And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Of all the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer, this is the most striking and troubling. Its meaning is not evident on the surface. Jesus is here making demands on our minds and spirits to unravel a problem. The problem is obvious; how can we ask God not to lead us into temptation when we know that it is not God who leads us into temptation, but Satan. After all, James tells us that no one can say that he is tempted by God, for God tempts no one (1:13). James places the origin of temptation within, “but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire…” In short, Satan may tempt, but he needs something from us to work with! Like Adam and Eve, we fall into sin because we want to do it, not because “The Devil made me do it.” Our problem, then, is why Jesus is so intent on us to ask the Father not to lead us into temptation.

I think the key to the problem lies in the opening phrase of the prayer, “Our Father.” We mentioned before that this is the door to the whole prayer, and here in the last petition we see that this is vitally so. Being a father myself, I find that I want to give my kids everything good that is in my power. This is true of earthly fathers who are evil, as well as our heavenly Father, who is pure (Matt. 7:11). We must conclude that God, who has power to give all His children everything with no limits, has a desire to do just that! Jesus is therefore encouraging us to engage God with regard to His fatherly desire to give us everything we want. God knows that many of the things we desire would destroy us, however great or small, physical or even spiritual. The strange thing is that sometimes God even gives us these things! I have seen so many of God’s children crash and fall because of gifts God has given them!!!!!

In this prayer, Jesus is placing upon us the responsibility to ask the Father not to give us anything that would destroy us. Only God knows what these things are. I see what other of God’s children have, and they seem to get along wonderfully with them, and I want it to! It may be that if I pine for it like I see one of my kids pining for something, that God will give it to me. After all, God has a deeper longing to make us happy and bend to our desires than we will ever know. In praying this prayer, therefore, we are asking God not to give us anything that will lead us into danger. This brings us to union with God as the earlier petition, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We know that left to ourselves we would willfully self destruct! We must engage our wills in this prayer so that we ask God not to give to us otherwise good things that we might long for, but that we are not suited for. It is the prayer of contentment.

I cannot help myself here but think of that old movie “Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory” with Gene Wilder. Obviously God is not emotionally detached like Willy when the kids self destruct, but the ethos of the film speaks to this petition for me. The world is a beautiful but dangerous place; we are delivered from much evil by praying this prayer! What do you think?

14 Responses to “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

  1. Michael Trollo Says:

    Fr. John,
    Yes we know God is a good God! The Father was the initiating person in the ultimate plan for salvation. He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and thereby secure for us salvation.He sent Jesus into the world…leading Him continually.The Word says that He (Jesus) was tempted in every way such as we. Was the Father leading Him ? Was the Omniscent Father aware that as he lead His Son By the Holy Spirit, He would meet temptation? Is temptation an agent of God to “test” faith? To grow faith? Is or can temptation be a gateway to blessing?Is it temptation that is wrong or the yielding to it?

    • Interesting thought, Mike. How can there be such a thing as faith without testing. What a strange paradox; the very thing that is set out to destroy faith is the very thing that God uses to grow faith! In this way temptation, although meant for destruction by Satan, is the very means to spiritual growth and blessing when we overcome through Jesus. Therefore, from one perspective, temptation does come from God (cf. Gen 22).

  2. Michael Trollo Says:

    Not that we should wish for temptation, or pray for it, but the inevitability of temptation makes it an obstacle to conquer.In every temptation God makes a way of escape!This is a conundrum spiritually, what God allows to happen to me for His Glory and my ultimate benefit.

  3. Michael Trollo Says:

    I recall as a father when my Rebecca was about a year old and I was in my den and our ironingboard was up and a hot iron was sitting on an ironstand on top . The hot iron had a red light blinking on it which caught the attention of my daughter. She reached up to touch it several times and I warned her that it was hot and it could burn her fingers if she touched it. However the next time she reached up to touch the hot iron, I let her. She immediately cried out and ran to me crying and showing me her two fingers thst were now red. Why did I alow such a thing to try and teach my daughter that the iron was hot?? No! I wanted to teach her that she could trust her father! I knew that there would be other temptations in her life that I may not have a chance to speak more than once to STOP! If she ran out in the street after a ball and I yelled Stop she might listen if she trusted that what I instucted her about was trustworthy.

