Today we are looking at the phrase from Matthew 6:13, And Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. When we look at this prayer, does this mean that if we don’t pray this prayer, will God lead us into temptation? Here’s an illustration to understand whats happening. Imagine a Father holding a child’s hand while crossing a busy street. When they are about to cross, the child says to the father, “Don’t let go of my hand”. Does this mean the father was planning to let go of the hand? No. But this is a plea from the child asking for the father’s help. Similarly, when we pray, Father, lead us not into temptation, it does not mean God is planning to lead us into temptation.
This is what scripture says in James 1:13, Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
God tempts no one but God allows trials in life which are tests. Trials are form of testing which proves our faith, prunes our character and perfects us to be like Christ. With this understanding let us look at this phrase in the Lord’s prayer using Psalm 73. We will see three steps to overcome temptation in our life through prayer.
a. Realise how destructive temptations are in your life
The cure to temptation is not old age. Some think that temptations decrease as we grow older or get married. This is not true. We struggle with the same temptations which come in new disguises. We will be tempted as long as there is life in our body.
In our culture, we have reduced temptations to chocolates and ice cream. Temptations sound cute, adorable, silly and attractive. But the Bible describes temptations using deadly and destructive language. We see this in the very beginning when God speaks to Cain.
Genesis 4:7 sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
This is describing temptation as lying in wait for you, ready to pounce, out to get you. Satan lures, traps and deceives us using temptations.
1 Peter 5:8 Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour
But we minimise sin and temptations and even glorify them as harmless, childish and innocent. We think its no big deal. A view like that is exactly where Satan wants to keep us. His deception is to keep us busy and tempt us not just with bad things in life but with good things like comfort, success, material possessions and slowly lead us away from God.
John 10:10 says, “Thief comes only to steal/kill/destroy. I came that you may have abundant life"
The Psalmist faces a temptation and is nearly derailed because of this. And this is a temptation we face even today.
Psalm 73:1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
The Psalmist realises how destructive temptation is. He says he almost stumbled and slipped. What happened? In v.3 he says he was envious when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. Envy is simply wanting someone else’s life, things, job or success. This temptation of envy makes him conclude that,
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean & washed my hands in innocence 14 For all the day
long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
The Psalmist looks at the wicked, their wealth, possessions, how they are pampered, that their speech is arrogant and proud, they are pretentious and live like bullies, they don’t work hard or struggle in life. And he concludes that this is not fair compared to his life. He tries to be a good person, obeys God and follows God’s commands but his life feels like a punishment.
Maybe you feel the same. Your life seems like it’s heading no where. Your future is uncertain, your career is a non starter, your constantly overlooked, ignored, you struggle financially, there is pain and sickness, struggle with relationships and no marriage in sight. And maybe you are tempted to conclude, whats the point of following God? Why attend worship, read the bible, pray when God seems distant and when he does not care about me?
When does one say what they have done is vain? When we end up doing something because we are expecting something in return. The Psalmist recognises his true motivations which is he has obeyed and followed God because he wanted a good life in return. When that good life he expected did not happen, he concluded that it was vain to follow God.
This is true for us too. We follow God for the things of God and not for God himself. This reveals how self absorbed and shallow we are in our faith.
Where do these temptations come from? Where does envy come from? It is not from the wicked or from the outside. It is from within our own hearts.
James 1:14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Temptations come from our own selfish desires. The pull toward temptation is from within. We cannot give any excuses for our temptations. We cannot blame God, people or circumstances.
We cannot say that we have unique and extraordinary temptations. The Bible says all our temptations are common to man.
1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.
And when dealing with temptations of our heart, we have to be humble and not be self confident in overcoming it.
1 Cor 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
The pull toward temptation is from within and the power to overcome is from outside.
The first step in overcoming temptation is to realise how destructive temptations are.
b. Reach out for deliverance through prayer
16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
It is only when we see how destructive and deadly temptations are, how the devil is prowling like a lion to tear us apart from what God has for us, when we see how powerless we are to deal with temptations that we reach out in prayer.
When the Psalmist entered God’s presence, he had clarity of his heart, be began to see whole picture and face the truth. He begins to see his folly and the wisdom of God in the midst of his trials.
This is why Jesus teaches us to pray in Luke 22:40 Pray that you may not enter into temptation
Praying is an act of humbling ourselves before God and seeking his help. Praying shows how serious we are about sin and temptations. Praying shows that we are watchful and alert. Praying should be the first step in our planning which includes either fleeing, resisting, standing firm or avoiding sin and temptations.
Are you struggling with temptations? Are you on the verge of walking away from faith? Are you dealing with habits? Are you struggling to trust God, becoming cynical and losing joy? Reach out in prayer!
No plan is effective against temptation without prayer.
c. Rejoice in the gospel of grace
22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may
fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For behold, those
who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that
I may tell of all your works.
When he enters God’s presence, he is reminded of God’s grace and promise. God says I am with you, I will hold you, never let go of your hand, I will guide you, receive you, wash, cleanse and forgive you.
The Psalmist rejoices in God in v.25 and realises that nothing he desires is better than God. Temptation is from our heart desire, an attraction, a deep love for sin. It can only be overcome by a greater desire, a greater love. And this is the love of God itself. His love needs to fill our hearts to give us grace to overcome temptations.
We experience his grace through God’s word, worship and fellowship.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is lamp to my feet and light to my path
Psalm 84:10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere
Hebrews 3:13 Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
The pull toward temptation is from within us but power to overcome is from God. As we rejoice, meditate, delight and draw near to God, deliverance is available
28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge
How can we as sinners draw near to God? This is where we depend on what Christ has done for us.
Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus as our high priest sympathises with us, knows our struggle with temptations, he himself was tempted in every way and yet without sin. He perfectly obeyed God on your behalf. And it is because of what Jesus has done, we can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace and find mercy, grace and help in time of need.
Jesus is our only hope when we face temptations. That’s why he teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”.