The Lord's Prayer, Part 3Away from Temptation
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss suggests we pray this way.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Lord, we don’t want to sin against You. So protect us from situations in which we would be likely to be tempted. Defend us. Deliver us from the assaults of temptation which come from our own flesh, from this world, from other people, and from Satan.
Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, November 15.
Does God ever tempt you? If He doesn’t, why does the Lord’s Prayer include the petition, “Lead us not into temptation”? Nancy addresses this important question continuing in an in-depth series called, The Lord’s Prayer, Part 3.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve been taking our time on this journey through the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes I like to look at the Scripture at the big picture level. And sometimes I like to take it apart and put a microscope on it and look at it just word for word. That’s the approach we’ve been taking with the Lord’s Prayer.
The problem when you put a microscope on it is sometimes you forget what the big picture is. So let me just remind you that weeks ago when we started into the Lord’s Prayer, we talked about the first part which is praise, our Father in heaven. The first several petitions had to do with God. They were directed toward Him—His name, His glory, His kingdom, His will.
Then we came to that part that has the petitions that relate to us. Those petitions fall into three categories. First of all, Jesus taught us to pray for provision. "Give us this day our daily bread." (Matt. 6:11)
Then in the section we were looking at most recently, He taught us to pray for pardon. "Forgive us our sins; forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." (v. 12)
Now we come to the part of the Lord’s Prayer, the petition where he instructs us to pray for protection. First provision, then pardon, and now protection. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," or deliver us from the evil one. (v.13) Your translation may read either way on that.
Jesus is teaching us to pray, “God, would You guard my heart?” I don’t know that there’s any prayer that I’ve prayed more times than that prayer over the years. "Lord, guard my heart."
Prone to wander; Lord I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it.
Seal it for Thy courts above.1
"Lord, would You guard my heart? Would You protect me from sin? Would You protect me from evil?"
Now as we think about praying for provision, for pardon, and for protection, really everything we need falls into one of those three categories. If we have those three things—if we have provision of our material and temporal needs, if we have pardon for our sins, and if we have protection, we have everything we need.
The prayer for provision relates to our present needs. "Give us this day our daily bread." That takes care of what I need today.
The prayer for pardon deals with our past. "Lord I have failed. I have sinned. As you look at my past, please pardon me; please forgive."
The prayer for protection, spiritual protection in particular, looks to our future. "Lord, as I face life in this fallen, messed up, sinful world, there will be temptations. There will be evil. Would You protect me from that?"
Now this is perhaps considered one petition, but we’re going to look at it in two parts. "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil or from the evil one." Now the prayer, the petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” follows a petition we looked at most recently where we prayed, “Forgive us our debts.”
This is the heart attitude of a child of God who has asked for and received pardon for his sins. And now as he moves forward in his Christian life, he doesn’t want to lose the fellowship that he’s established with his Father. He’s been forgiven. He’s been released. He’s forgiven others, and God has forgiven him.
And now as he moves forward, he doesn’t want to fall into sin again. He doesn’t want to be vulnerable to temptation. He dreads the thought of being drawn back into his sin. He doesn’t want to fall and in any way dishonor God.
I think this request, this petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” is one of the most difficult phrases in the Lord’s Prayer to understand. I’ve read different books, different commentators, and they all grapple and struggle with it as well. So I’m not going to solve the mysteries of the centuries and add a whole lot more than what they have said. But I think God will give us light as we ask Him into what that means.
"Lead us not into temptation." Does that mean that God sometimes tempts us to sin or that God is somehow responsible if we fall into temptation? We’re going to over the next couple of days just take that request apart and take a look at it and see what it does mean.
Let’s look first at that word temptation or tempt. The Greek word “to tempt” is the word peirazo. And a similar word for temptation peirasmos. The word temptation or tempt is used in two different ways in the New Testament and actually throughout all of Scripture.
Sometimes you’ll find it being used both ways within the same passage.
Let me ask you, for example, to turn in your Bible to James 1. You can see both uses of this term temptation and tempt in the same passage. The first meaning of the word is "the temptation to sin." It means "to intentionally entice or lure somebody to do evil." Look at verse 13 in James 1.
“Let no one say when he is tempted [peirazo], ‘I am being tempted [peirazo] by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil.” It’s the word that means He is not "temptable." “And he himself tempts [peirazo] no one.” He cannot be tempted with evil. He tempts no one.
God never tempts us in this sense of the word. He never tempts us to do evil. He never induces or tries to entice us to do evil.
Now there’s a second meaning of the word temptation or tempt. In some of your translations it will be translated differently. It may be translated “testing” or “trials.” It’s the sense in which God does test us or tempt us. It’s the same word used, but it’s a different meaning. It means “to test for the purpose of determining character; to prove the quality of our faith and actually to strengthen our faith.”
