The Lord’s Prayer 2019
By Michael Vanderzwaag
We have all dealt with temptation. We can eat a great meal and afterwards we can be offered a splendid dessert and we mutter, “That looks tempting.” Maybe we are seeing something that we want and know we cannot have and we are tempted to take it anyways. We think, “That is tempting.”
Is temptation wrong? No, it is not. In these two situations, would it be wrong to have dessert? No. Would it be wrong to take something that does not belong to you and you know you are not allowed to have? Yes, that would be stealing, which we know from scripture is wrong.
Why Pray Against Temptation?
So, if temptation is not wrong in and of itself, why when the disciples ask how to pray, does Jesus in Luke 11:1 include this phrase, “Lead us not into temptation”? God is omniscient (all-knowing). God is outside of time. He can see our lives completely at once.
Therefore, He can see our failures and triumphs completely and simultaneously. Jesus knows our temptations can lead us to sin as we can see many times over in scripture. That is why, when He is teaching us to pray, He includes this line, “And lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13).
Temptation Is Not Something New
Many people point to Jesus being tempted when we talk about our being tempted today. We read of Jesus being tempted by Satan for 40 days while in the wilderness (Matt. 4, Mark 1, Luke 4). The writer to the Hebrews talks about Jesus being our Great High Priest and says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (see Heb. 4:14-16).
Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are. When I read that, I am filled with peace and joy. It means Jesus knows me so well, He knows what I am struggling with when I am facing temptation because He was tempted as I am daily. He knows firsthand what it is like to face temptation!
If I conducted a survey and asked how many of us pray for strength each day, it would be safe to assume that most of us would admit to doing so. When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” that is exactly what we are doing: asking God for strength to face the temptations that come our way. Temptations come our way daily. Therefore, we need strength daily to fight against them so that we may not fall into sin.
At Gethsemane, Jesus returns from praying before His betrayal to find His disciples sleeping, and says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Our flesh is weak.
If our flesh is weak, then we need a source of strength to fight against the temptations that so easily try to lead us astray and sin. That source is Jesus Christ who was crucified and then raised to life so that through Him we might have life should we choose to believe in Him. He will strengthen us. When temptation comes, may we go to Him and ask Him for help and strength by saying these words, “Lead us not into temptation.” God will give us the strength that we need and desire.
The Apostle Paul said, “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 Cor. 10:13). God provides the strength the way through temptations. May we seek Him as we pray, “And lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13).
Deliverance from the Evil (One)
Depending what translation you read, the next phrase of the Lord’s Prayer has various interpretations. The NIV omits this line in Luke 11. Matthew 6 phrases it as “but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13). The KJV phrases it as “but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13, Luke. 11:4).
Regardless of translation, we can come to one certain conclusion: The presence of evil in the world today is real. We turn on the television and see the presence of evil on the news. Whether it is in the form of war, terrorism, racism, or something else entirely, we see the presence of evil around us. That should come as no surprise at all.
We cannot escape the evil that exists, but we can rejoice in the fact that it has been defeated by the finishing work of Jesus Christ on the cross. To put it differently, evil exists, yet holds no power over me because the One in whom I am found has defeated it. The grave and death have been conquered.
Victory is in the Cross
If there is already victory over this evil that resides in this world, then why pray, asking God to deliver us from it? N.T. Wright says, “To pray ‘deliver us from evil,’ or ‘from the evil one,’ is to inhale the victory of the cross, and thereby to hold the line for another moment, another hour, another day, against the forces of destruction within ourselves and the world” (The Lord and His Prayer). Inhale the victory of the cross and dwell on what Jesus accomplished on that cross.
The dichotomy between good and evil is evident. Both are evident in our world as we take off the blinders and look at our society. We can see both good and bad influences around us. There is so much noise in the world today. We hear of people being intolerant of someone’s beliefs; we hear of people being belittled because they are not “good enough.” We can even see people finding dirt on one another for selfish gain. The world is a “me-first” world. We are to look out for number one.
Look to Jesus
I hope we do look out for number one: Jesus Christ. He came, He died, He rose again. As followers of Jesus, we are found in Christ; and because we are found in Him, and because He has obtained the victory by the way of the cross, we then have victory as well in Him.
When we come to this portion of the Lord’s Prayer, may we not pray it as a preventative prayer, asking God to guard and shield us from outward events and obstacles we encounter. Instead, may we pray this prayer with joy while dwelling on the victory of the cross (inhaling the victory of the cross as N.T. Wright suggests) and seeking the strength that comes from God (because of what has been accomplished) to face each day as we joyfully continue on this journey of following Him, seeking to bring glory and honour to His name daily!
Michael Vanderzwaag has served as the lead pastor of Mennville EMC since September 2017. He previously served for three years at Cornerstone Fellowship Church (formerly Swift Current EMC). He holds a Bachelor of Biblical Studies and a BA in Strategic Ministries, both from Millar College of the Bible. He and Katrina Barkman were married on July 13, 2019.