The Lord’s Prayer – Part 3
The Lord’s Prayer – Part 3
Today is our third look at the Lord’s Prayer. Our focus this morning is on the petition ‘and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ You can catch up on the sermon series by reading Part 1 and Part 2 of the Lord’s prayer at the respective links.
The Lord's Prayer - Part 3
The past two weeks we have been taking a hard look at the Lord’s Prayer. We started off with ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On Earth as in Heaven’. We discovered that the Lord’s Prayer was more than just a common prayer. There is a level of commitment associated with it. We followed up last week with ‘Give us today our daily bread and forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. With these lines we tackled perhaps the most difficult part of the Lord’s Prayer. We recognized that we are completely dependent on God for all that we have, and we asked God to deal with us, as we deal with others. Today we focus on ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’
The petition within the Lord’s Prayer of ‘Lead us not into temptation’ has been translated differently over the years. A common modern translation is ‘and do not bring us to the time of trial’, another version reads ‘keep us safe from ourselves’.
We are often bombarded with temptation – that is, if we recognize it as such. There is the temptation to cheat on our taxes, temptations to lure us from our spouses, temptations of power and money. We face temptation every day, but how do we deal with it? There can be some creative ways to face temptation. Consider the story of one minister.
There were two brothers who had terrorized a small town for decades. They were unfaithful to their wives, abusive to their children and dishonest in business. Unexpectedly, the younger brother died. The surviving brother approached the minister of the local church and said ‘I want you to conduct my brother’s funeral. But it’s important to me that during the service you tell everyone that my brother was a saint.’
The preacher looked at the man and said, “But he was far from that.”
The brother, who by dishonest means had acquired some wealth, pull out his chequebook. “Reverened” he said, “I’m prepared to give the church $100,000 to the church. All I’m asking is that you publicly state that my brother was a saint.”
What was the minister to do? Would he massage the truth in order to get the money for all the good work God could do, or would he hold to his principles and give up the chance to put the congregation on solid financial footing?
On the day of the funeral, the minister began his message this way: “Everyone here knows that the deceased was a wicked man, a womanizer, and a drunk. He terrorized his employees and cheated on his taxes.” Then he paused. “But as evil and sinful as this man was, compared to his older brother, he was a saint!”
Now I imagine that the older brother didn’t end up writing the cheque. Friends, there are many things that lead us into temptation – money, power, and a whole list of addictions. Yet, the Lord’s Prayer has us saying “And lead us not into temptation.”
But do we really mean it? Sometimes I’m not so sure. I’ve seen a T-shirt that reads: ‘Lead me not into temptation – I can find it myself’. Friends this is the society that we find ourselves living in. Society says, “If it feels good do it, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else, what harm can there be?” C.S. Lewis wrote, “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good. There is a silly idea about that good people don’t know what temptation means” (The Screwtape Letters). None of us, no matter how good we think we are, is immune to temptation.
One Biblical commentator has said, “How many of us show by our actions that we do not seriously mean this prayer. We know very well what occasions, and what places, and what company are the sources of temptation for us, and yet we do not avoid them.” The problem is, rather that seriously and intentionally ask that we be steered from temptation, and we welcome temptation into our lives, get ourselves in trouble and then pray to be delivered from the mess we’ve created for ourselves. We are more worried about the consequences of our disobedience than the temptation itself. When we ask God to save us from the time of trial – to lead us not into temptation – we are making a request that is based on an existing, growing relationship. As we become more like Christ, we are less tempted to sin.
The reading from James this morning highlights this very well. James tells us that those who endure temptation are blessed and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. There are rewards for steering clear of temptation. In heavenly language this is ‘the crown of life. In more simple terms, we call it integrity.
When we pray, “And lead us not into temptation”, God invites to back up those words with a willingness to go deeper in our relationship with him. So that we will be kept from trials, or at least carried through them, rather than stuck in their midst.
There is another way of thinking about this request within the Lord’s Prayer. We pray the words “And lead us not into temptation.” Yet in our reading this morning from James we find the following passage, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” When we say, “And lead us not into temptation”, it appears that we are asking God not to lead us astray, not to tempt us. Yet, James is telling us that God won’t do that! Is James wrong, why is there such an apparent contradiction?
What we ask in the Lord’s Prayer is that we not be permitted to succumb to that great final trial, that even in the worst circumstances we remain true to God, holding fast to Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Prayer has us asking God to deliver us – not necessarily from times of trial, but through times of trial.
Even after we receive Christ as our Lord and Saviour we are still inclined towards sin. Each of us is susceptible to temptation, and many of us give into it every day. But as we grow in Christ, our prayer is that we will hold fast to Christ through thick and thin. When we ask God to save us from the time of trial we are making a request based on an existing, growing relationship. The prayer says, “and lead us not into temptation”. The questions is, Who leads and who follows? God will not lead us to be tempted. That’s the job of Satan, I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to be lead by him.
When you think of this aspect of the Lord’s prayer, bear in mind this final thought. The greatest resistance to temptation came at the same moment as the greatest act of God’s love. Imagine the situation we’d be in if Jesus had given in to temptation to flee the cross?
Let’s move on to the next part of the Lord’s Prayer “But deliver us from evil.” Now this line from the prayer ties directly to the preceding “And lead us not into temptation.” Our story today from Matthew illustrates how Jesus was tempted and delivered from evil. So how does Jesus’ example of his endurance of temptation help us in our desire to be delivered from evil? Well let’s look at the passage, we discover immediately that Jesus is being led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Another way of reading this, is that Jesus was entering the desert to be tested. We all know that when we are tested by God, it can lead to our growth, our maturity and a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Most of the time, if we’ll admit it, we end up in the position of being tempted through our own doing. One way of being delivered from evil is to simply get out of the desert. If some action or place leads you to evil, just walk away from it. Evil is all around us, and sometimes, it’s hard to walk away from it. So when we get avoid the evil, what can we do?
We can pray. When we pray the words ‘And deliver us from evil’ we are asking God to send the devil and all his temptations away from us. This is where the Lord’s Prayer has real power. Through it we are ordering Satan our of our lives. In 1 John 3:8 we learn that the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. We can help that happen if we follow the Lord faithfully.
When Jesus was tempted by the devil he responded by stating “worship the Lord your God, and serve him only”. Don’t every underestimate the value of worship. This time that we spend before God with each other is a pivotal way to be delivered from evil. The time we spend reading scripture and praying, also help to keep the devil back and us from evil. Worship is not just about recharging our batteries, or seeing our friends – as important as those things are. It goes deeper, on a spiritual level. God uses our time in his holy presence to gird us so that we are kept apart from evil. If we think of the biblical image of God as light, and of evil as darkness, remember this: light dispels darkness, but darkness cannot dispel light. God will always win if we worship him and no other. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.