The third petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” [Matt 6:13 NIV] asks God to keep us safe from harm, challenge, distraction and the devil. The first part of the petition in the NSRV reads: “And do not bring us to the time of trial.” Another version in The Message records the prayer as “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” We might as well be praying, “Help us keep our focus on you, Lord, so that we don’t go back to our old ways, to the ways of the world.”
Many passages in the Bible state that no man is perfect, but we are still to focus our lives on God and His ways. He forgives us for all that we have done, when we really work at being faithful to him, when we repent of our sins. We need so much help in our journey to loving God with all of ourselves—healing, mercy, forgiveness, surrender, support—these all come from God. The parable of the Prodigal Son comes to mind.[Luke 15:11-32] In spite of what the errant son did, his father is watching out for his return. The father welcomes him home and celebrates his return. There is not one word of punishment or disgust from the father. And he restores the son to his rightful place in the family.
Our part is to confess whatever we have done wrong and to offer it up to God. And then to fit ourselves back into the laws and the ways of our Father. Then we ask God’s help in keeping us from that sin, that temptation, so that we can live at peace in our Father’s house. It takes time and devotion to bring all the issues that trouble us whether it is anger or fear driving our sin or just plain ego-centricity.
I don’t think God holds any illusions about what we human beings are like. He created us with free will, so we are forever showing our loyalty to Him or to the world by the choices we make, by what we say and do. Apparently, it seems to me, He wants us to come willingly to His side, to His ways, but it’s our choice whether we come or not. If He had wanted easy acquiescence from us to His will, He would have created us that way, with no rebellion possible.
To get back to the Lord’s Prayer, this petition to keep us from temptation and the evil one is our prayer for safety in His arms. We must do more than just pray for it when we say the Lord’s prayer. We need to maintain a vigilance about temptation and where our choices might lead us. We need to lift every temptation we encounter up to God, asking for His help in not going down that road. We need to confess when we’ve failed to avoid the temptation and ask for His pardon and help in not doing it again.
It takes vigilance to see the workings of temptation in our lives. It takes a working knowledge of how our culture hides the rationale behind a lot of the choices we are urged to make. We need to look at the quest for more—more money, more clothes, more, more, more– and see that getting more of anything does not bring us peace or fulfillment. We also need to look at the high value we place on individualism, when God would pull us into human communities by
a-loving and helping our neighbors,
b-by looking beneath the surface of each person to the image of Christ reflected there,
c-by dropping our judgments of people so that we can really interact with them d-and so much more.
We need to slow down our lives, like the coronavirus has, to be able to see what is important and what really holds no value for us. These are the temptations that we need to avoid that God would be so supportive of us when we deny them a place in our lives.
In fact, if we are aware at all of the voice inside us of Indwelling Spirit of God, we would be running all these temptations by Him throughout our days. And He would be keeping us safe from all evil. That does not mean that there won’t be challenges in our lives that we need to address and to learn from. These challenges teach us things about ourselves that are ordinarily hidden from us. As we see what in our lives they are highlighting, they are our way out of many of the dilemmas we find ourselves in. They are God’s way of holding up a mirror to us, so that we can give over our sinful nature to Him—in surrender to His ways.
The three petitions we pray in the Lord’s Prayer—about bread, forgiveness and temptation—help us keep our minds on God, if, and that’s a big IF, we follow through in our daily lives by continuing to seek his help in our struggles with this life. The petitions are bracketed by a prayer of praise at the beginning and the end of the Lord’s Prayer. And that is how we approach our God with praise and petitions in our prayers. But that is not all that prayer is. We must remember that a large part of our prayer is just sitting in His presence, listening to His Indwelling Spirit, whom Jesus called the Advocate, and doing what the Spirit suggests. Praise and petition and stillness and action—these are the components of the spiritual life.
Questions to ponder over the week: What are the hardest temptations for me? How do I handle them? Am I aware of the devil and his ways with me? Do I pray throughout my days for relief from any temptation? Am I able to focus on loving God and leave all the temptations behind?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who lift up all temptations to Him, asking His help and support. May we be focused on our love of God and not on the world and its ways.
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An invitation to contribute to my book on the Beatitudes: If you would be willing to share some of the obstacles you have encountered in your life that have come between you and God, I would love to hear them. I’ll be writing about the Beatitudes and will identify some of the challenges we face at each step, particularly, anything that you’ve been taught to be true, but later find out doesn’t work for you, or something in your self-image that keeps you where you are instead of responding to what God may ask of you, cultural norms that get in your way—anything like that. I would only use your initials if I quote you. I am so grateful for any experiences you might contribute. You may message them to me on FB or send them to my email, email@example.com.
 1 John 1:8-10, Romans 3:22-25, Isaiah 64:6, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 130:3-5 and more
 2 Chronicles 7:14, 1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19, Proverbs 28:13, Matthew 3:8, 2 Peter 3:9 and more
 The First of the Two Great Commandments of Jesus Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28, Luke 10:27