'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Provided for and forgiven, we still have to traverse through the rest of our lives in a dangerous world. It is like trying to convey ourselves safely through a land infested with enemies, undermined with pitfalls, or reeking of malaria. We could wish not to go through and just stand still, but we know that we must go. We could fear every step, wincing as we go, but that is to go without confidence, peace, or joy, and we know that is not an option either.
The world will not change to suit our new condition in Christ. There are our former companions in worldly life who are waiting for us to join them again. Familiar jaunts, familiar ways, old paths cross our own very consistently and tell us things are ready for us, even more ready than before. The same business awaits us, the same times of leisure, the same familiar ways of spending time. Shouldn’t we just do as we did before?
EPH 5:5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
EPH 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
EPH 5:7 Therefore do not be partakers with them;
EPH 5:8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light
EPH 5:9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
EPH 5:10 trying to learn [proving] what is pleasing to the Lord.
EPH 5:11 And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;
EPH 5:12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.
EPH 5:13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
EPH 5:14 For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you."
EPH 5:15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise,
EPH 5:16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
EPH 5:17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
EPH 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
EPH 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
EPH 5:20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
EPH 5:21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Regenerated children of God, all in the world around us remains the same, ready as ever to make our old course easy, but with no sympathy for our new position and condition, no rejoicing with us over our new-found treasure, no friendly desire to enter into and prosper our new views. All the world remains as it was, and what disappoints us more than all, there is still in us too much that remains as it was. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak as ever. It is still flesh. It is still adapted to what the world offers that it clamors to be satisfied in the world’s way, hints that we wrong ourselves and undergo unnecessary hardships in striving to subdue it, and that it cannot be very criminal to do what our nature demands, and what our circumstances not only permit, but induce and almost drive us to.
Those who have nothing to lose are little disturbed by the presence of thieves. Those whose hopes are small have few fears.
The fear of defilement found no place in our souls until the Holy Spirit made us new men. Before we experienced the grace of God, temptation seemed like a small risk.
But now that we have tasted God’s favor, experienced the joy and goodwill of God, and prize God’s pleasure, it seems a hazardous thing to venture into the sea of temptations, one or other of which will almost inevitably sweep over our soul, and leave it grieving the Spirit and reaping corruption.
If I do not propose to sin, if I am set against it, does that secure me from it? I have sinned deliberately, in ignorance, through weakness, through surprise, and through habit. Shall I continue in it because I am under grace? May it never be, says Paul.
Rather pray every day, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” Temptation and evil are married. They are always connected.
Temptation is the beginning and when united with choice, evil is the end. Can I say, however, that I will always make the right choice, so come whatever temptation may?
If my first desire is God’s pleasure, then I would prefer no temptation, i.e. no starting line of which evil may come.
I would like to know where every landmine is, where every quicksand waits, and every malaria swamp festers so I can avoid them all.
If is a desire, though it cannot always be fulfilled. But the desire should be there nonetheless.
And remember, evil consists of all sin, what you don’t do that you should, and what you do that you shouldn’t.
Christ is challenging our devotion and opening our eyes to its reality. We must not lie to ourselves, and we can do this without condemnation, because we are forgiven. Would I accept anything that would keep me from temptation, or are discomfort, losing material, losing companionship, or any other loss acceptable even if they bring temptation with them? Again, the world, the flesh, and sadly, many Christians, will say, “Oh come on, don’t be so serious or strict,” but would your Lord have that same reaction, and if not, why do you value their voice above His?
We have to also be careful. We could go full monk with this and say, “Well, I’ll cut myself off from everything in the world and everyone.” But if your actions make for another sin, it is the wrong solution. You are to be a light to the world and not hidden in a basement. You are not to divorce or separate from friends that God has sent you to witness Christ to. We have to be in the world. Not all situations are the temptations that Christ is referring. This prayer, like the Bible, is for grown-ups, and it should be considered by grown-ups.
Yet, left to their own, temptation and lust conceive, resulting in sin, which brings forth death. Let it continue to have its way and death will grow up all around you.
JAM 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
JAM 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
JAM 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
JAM 1:15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
This petition is probably the most questioned because God cannot tempt anyone.
JAM 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
First off, in the petition God is leading and not tempting. Secondly, there are two Greek words for tempting. One we know, dokimazo, which refers to testing for the purpose of approval. The other is peirazo which is testing in the hope of failure. The second one is used much more often of Satan’s temptations which the first is used of God’s opportunities for us to overcome obstacles and prove the power and worth of His righteousness. Peirazo is used here.
Two Greek words for trial - peirazo (used here) Satan’s, hoping you fail; dokimazo - God’s, giving you opportunity to shine.
Is it so odd that Christ would give us the negative equivalent of leading us in righteousness?
PSA 5:8 O Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness because of my foes;
Make Thy way straight before me.
PSA 25:4 Lead me in Thy truth and teach me,
For Thou art the God of my salvation;
For Thee I wait all the day.
There are eight more in the Psalms that request God to “lead me” in His way.
