Lead us not into temptation

We all need prayer primers, I suppose. Most of us have prayed thousands of times, but we’re like the apostles—they came to Jesus and asked him how to pray, even though they’d been praying all their lives. They heard him pray and realized they were missing something.

Every time I study the Lord’s Prayer, as I have with you over the past couple of weeks, I remember again how much I need to sit at Jesus’ feet and let him teach me to pray. Something jumped out at me today that you can probably relate to: It’s easy to get into a rut so that our prayers become mechanistic and ritualistic.

I’ve noticed that the emphases of my prayers don’t always line up with what Jesus stressed. I pray hard for my family, as you do, I’m sure. And I pray for other here-and-now things—people’s health, their grief, jobs, struggles, relationships, and so on.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but Jesus calls us to reach higher. He includes one line about physical things in his prayer—“Give us this day our daily bread”—but the rest is about eternal, heavenly things.

At the end he says: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). That, I think, is crucial. Jesus ends his prayer by focusing on our relationship to sin and evil.

Here’s a thought—Jesus cares more about your holiness than he does your happiness. The two don’t exclude each other, but he emphasizes what makes us more like him than he does on what brings us the most immediate pleasure.

It’s easy to get confused about that. It’s easy for me to ask him to protect my daughter at college and take care of my wife and keep my sons safe while they’re driving. But then sometimes I don’t pray about my relationship to sin as much as I should.

In this single request about temptation, Jesus brings us back to the reason he came to earth—to deal with sin. He didn’t come to give us a good job or a problem-free life or lots of things.

He came to save us. And really, that ought to be center-stage in our prayers.

So today, as you pray, talk to God about sin. Ask him to give you the courage to resist the devil’s tricks. Ask for the Spirit to give you the wisdom to discern the evil around you and the desire to avoid it.

Here’s an interesting analogy: Remember when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness after he’d fasted 40 days? At the beginning of that story, Matthew tells us that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (4:1).

The neat thing is, God led Jesus into temptation so he could lead you and me out of it. The question here isn’t if God is going to tempt you or if he will lead you into temptation (he won’t). The question is, Will we depend on him for that deliverance?

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