So continuing in James 1, look now at verse 2 of James 1. God does test us or tempt us in this sense. Verse 2: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” There’s that word peirasmos. In the King James—you may be familiar with that—it talks about "diverse temptations." That’s not temptations people face who do deep sea diving. That means various kinds of temptations. It’s an old English word for that.
"Count it all joy when you meet trials [peirasmos] of various kinds.” Verse 3 says, “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
Then look down at verse 12. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.”Peirasmos—it’s the word that in other places is translated “temptation.”
“For when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Now both kinds of temptation and testing are inevitable. Both kinds are inescapable. Satan will tempt us to sin. We will be tempted to sin in this fallen world. That’s what he’s talking about in verse 13. “When you are tempted to sin, don’t say, ‘God pushed me to do it.’” We will be tempted to sin. It’s inescapable. But God doesn’t tempt us in that way.
However, God does tempt us in this sense. We don’t usually use the word tempt, but it’s the same word in the Greek. He will place us in situations where our faith is tested, and sometimes severely. He will test us.
Now you can’t tell in the English that that’s the same word, but in the Greek language it’s the same word. God may even lead us to a place where He knows we will be tempted by Satan. God does it as a test to try our faith, to strengthen our faith, to make us more dependant on Him.
It’s interesting, the Sermon on the Mount, at least Matthew’s version of it is found in Matthew chapter 6. Do you remember what happened in Matthew chapter 4? Shortly before Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6, and 7 where we find the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus Himself endured intense temptation in the wilderness at the hands of Satan for forty days Matthew 4 tells us.
And who led Him there into that wilderness? Matthew 4:1: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [peirazo] by the devil.” Now Satan tempted Jesus to sin; God didn’t tempt Him to sin. But God led Him up to the place where He knew His Son would be tempted to sin.
The two are closely related—tempting to sin and testing. In fact, the same situation or event can be both a temptation and a test or a trial. Temptation is always a test. Will I trust God? Will I obey God? Or will I respond sinfully? When I’m tempted to sin that’s a test.
Then what God designs as a test or a trial, Satan will often turn to a temptation to sin. You know what I mean by that? God puts you in a situation that’s a test to your faith, and Satan will come along and tempt you to sin in that situation.
Let me give you an example. There’s a couple in our ministry where the wife has recently been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. This came as it always does. I think she’s the fifth person I’ve known to go through this very, very difficult, horrible, painful disease that is always fatal sooner or later. And they’re walking through a very, very tough time right now.
God has designed this situation as a test and a trial. And by the way, it’s an amazing thing to see how God is giving incredible grace to this couple. They are being tested, but their faith is being purified and God is being glorified in the midst of the suffering. God has designed this to purify them, to sanctify them, to strengthen their faith, to deepen their love for Him, and to make them more like Jesus.
Now Satan wants to use the same trial as a temptation. Satan wants to tempt them to despair, to doubt God, to resent God, to resist His ways. You see how the same circumstance can be a test or a trial that God sends and it can also be a temptation that Satan uses to try to get us to sin against God.
So what are we praying for when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation”? James says that God never tempts us to sin. So are we asking God not to do something that He says He will never do?
We know that trials are necessary if you take the second meaning of the word, that trials are necessary for the growth of our faith. So are we asking God to spare us from something that He says we need in order to be spiritually mature when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation”?
Well, I think if you put it with the whole of Scripture, it’s clear that we’re not praying to be exempted from temptation and testing. That’s impossible. Both are a normal, necessary part of the Christian life. So what does it mean?
William Barclay was a Scottish theologian of the early 1900s. He wrote a helpful study on the Lord’s Prayer. He suggests that there are three possible interpretations. And as I’ve reflected on this, I think it’s possible that all of these may be intended by this petition.
First of all he says it could be that it’s a prayer for help when temptation does come. We realize that temptation will come. Testing, trials, the temptation to sin—those temptations and trials will come. But we’re saying, “Lord when it comes don’t abandon me in my time of need. Stand by me. Help me. Don’t leave me to face this alone or unarmed.” So a prayer for help when temptation does come.
He says secondly that it can be a prayer not to escape from temptation but to have victory over it, to have victory over the temptation. We know we’ll be subjected to temptation, but we pray, “Lord, don’t let me be overcome by the temptation.”
We’re not praying that we would not be tempted because that’s impossible as long as we’re on this earth and in these bodies. But we pray that we will not yield to temptation, that we will not be brought under its power, that we won’t be overcome by it.
And then here’s a third—and these are all similar; they’re just nuances perhaps. But this was a common interpretation in the early church and actually some early Latin manuscripts in the New Testament translated it this way. “Do not allow us to be led into temptation,” meaning, “Lord we don’t want to sin against You. So protect us from situations in which we would be likely to be tempted. Defend us. Deliver us from the assaults of temptation which come from our own flesh, from this world, from other people, and from Satan.”
