We live in a scary world. People are frightened by the COVID-19 virus, by financial instability, and threats of conflict. But I would suggest that we face a much more threatening danger. It is a triple danger: the world, the flesh, and the devil. No wonder that in Matthew 6:13 Jesus teaches you to pray that God will not lead you into temptation.
Don’t lead us into temptation. God does not tempt you. Temptations and trials will come, James 1:2,3. You pray that they may be avoided, but also that you may not give in to temptation. God will provide a way of escape. There are times when God allows temptation. He can even use them to strengthen you. God is not the tempter, James 1:13. He is sovereign, he controls all things, even the temptations which come into your life, but he is not the author of sin. He does not tempt you. Do not blame God. The tendency to do so goes all the way back to Genesis 3. Satan tempts you, and you are responsible for your course of action, whether resisting or giving in to the temptation. Temptations are common to man, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Other Christians have resisted sin–so can you. (The same comfort is there for trials through which you pass.) You cannot escape responsibility. You are not unique in your situation. John Own writes: “When we suffer a temptation to enter into us, then we ‘enter temptation.’ While it knocks at the door we are at liberty; but when any temptation comes in and parleys with the heart, reasons with the mind, entices and allures the affections, bi it a long or a short time, do it thus insensibly and imperceptibly, or do the the soul take notice of it. We ‘enter into temptation.’” (Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. By Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, page 160).
God will make a way to escape. God is faithful. God assures you that he will answer this prayer. He is faithful to provide a way of escape. This assurance rests on the faithful character of God and goes back to the perfect work of Christ. In this prayer, like in many, you are praying for what God has promised he will do. You can’t say ‘can’t’! Your temptation or trial is not a special case. Don’t make excuses for it. There is hope for you, if you turn to God, whatever your temptation, whatever your trial. Pray this prayer–and then live obediently. Don’t walk in the path of the ungodly. Follow Paul’s advice, and flee temptation, 2 Timothy 2:22. That involves not only fleeing temptation, but also a positive pursuit of righteousness, love, and peace. And it is not a solo operation. Sanctification is something that we do together as the church.
Deliver us from evil. “Deliver us from the evil one” is probably a better way to put it. The petition could refer to the abstract idea of evil. This involves a prayer that God would deliver you from all forms of evil and sin. Likely the noun is personal, and appropriately translated, “the evil one.” Remember who it was that was introduced in Matthew 4:1,2, tempting Jesus. Temptation is the result of the work of the tempter. Depersonalizing sin can make it appear a more distant problem. Our Lord takes seriously the problem of evil. If you turn on the news, you can hardly doubt the pervasive presence of evil. Some suggest that evil is just a learned behavior, or an influence in our culture. An article I read some time ago suggested that the evil in our culture is a self-fulfilling prophecy growing out of Christianity’s teaching of original sin (we expect people to be evil, and they are!). But God tells us that the problem of evil is due to rebellion against him–Adam’s, and our own. Satan tempts us to sin, and we tend to give in to those temptations. “We are here taught to ask God to deliver us from the evil that is in the world, the evil that is within our own hearts, and not least from that evil one, the devil. We confess that, so long as we are in the body, we are constantly seeing, hearing, and feeling the presence of evil. It is about us, and with us, and around us on every side. And we entreat Him, who alone can preserve us, to be continually delivering us from its power.” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol. 1, pages 54–55).
Christ answers this prayer for you. Jesus Christ was tempted as the second Adam. His temptation is more than just an example of how to resist temptation (we pray, “Deliver us from temptation,” but Christ was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted, Matthew 4:1). The second Adam obeyed where the first one fell. This was the first step in Christ overcoming Satan. Christ’s public work defeated Satan. The preaching by the 72 was a defeat of Satan, Luke 10:18. In the miracles demons were cast out, and the sickness, and even death, which are the result of sin, were hurled back. Christ’s death and resurrection mark his decisive victory over Satan. The evil one has power, but it is limited. The Lord, who teaches you this prayer, claimed as he ascended triumphantly into heaven that all power has been given to him, Matthew 28:18. Appreciate the thrust of Psalm 72. It does celebrate the triumphal, powerful rule of Solomon. But it does more than that. That king was an earthly reflection of the glorious King in heaven. And, even more, it anticipates the triumphal rule of the messianic King. “Our blessed Savior knows full well our state and condition; he knows the power of temptations, having had experience of it (Heb. 2:18); he know our vain confidence, and the reserves we have concerning our ability to deal with temptations, as he found it in Peter; but he knows our weakness and folly, and how soon we are cast to the ground, and therefore does he lay in this provision for instruction at the entrance of his ministry, to make us heedful, if possible, in that which is of so great concern to us. If then, we will repose [place] any confidence in the wisdom, love, and care of Jesus Christ toward us, we must grant the truth pleaded for.” (John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. By Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, pages 167–168). Focus on what your triumphant Savior is doing right now. He, still the God-man, still just as human and divine as he was during his humiliation, is sitting at the right hand of the Father. There he is praying for you as you pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” As you live, trusting him, you can pray this concluding petition with confidence!
Jesus Christ is the victorious King. His victory is going to be totally complete in the last day. Therefore pray with confidence, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”