Pastor Marc Likins
Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation..."
This petition from the Lord’s prayer is a very familiar phrase, but it is often misunderstood. Why would we ask God to not lead us into temptation? Can He do that? I thought God didn’t tempt us with evil, right? (James 1:13)
Part of the misunderstanding lies in the fact that temptation can be defined in two different ways. The first is a solicitation to do evil (appeal, allurement, enticement). This is how we typically think of temptation. But temptation can also be defined as a testing under trial (examination, proof). Both definitions of temptation are found in the Bible; however, testing under trial is found twice as often. For example, Acts 20:19, "Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews."
So, what does Jesus have in mind when He teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”? Probably, both. This is a prayer of both physical and spiritual protection.
When it comes to testing and trials, we should be willing to go through them, thank God in the midst of them, and trust His hand should they come. However, we are not to be gluttons for punishment. We are not supposed to crave hard times and embrace asceticism. It is fitting for us to ask God to spare us from hard times. Didn’t Jesus do this in the garden when He asked if there could be a different way?
When it comes to a solicitation to do evil, God cannot tempt you with evil, but He can lead you into temptation. Let me see if I can illustrate.
Leading into Temptation
With each of our four children, my wife and I have sought to teach them at an early age what 'no' meant. Around twelve months old, we would sit them down on the carpet and place four or five toys in front of them. We would then proceed to make one of the toys a 'no sir' toy. We would point to a specific toy and tell them, “No, no, no.” They are allowed to play with the other toys but not that one. If they obey by not touching the toy, they get a small reward. If they disobey, they get a small punishment. Now, we know that they will want to play with the 'no sir' toy, and they will be tempted to pick it up. If for no other reason than they want to have what they are not supposed to. This the same reason you want to touch the wall when a sign is there that says, “Don’t touch. Wet paint.”
So, what are we doing? We are in fact leading our child into temptation. Much like Jesus being led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted.
Tempting with Evil
What if my wife was playing this same game with one of the children, and I came over and began to tempt my child to touch the 'no sir' toy? What if I began to say, “Go ahead and touch it. It will be worth it. You know you want to! Go ahead. Disobey your mom.” I would be tempting my child with evil. Do you see the difference? God never tempts us with evil in this way. He will lead us into temptation, but He will never tempt us with evil.
So, how do we pray? The most natural way to pray would be, “Father, don’t lead me into temptation to do evil, but lead me in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.” “Lord, spare my children from the solicitations to do evil that others might bring to them.” “Father, I am asking you not to bring trials and hardship my way today.” “Lord, protect me spiritually and physically.”