As we grow up in the spiritual life, we eventually find that there are some temptations that are very powerful against us and will likely lead to sin. There are persons or environments that always seem to betray us into slandering, or scoffing, or bitter envy, or hypocrisy, or some evil passion; there are places where we cannot maintain, or have a least never yet maintained, even our usual regard for the will of God, and from which we may return less disposed than we ought to remember Christ, or engage in His work; there are things we watch or read, trains of thought we entertain, which lower our tone and unhinge the mind that was earlier devoted to Christ.
A great application of this prayer is our waiting for God’s deliverance while we resist temptation.
When we are tempted by Satan, he desires that we grab the bait now and not wait. This would be a failure and so it qualifies as a peirazo type test. However, when we are resolved to wait on God, this is another type of test, one that we succeed in and shine forth our strength garnered from God’s strength in us, and it becomes a dokimazo type of test. In essence, this this situation we would be praying for God to take us past the peirazo test and onto the dokimazo test.
The sin nature would reply, “Relax. Don’t take this so seriously. You’re a sinner anyway. Don’t worry about it. You are forgiven.” To listen to that voice and skip this petition would be the same as affirming that the life of Christ ought not to be taken seriously.
Habits are formed by voluntarily and repeatedly exposing ourselves to the same influences. So agreeable and fascinating have this situations or employments which tempt us become, that is it beyond our strength to give them up. Surely in this case we may ask God so to order our circumstances that these things may have less power of appeal than formerly. How God may answer the prayer, we do not know. But how the solution comes is not for us to decide. For some the solution may be found in a much shorter period of time than another. God doesn’t treat each of our lives on the same timetable because no two of them are the same.
And remember, you’re asking your Father to help you not go there. Praying the words doesn’t guarantee success. Maybe you are saying the right words but secretly don’t want God to stop you from entering the influence that will lead to sin. Maybe, when God takes away the usual avenue that leads to the influence that your desire will arise and you will push through another way. This petition is an honest and genuine desire not to be found surrounded by the influences that has helped you create your unrighteous habit. The habits that Satan uses for his peirazo testing, while twisting his mustache and laughing while waiting to watch you crash. We are asking God to help us break the habits of unrighteousness that we have formed by starving them today, and tomorrow, and the next day.
We cannot say how our Father will set to it. He may remove something. He may add something. He doesn’t ask us to do anything other than have the desire to be like Him, and kicking these habits are large strides in that direction.
So, in this petition, like the previous two, we come face to face with our total helplessness and total dependence upon God. In each of us, our pride would like to show God how we can kick the habit without His help, or with only some of His help mingled with our own efforts. We are so hopeless that we have to ask God to lead us and not to the place of unrighteous influence, because we really can’t see where we’re going. We have no steering mechanism.
There are not only the influences that we may voluntarily walk into by thinking we are stronger than we are, there are also the influences that emerge unexpectedly.
That we pray this does not so much guarantee that we will not come into or fall into the sphere of unrighteous influence, but it does reveal a desire to turn any peirazo temptations (from Satan in the hope of failure) to dokimazo type temptations where God leads us so that we may reveal His strength and show ourselves pure. This statement seems to hold water in light of scripture, but we must be careful as it bridges on conjecture. Jesus doesn’t add, “and lead us to testing or trial.” However, He does add, “and deliver us from evil.”
We are praying directly that God would consider our frailty, our weakness, and so order our life today so that we may be as little exposed to Satan’s peirazo traps and only exposed to the Father’s dokimazo successes.
And this opens our eyes to the second part of the petition, “deliver us from evil.” Evil set the traps that we have a greater chance of falling into. Satan’s not stupid. He’s not going to test you in your strength. The Father’s dokimazo trials are for His children who are strong enough to bear them.
We’ve fallen into many of Satan’s traps before. Some of our more memorable sins, which were really groups of sins that resulted in great damage to ourselves and to others, are easily traced back to a series of steps in the wrong direction. How often have we wondered, “If I had only gone left instead of right, I might not have been led down a road were eventually I would inflict great harm.” But how many of us, during those times when we were doing great damage, were sincerely praying daily, “Father, lead us not into temptation.”? The influence of the prayer on the petitioner enables him to react quite differently than he otherwise would have done and avoided more and deeper temptations that branch off from the first. It is a very different war we wage when we have prayed against it, from that we wage when we have carelessly exposed ourselves.
This petition is a sincere desire for God to show you the right turns today. Remember also, this is just for today. Tomorrow we will ask the same thing.
There is here an acknowledgment of weakness and fear of sin and we appeal to God for help and compassion every morning and several times throughout the day. He promises to give it.
Now, if we have prayed for God to keep us from temptation and we still meet it, meaning we can’t go through life without facing Satan’s fiery missiles, we know that God has ordered it and we mustn’t be surprised.
1PE 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
1PE 4:13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.
But we know, just as we have prayed, evil will not come from it, but rejoicing and glory. Passing through the refiner’s fire, we are purified.
