What did Jesus mean when He told us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”?
After all, James 1:13,14 plainly teaches us that God cannot be tempted, He does not tempt us and temptation comes from within where our flesh wars against our spirit and The Spirit.
The answer is partially found in the Greek word which is sometimes rendered ‘trials’ and sometimes rendered ‘temptations.’ The former has to do with sufferings which test or try and the latter has to do with allurements on the side of pleasure. It is undoubtedly the first meaning which Jesus refers to in this passage. Matthew 26:41 is helpful here where Jesus instructs us to pray so that we will not fall into trials because “…the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Since we all will undergo persecution, spiritual conflicts, agony of body and spirit of one degree or another and since these will forge our inner man, should we ask God not to allow any of these things to happen to us? Since we are all conscious of our weaknesses, maybe the answer lies in the fact that, since we are prone to failure and sin, we should petition our Heavenly Father to spare us that which may make us enter into sin. When we think of the fact that Jesus had fairly recently undergone terrible temptation in the wilderness when He spoke these words, it may very well have been His empathy for us to teach us to pray that we may not be tested/tried/tempted so severely. We know that I Corinthians 10:13 says that a way of escape will be provided, but our heartfelt prayer echoes that which Jesus prayed in the Garden, namely that, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.”
Monday…Martin Luther said that he could not prevent the birds from flying overhead, but he could indeed prevent them from building a nest in his hair. He said this in response to a question on temptation. We all will be tempted; we all have a choice when it comes to sin.
Tuesday…A familiar motto is: “no pain, no gain.” Many young athletes have found that this is not necessarily a good way to train. Pain is telling the body something important. Being uncomfortable is not necessarily being in pain. Trials sometimes are painful. While we may indeed grow from experiencing trials, we all realize that we also may be devastated by a severe trial, so we ask our Father to spare us.
Wednesday-Friday…for these three days, consider these portions of familiar verses: “The wages of sin is death.” “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” “The Devil seeks whom he may devour.” “Jesus was tempted in all ways just as we are, but was without sin.” “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Also consider the antithesis of “lead us not into temptation” which is, “but deliver us from evil”. We remember that only Jesus can deliver us from evil.