    • I think this wonderful analogy from your life expands what i was trying to say in the post above. Temptations are all around us; we would not learn if God protected us from them all!

  4. Michael Trollo Says:

    The Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the desert where He was tempted by the Devil! Would we want this type of battle?No I wouldn’t desire it in fact I may pray that the Lord would not lead me so, I would pray that every day!

    • I hear what you are saying Mike, but I wonder if the temptation in the desert (succeeding where Israel failed), which happened at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the prayer/temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane (succeeding where Adam & Eve failed), which happened at the very end of His ministry, sheds light on every Christian’s journey of prayer. Jesus, though born divine, still had to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men (Luke 2;52). Can we say that Jesus “learned” to prey in the desert facing temptation? Can we say that His success prepared Him for Gethsemane, and Gethsemane for the cross? Is so, prayer is the very place where we meet the Devil as well! What do you think of this?

      • Michael Trollo Says:

        Was Jesus’s victory over Satan in the wilderness.the reason He withdrew to the wilderness to be alone with God?Jacob builded an altar where he wrestled with God and that altar has been being visited ever since. Are the places of trial destined to become altars of a victorios life. Does He give us overcoming life, or life as we overcome?Gethsemane was the place He withdrew with His disciples as He faced His stiffest temptation.Prayer which is so often a defensive position that we take appears an offensive weapon as well. When prayer becomes for me a thing chosen out of a deep need for communion with the Lord, rather than a desperate sort of “last choice”, “last resort’, then I think you are right!

      • Michael Trollo Says:

        Yes! Fr John I see that! Jesus did have to succeed where Israel and Adam failed and thereby lost fellowship with God. INCEDIBLE! I hadn’t seen it like that before

  5. Mike, I love your question, “Does He give us overcoming life, or life as we overcome.” Wow! Do you think that the answer is yes to both?

  6. Byron Wheaton Says:

    Good dialogue gentlemen. May I add another perspective, this time drawn from industry. Most companies who manufacture product have some sort of quality control process. The point is to make sure that the product measures up to the standards that are required of it.

    Can temptation serve as God’s quality control process in our lives to see how we are being shaped and what he still needs work on in us? Now it is still a painful process which we naturally don’t want to go through. Hence we ask not to be subjected to it. But often the process is for our own good. I think that you both make that point. But it is necessary and therefore the request continues, “but deliver us from evil.” Does that add to the discussion?

    Byron

  7. Welcome aboard, Byron!

    Your comment does put a new twist on this. Who wants to be tempted even if it is necessarily part of God’s “quality control” process? If Jesus didn’t seem to relish it, then it is only natural that we wouldn’t either, and to ask God for reprieve. However, when it comes, as it inevitably will, we have to embrace it with the plea, “but deliver us from evil.” Did i catch what you are saying, Byron?

  8. Byron Wheaton Says:

    Yes, I believe so. When the test does come, we do not want to be found wanting. That can only occur as God is at work in us to enable us to go through the temptation unscathed. Hence “deliver us from evil.” Is the story of Abraham and Isaac an suitable illustration of the process perhaps?!

  9. Yes, Byron, Gen 22 is the parade example of what is going on here in testing. Certainly Abraham did not relish the moment, but was profoundly changed when he got through it. He faced Satan and His own fears through it, and God delivered him from himself and the devil who was most certainly there to bring him down by the same test that God used to strengthen him!

    Byron, your comment got me going! We need to be like Jesus and with the rest of our lives must set our face resolutely, like Jesus going to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), to meet whatever testing is before us. I just thought of Durer’s The Knight, Death, and the Devil, and the city on the hill which is Jerusalem, our mother, our home!

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