves in the pathway of sin.
In this petition, we seek God’s direction in life’s important issues like career, marriage, family and finances. This will guard us against making rash or foolish decisions that we will regret later in life. Dr Masters elaborates on the grave consequences of failing to seek God’s guidance: “The moment we behave as ‘free agents’ who can do more or less what we like as long as it does not involve serious sin, then we are on the road to grievous sin. Soon we take decisions for our own benefit all the time, and that will lead to increasing sinfulness. This prayer of preparation asks to be constantly reminded that we are children of God, under His rule and direction, and that in all the major decisions of life we must seek to honour Him” (ibid).
o Snares of prosperity
“Lead us not into temptation” is a prayer not to be provided with more than what we can handle. Because of our depraved nature, our triumphs, achievements and possessions may make us proud, worldly and forgetful of God. Hence, in this petition, we ask for grace to humbly accept God’s provisions – be they little or much: “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: 9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov. 30: 8-9).
o Hatred of sin
Sin is an abomination to the Lord: “The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD” (Prov. 15: 9a). As His children, we are to view sin the way God does. In this petition, we ask God for an abhorrence of sin so that we will recoil from it. Pray that the Lord will give us a clear view of sin and its sad consequences.
Even as we pray for a hatred of sin, we should also plead for a love of holiness and righteousness. Ask the Lord to grant us a delight in His Word that will keep us from sin: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Ps. 119: 11 cf. Rom. 7: 22). (… to be continued)