LED INTO TEMPTATION
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:7-15
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today 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 the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Does God lead us into temptation? I doubt there is anyone who, at some point or another, has not wondered about this. Especially because in the prayer that our Lord taught us, there is a plea to God not to lead us into temptation. A couple of years ago, the Roman Catholic pontiff Pope Francis approved altering the text "lead us not into temptation" to "do not let us fall into temptation" in a few languages. He believed the original version portrays God in a false light as someone who leads us astray. So, why then did Jesus teach us to pray this way?
In his epistle, James wrote: "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:13-15). This is obviously true. God has no evil desires in his heart; consequently, he cannot put evil desires in our hearts. So, again the question, why did Jesus teach us to pray this way?
Because it is how it is! Satan is undoubtedly the instrument of temptation, but God does play a role in letting that happen. You only have to read the story of Job to realize this. Satan tells God that Job is faithful to him only because of his prosperity. He tells God that if everything was taken away from Job, he would curse God's name. While it is clear that Satan brought about Job's ensuing misery, it is equally clear that it wouldn't have happened if God hadn't permitted it. Again, as we saw a couple of days ago, after Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, the Spirit — that’s God! — led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (see Mark 1:12, Matthew 4:1).
So, when we pray this prayer, we are truly begging God not to lead us into temptation because it is a terrible experience. And the closer we are to God, the more terrible it can be! However, we need to remember that if God leads us to it, he will take us through it if we remain rooted in him. Both Job and Jesus are examples of this, but let us take additional encouragement from the words of Paul: "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
And, of course, we know that he who endures until the end will be saved (see Matthew 24:13). May we all endure!