“Our father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Mathew 6:9-13).
Every Christian is familiar with this prayer. It’s known as the ‘model prayer.’ The prayer our Lord taught his disciples and passed on to us in the written word. Some use this prayer as an outline for their prayers. Some recite it verbatim. It’s a complete prayer, addressing our recognition of God, needs, and essential guidance in life. There is a danger of laying more importance on certain parts of this prayer and less on others.
I know you’ve been around other Christians praying out loud while meeting in small groups or perhaps giving thanks over a meal. Speaking in general terms, you may notice that most of those prayers consist of recognizing and thanking God for blessings we’ve received or hope to. But how many prayers have you heard or even said that contain anything about temptation and deliverance from evil?
We address ‘God the Father’ and direct our prayers towards heaven, where our God resides. We emphasize the portion of this outline when it comes to our needs; our daily bread. But give little consideration to the part regarding God’s guidance and protection. It’s easier to pray for things we want than to be submissive to God’s will.
Our prayers seem to focus on the needs of this life, even though Jesus tells us, “for your heavenly father knows that you need all these things.” (Mathew 6:32). He reminds us our lives are more than flesh and blood, and the kingdom we belong to is of the spirit. Is it not fair to say we tend to ask God to provide, then rely on our ability to take care of the rest?
The last verse of this model prayer, “And do not lead us into temptation,” is critical because it deals with physical matters that have spiritual implications. Oh, that we would pay attention to this. We either ignore this portion of the prayer or rely on our cleverness to win spiritual battles. We subconsciously avoid any conversation -even thoughts about temptation because we so often fail when it comes.
Temptations may be physical in composition, but their origins and methods are in spirit. Our adversary Satan has no interest in your physical life (Except to lead others away from God); no, his mission is destroying your spiritual life. This spiritual battle is ongoing, and most of the time, we are unaware that it’s begun.
A classic example of this is the temptation and failure of the Apostle Peter. Bold and outspoken, he would soon learn his self-assumed strength would be his downfall. Peter’s arrogant boldness blinded him to the enemy’s already seeking permission to tempt and defeat him. Knowing all things, Jesus warns Peter of Satan’s request to lure him into failure.
But like most of us, Peter felt he was ready; he could handle whatever the challenge. His time of temptation was about to begin. The Apostles began to quibble about who was the greatest among them (Luke 22:24). Peter assumed that he would take the leadership role, being the most vocal of the group. Little does he realize this prideful assumption of being the greatest opens the door to temptation, but Jesus forewarns him.
“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32).
Are you beginning to see the importance of “lead us not into temptation?” Peter thought he should be the group leader, and Satan “demanded permission” to tempt Peter. Peter’s pride opens the door to temptation, and Peter ignores Jesus’s warning. How do we know Peter ignores our Lord’s warning? Because of his response, “But he said to Him, “Lord I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” (Luke 22:33). Jesus sees it all very clearly and admonishes Peter,
“I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (verse 34).
Peter has already lost the battle and doesn’t even realize it. His pride opens temptations door, permission to tempt comes as a result, and Jesus reveals to Peter when and how his defeat will occur.
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus urges all the disciples to pray that they do not enter into temptation; “Pray that you enter not into temptation.” (verse 40). And again, in verse 46, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” What would be their testing or temptation? As a group, they would scatter in fear when the crucifixion took place.
There’s a stark difference between testing (or trying) and temptation, and many Christians are confused about the difference. Many Christians cannot explain the difference between the two. Both translated words, temptation and tested, are the same word in Greek. The context of their use is the crucial difference.
If we carefully examine examples from the scriptures, we can understand the difference. We will compare the stories of Job and Eve. Job’s testing came by trials he did not seek. Eve’s temptation came about from lust. We can see how this unfolds in the account of the serpents leading Eve into temptation.
“Indeed, has God said, you shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). No, that was not what God said, but it was close enough to miss-lead Eve and open the door of temptation by her considering desire over obedience. The serpent leads her a little further, “You surely die will not die!” She believes the lie and succumbs; “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise.” (Genesis 3:6). She and Adam fell to temptation and took humanity with them.
Now let us look at the testing of Job. From the biblical account, we see Job was a man of wealth and had a large family. But he was also a righteous man. Job would rise “up early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said “perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continuously.” (Job 1:5).
Meanwhile, in the world of spirit, unbeknownst to Job, Satan shows up. Satan insinuates the only reason Job obeys God is because God’s grace protects him. So God allows Satan to test Job. In the first test, he takes all of Job’s possessions, then the lives of his entire family(except his nagging wife), yet Job stood fast, maintaining his faith in God.
In the next test, God allows Satan to take Job’s health, and Job complained but never forsook his obedience to God. There are two things to notice here. First, Job’s temptation does not center around any desire for fleshly gain. He was continually serving God, then attacked by Satan. Satan knew he couldn’t tempt Job into forsaking God by the desire to the things of this life, but he hoped if he made his life miserable enough, he could make him reject God through trial. He was wrong.
The second takeaway from this is God placed limits on Job’s testing. “Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.”(Job 1:12). Do you see the limit? “Do not put forth your hand on him.” During the second testing of Job, God again places limits on Job’s testing: “So the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.” (Job 2:6).
What a gracious God we serve! “No temptation has overtaken you but as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you will be able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13). That way of escape is faith in the God we serve.
So when temptations come, are you being tempted or tried? And from where is it coming? The Apostle James gives us valuable information regarding temptation versus testing. “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. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” (James 1:13-14).
Don’t deceive yourself. God does not tempt; He tries. If you think your fall to sin through temptation is God trying your faith, you deceive yourself. It’s the same with any vice. God does not use evil to test you and me. The basis and difference between testing and trying lies in this fact.
When God tries us, its purpose is to see if we will keep His commandments. The two greatest commandments. Putting God first in all things and that we ‘love one another.’ Glorifying God through our actions and obedience. Our trying leads to stronger faith, and temptation leads to faiths destruction.
Sometimeswe rush into situations to ‘prove’ our faith. We must not do this. When we run to see if we can control ourselves by purposely exposing ourselves to temptations of the flesh, we open the door for the evil one to tempt us. Remember what happened to the Apostle Peter. God himself is the only one who should determine when and how our testing occurs. He alone knows our strengths and will not test us beyond what we can bear.
Sadly, many in the past chose their own time and manner of testing, rushing to martyrdom to prove their obedience to God. Self-appointed martyrdom is not God’s will and is an uncalled-for waste of life. History records St. Ignatius ‘longed for death as a martyr.’ We will never know what additional works Ignatius for God he could have accomplished had he not sought his premature death.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” What shall we do? Seek neither testing nor temptation. Pray that we are not led away by our lust, and do not seek the time of your testing. We must rely on God to determine the time of testing and, through obedience, allow His grace to deliver us from evil.
Remember -we are the most vulnerable when we feel the surest of ourselves.