We must avoid looking at God’s plan for our life as something that we can organize into water-tight compartments. There are some fiery ordeals that we must avoid at all costs for we will fall headlong into sin and the resulting pain. But there are some fiery ordeals that we must face, just like Christ did.
Take for instance the similar temptations of David and Joseph. David was tempted with a beautiful married woman bathing on a distant roof. Joseph was tempted with a beautiful married woman in his master’s house. One turned out very different than the others. Would David have later said, “I should have gone out to battle with the army. I shouldn’t have gone up on the roof that night. I should have listened to my conscience.” Joseph had no regret over his decision to flee the adulteress, though he undeservedly ended up in prison. The same type of temptation but one man went in carelessly and exposed while the other man went in ready and aware.
Only God knows which are the right ones and we are praying that He show them to us and so be delivered from evil. If we have not asked for His guidance, we have charged ahead on our own and will eventually find ourselves in deep water. And the love of God will answer the prayer of the Christian who is up to his chin unrighteous quicksand, and will rescue him, though the man still has reaped what he sowed, and if he had not come to his senses and changed his way, even if pain was the sole motivator, he would have sown more woe upon himself and others.
It is God’s prerogative to lead us where He might. It is up to us to be alert and follow.
The alert pray consistently because they know their weakness and they fear sin. The devil prowls about seeking someone to desire.
And if anyone thinks that by using this petition, he resists the providence of God, let him ask himself the simple question, “Do I desire to be tempted?” If not, then let me pray God to preserve me from temptation. And if, after committing myself to God’s care in this matter, I do meet temptations, I shall at least know by whose permission they come, and whose discipline they bring. To view severe temptation as a possible thing, and as a very dangerous thing, and seeking God’s help and guidance, this is the best preparation against it.
I think it is safe to say that most Christians intentionally put themselves in dangerous circumstances far more often than they intentionally sin. There is pleasure in letting the thoughts dwell on forbidden objects, which provokes us to tamper with sin, and possibly lead us down a dangerous road that leads to evils. Praying, being alert, praying again, and constant study will open the eyes of a Christian before he heads down the road, when he sees his mind begin to dwell on the forbidden and will tell his mind to stop. This is the self-control, not of the willful man, but of the Holy Spirit indwelling the devout man.
This prayer asks that we see temptation at its beginning. It puts us on our guard against the earliest movements of sinful inclination, and prompts sus to deal vigorously with its faintest symptoms.
All evil is easiest checked in its rise, with less pain to ourselves. To have parlayed with temptation is to have lost strength already. Go a mile with a tempter, and changes are that he will persuade you to go two. He will first tell you that you are not going out of your way at all, and forthwith he will tell you that you have gone too far to go back.
The prayer is not, “Let me go so far into temptation and no farther,” but “Lead me not into it.”
He who cannot comprehend how this should be the one prayer given to us concerning the special advancement of our own souls towards completion or maturity to the nature of the stature of the maturity of Christ, and has not prayed it as he ought; is yet, under God’s word, hiding his own desires. This petition goes to the very core of our conscience, the place in our hearts that set degree to what we honor and love. It reveals whether we should like a daily life of being sinlessly obeying our Father, our King, the laws of the kingdom, or whether we want something less. We are fully aware that none of us will be constantly sinless. But do we still harbor enough of a love of sin that we want a portion of it in our lives? Do we want to be far away from everything which will nourish evil within us and close to only such things that will mature a Christian to the quality of Christ? Do I want anything that will loosen my will to obey my Lord or do I only want to obey still more than I do. The sincerity of this petition will reveal our hearts.
The final petition often calls us to give up prospects of great attraction.
The flesh will lie to us and tell us we should fear it and that it will be averse to our spiritual growth. When we see the beauty of a prospect, do we honestly desire to see whether the flowers wave and rustle with the healthy breath of heaven or with the subtle windings of the serpent? This petition asks God to show us His beauty and to help us choose only that. If the serpent lurks in the flower bed, we’re asking God not to lead us there.
The evil we chiefly aim at being delivered from, is that which comes of temptation yielded to, and that is sin. In Christ’s own petition He said:
JOH 17:15 “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
The fulfillment of this petition does not relieve us of disappointment, sicknesses, distresses or loss, for that to be true, we would have to be removed from this world and from these bodies. We can be delivered from evil, from sin, without being delivered from this world.
In every generation, the world has had an inkling that there is something wrong with it, that its condition is not altogether satisfying, and that something needs to be done. They set to work to deliver themselves, to fix it, by setting to work at the outmost branches instead of the root. They provide against loss, guard against disease and war, while they ought to be asking God to deliver them from the evil within them, which if the branches were grafted to the vine that is Christ, then new, healthy branches would spring forth.
If God suddenly fixed all the outmost problems of the world and made it pristine, ordered, and blessed, and left man in it as he is, he would spoil that world just as he has spoiled this one. We yielded to temptation and we became connected with evil of every kind. It is through the heart of man that evil did steal its way into this world. Until it is expelled from the heart, it will find its way into all we are connected with. Unless it is expelled from our souls, we will turn the happiest and most faultless inheritance into sorrow and confusion.