Matthew 6:13 “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
In verse 12 Jesus taught His disciples to ask for forgiveness when they have broken their relationship with the Father. Because God forgives us, we are to be forgiving toward others. Being humble in God’s presence makes us humble before and with our fellow man.
Christians do not enjoy, or should not enjoy, a broken, disrupted relationship with their Father. Because of this, we ask God to not lead us into temptation but to deliver us from evil.
A question comes to my mind from the beginning, “Why does Jesus teach us to ask God to not lead us into temptation?”
After all, James writes that “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13) God is light, and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). Why would we ask God to do something, to not lead us into temptation since we know it is impossible for God to do this because He is holy?
Tempted in this case carries with it the idea of testing. Jesus is not teaching that God would lead us to be tempted to sin but rather is teaching His disciples to ask God to not lead them into any situation that would make obedience to God and a life of holiness harder. We will be tested in the Christian life, but we should not pray that God would lead us into situations that would make obedience harder.
The second portion of this section is a request from God to deliver us from evil. Other translations such as the NIV translates this phrase deliver us from the evil one. One interpretation is that Jesus is telling us to pray that God would deliver us from our enemy Satan. Another interpretation is that Jesus is talking about evil generally. Either way you look at this Jesus is teaching us to ask our heavenly Father to deliver us from anything that would keep us from Him.
We ask God to do what only God can do. We know that in and of ourselves we cannot direct the circumstances of our lives nor withstand the power of evil. Evil is pervasive in our world, it always has been, and apart from God working in our lives, we would succumb to it at every turn. God must direct our lives and delivers us from evil in order that we might become more like Jesus.
There are two implications from Jesus’ teaching.
First, if we are to get along in the Christian life, we need the protection of the Father. One commentator wrote, “The stress in both clauses is on the vulnerability of the disciples and their consequent dependence on God for avoiding sin.” We can this a step further and say we are not only dependent on God to avoid sinning, but we are dependent on Him to be holy in our thoughts and actions.
This is the life of sanctification. God works in us so that we might pursue holiness (Philippians 2:12-13). We need God’s work, and we need God’s protection. This is evident in the Old Testament in a favorite Psalm, Psalm 23. The shepherd protects the sheep and leads the sheep in the paths of righteousness (23: 3), and He does it for His name sake, He does it for His glory which is always for the good of His children.
Second, Jesus teaches that our pursuit of holiness is intimately tied with prayer. Do you view prayer and holiness as inseparable? Jesus does. This portion of the Lord’s teaching is focused on our pursuit of holiness. We want to be holy, so we ask God to not lead us into circumstances that will make it difficult to obey. We desire Christ-likeness, so we ask our Father to deliver us from evil.
Prayer is a war-time walkie talkie. We are in a spiritual battle against the forces of evil, and if they had their way, they would rip us from our heavenly Father.
God has designed our dependence on Him and prayer to work together. I’ve been asked before why we should pray if God is sovereign. This question severely limits prayer. Prayer is not mainly about making requests of God. It is mainly an expression of our dependence on Him that we are needy and we cannot do what is required of us without His help.
When we are tempted, we should pray. Pray for deliverance. Pray for God’s help to get you out of the temptation, to avoid sin, and obey instead of sin. In our temptations we should cry out to our Father “DELIVER ME! I need you, I know I can’t escape this on my own. Apart from you I will sin and give into the flesh. I want to glorify you and not break my relationship with you. Deliver me, Father.”
Why do we pray? Because we want to know our Father, we want to honor Him, and we need Him to be holy as He is holy. One of the means God has given to us to pursue holiness is prayer.