We’re saying in effect, “Please don’t lead us into a trial that would cause us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist.” And again the heart is, “Lord, we want You to be magnified. We want Your name to be hallowed. We want Your kingdom to come. We want Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So Lord, as we walk through this life, don’t lead us anywhere where You won’t give us the grace to deal with what we’re going to face.”
Spurgeon said it this way: “Save me oh Lord from such trials and sufferings as may lead me into sin.”2 Lord, I don’t want to sin against You, so please protect me from that.
Let me give you just a simple human analogy that may help a little bit in understanding this. Let’s imagine that you decide you want to get in shape. You say, “I think I’ll hire a trainer.” So you contact a trainer. You go to a health club and you say, “I want to sign up to get a trainer. I want to get in shape.”
And that trainer says, “Okay. Meet me at 6:00 tomorrow morning at the health club.” So you get there and then you look at all that workout equipment and then you see all those people huffing and puffing on those exercise machines. They all look really, really miserable.
Then the trainer starts describing what it’s going to take to get you into shape because after all you haven’t moved your body for the last ten years and this is going to be a bit of a challenge. You start hearing this. You’re seeing all these other out-of-shape people who are struggling with this.
You know that the trainer is going to push you beyond what you think are your limits. The whole thought all of a sudden is terrifying. "I’m paying for this? I signed up for this?"
I can imagine that you might say to the trainer, “I’m new at this. Go easy on me. Don’t push me too hard. Don’t give me more than I can handle. Don’t start me out at the advanced stage. As we go into this, don’t go too hard on me.”
Now as you say that, you know that the trainer knows what she’s doing. You know that you need this. You know that the trainer has your best interests at heart. But you’re not sure that you can handle what it appears lies ahead. And so you say, “Don’t push me beyond what I can endure.”
Now that’s a simple analogy and it certainly doesn’t explore the depths of this petition. But lead us not into temptation—that’s the heartfelt cry of a child of God who knows how weak and vulnerable he is:
- A child of God who knows how powerful and dangerous and deadly temptation can be.
- A child of God who knows how deceitful sin is, how sly Satan is, how he is wily and crafty.
- A child of God who knows how Satan can catch us off guard.
- A child of God who knows how even as we’re wanting to please the Lord and be faithful to Him and walk with Him, we can get blindsided and broadsided. We can get caught off guard and end up doing things and thinking things and responding in ways that we will greatly regret.
We don’t want to displease the Lord. So many times I’ve seen my own proclivity to fall into certain kinds of sins that are my besetting sins. As I’m facing situations where I know I’m going to be more vulnerable, when I know I’m weaker or more tired or just more susceptible, or I’m in a season of life where there’s just more pressure, more temptation around; yet my heart is saying, “Lord I don’t want to dishonor You in any way. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to sin.
“So Lord, I’m appealing to You. You’re my Father. You’re my keeper. You’re the One who makes and keeps me holy. Lord, would You protect me and do whatever is necessary to keep me from being overcome by the sin that I don’t want to fall into?”
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." We’re going to explore that even further over the next few days, but I just want to say, “Is that your heart’s desire that you don’t want to fall into sin, you don’t want to go there?” Then you will cry out as Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray.
Each of us faces temptation, all the time, so today’s topic is so important. I appreciate hearing this kind of teaching that helps you understand God’s Word and put it into practice. Do you agree?
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When you sin who can you blame? God? Satan?
Nancy: We can’t blame God who sometimes leads us into those situations that Satan uses to tempt us. We can’t blame God, and we can’t blame Satan when we fail to respond in a godly way to the test. So we end up in a testing situation. Satan uses it to tempt us. Then we fall, and then who’s responsible? God for leading us into that situation? Satan for tempting us? No. We are responsible.
When we end up falling into sin, when we end up saying "yes" to temptation, when God says don’t taste the fruit and we say, “I will,” who’s responsible? The serpent? God for putting the tree in the Garden? No. We are responsible. The temptation actually has its source in desires that are within our own hearts.
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who’ve wronged us.
And lead us not away from You.
For thine is the kingdom
And power and glory
Forever and ever.
Nancy: Thank You for teaching us to pray this way Lord and that You knew even before we were born that we would be vulnerable and susceptible to sin. Even once we become Your children, we can get lured in by it. Thank You that You’ve made provision for us even before the fact, so that we can cry out to You. And we can say, “Lord, in this circumstance, in this situation, in this life, I don’t want to sin. I don’t want to displease You. So would You guard my heart? Would you guard my steps? Would you put a hedge of protection around me? And Lord, would You keep me from sin?”
Oh Lord, we do pray as Your children that You would lead us not into temptation but that You would by Your power deliver us from all evil and from the evil one. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Hallowed be thy name.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
1"Come Thou Fount." Robert Robinson.
2Chales Haddon Spurgeon. "Lead Us Not Into Temptation."Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.