I have explained how this third clause is really messing with me. We already saw that James made it clear that the Lord will never tempt us, so the confusing part is why are we taught to pray, “Don’t lead us where we can be tempted.” It doesn’t make sense:
Our Father in heaven,
let Your name remain holy.
Bring about Your kingdom.
Manifest Your will here on earth,
as it is manifest in heaven.
Give us each day that day’s bread—no more, no less—
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive those who owe us something.
Lead us not into temptation . . . (Matthew 6:9-13)
Well, as I explained earlier, the Greek word used here includes two thoughts which are represented in English by “trials,” or sufferings which test or try, and “temptations,” which are the allurements that lead us into evil.
Well, since Jesus can’t lead us into temptation (or the allurements that lead to evil), the first one seems to be what is meant in the Lord’s prayer. A perfect example is when Jesus was praying in Gethsemane and was counting on his disciples to wait with him. Instead, they ended up falling asleep: “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”(Matthew 26:41).
There are also trials of another kind, such as persecution, spiritual conflicts, pain in our body or spirit, these may come to us as a test or as a discipline. Should we shrink from them? Well, an ideal stoic and someone with perfected faith would say, “Oh no, we need to accept them and leave the issue in our Father’s hands.” But, I will be honest and say that the believers who are aware of their weaknesses won’t be able to shake off the thought that they might fail in the conflict, and the cry you will hear from them is, “Don’t lead us into such trials,” just as our Lord prayed, “If it is possible, let this cup pass away from me” (Matthew 26:39).
The answer to the prayer may appear several different ways. It might come directly in actual exemption from the trial, or it might come in what Paul described as, “the way of escape” (I Corinthians 10:13), but more likely, it will come in the strength to bear it. It is hardly possible to read this prayer without immediately comparing it to the experience of “temptation” our Lord experienced in the Garden.
But wait, if “temptation,” or testing is so beneficial, shouldn’t we welcome the opportunity to grow and mature our faith? Well, it is true that whenever our Father tests us it is for our good, but Satan, “the tempter,” tries to exploit the situation to mess us up. Do you remember how Peter told us that our enemy “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour“? From his experience in the wilderness, Jesus knew how mean and cunning Satan is, and he did not want anyone to underestimate him or to court a meeting with him.
Also, the pressure we experience during trials and tests can be so overwhelming that no sane believer can’t help but shrink from them, in the same way, they shrink from the thought of having cancer. I can’t imagine anyone looking forward to that opportunity to increase and mature their faith! However, it the must, it is encouraging to know that they can face it bravely and confidently! These are some of the reasons it was as right for Jesus to begin his prayer in Gethsemane with “Father, remove this cup” as he was to end it with “yet not my will but your will be done!” Temptation is no picnic, my friends.
I just thought of another reason. Knowing our own proven weakness, thickheadedness, and all-around vulnerability in spiritual matters, as well as the skill Satan uses in exploiting our strong and weak points, it is imperative that we remain of sound mind and confident in our Lord. Mixing frontal assaults on the integrity of our faith with tactics of infiltration and ambush, so that while avoiding one hazard we constantly fall victim to another, compels us to cry, in humility and self-distrust, “Father, if it is possible, please, no temptation! I don’t want to risk damaging myself and dishonoring you by falling!”
Temptation (or testing) may be our lot, but only a fool will make it his preference; others will heed Paul’s warning to the spiritually reckless, “If you think you are standing firmly, you should be careful that you do not fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and a if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you—a to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.