Hungry, doubting God and seeking power
Part nine of a series of studies on the Lord’s Prayer
“ ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ ”
Matthew 6:13 (NIV)
We are told in James 1:13-15 God does not tempt anyone – so why is this in the prayer?
If we look at the prayer from the perspective of the author, Jesus Christ, it begins to make more sense – or at least a different sense. This would seem to be a prayer that Jesus had prayed himself – and for himself. Sometimes we are given an insight into the content of a few of Christ’s conversations with his Father. Before his crucifixion Matthew and Luke record his heartfelt prayer: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…” (Luke 22:42). After his resurrection he revealed to Simon Peter saying, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you…” (Luke 22:31-32).
If the Lord’s Prayer is seen from the perspective of what Christ was praying to his Father then surely it would have been prayed before his 40-day fast and subsequent temptation. When he said, ‘lead us not into temptation’, He could have added, ‘I’ve been there, I know what it’s like.’ And ‘deliver us from the evil one’ is also part of what he would have been asking His Father.
In this triumph over the temptations of the evil one, Christ, the second Adam, succeeded where the first Adam failed. ‘Lead us not’ is an admission of our own human weakness. Both Adam and Christ were tempted with food, although we might assume that Adam was not as hungry as Christ. Both were tempted to test God, with the suggestion to Adam, ‘He’s keeping something from you’, and the implication to Christ that he might not be the Son of God. Both were tempted with the empty promise of power – power granted by knowledge, and power over the kingdoms of the earth.
And Christ’s prayer was answered. He was delivered from evil. Before his temptation he prepared with prayer and fasting. And afterwards, angels came and attended him. But he had known that the trial – the temptation, was coming, and as a human being he knew he couldn’t face it without heavenly help. In the same way he was helped and supported prior to his crucifixion when an angel was there to strengthen him (Luke 22:43). Christ knew his disciples could not face their coming trials alone – no more that we can, over 2000 years later. Facing trials is part of the life we have been promised, in this life. Christ does not take us out of the world – we live in it, with all of its problems, but one of his prayers, in John 17:15 was to keep us from the ‘evil one’. This was prayed with the full knowledge of what it was like to be tempted and with a full, personal understanding of the weakness of the flesh.
If we are praying not to be led into temptation, then by implication we are asking to be led somewhere else. Where do we want to be led? Like David in Psalm 23, in itself an amazing reflection of Christ’s prayer, maybe we should be praying to be led ‘beside still waters’, ‘in green pastures’, safely watched over by our Shepherd whom we trust completely, who delivers us from the dangers around us.
Our Father, thank you that your Son, our Saviour, has gone before us and succeeded in overcoming evil, staying true to you and faithful to your word. Thank you that we have a High Priest in him who fully understands our weaknesses. In the trials and the tests that we face, we pray for your love to provide deliverance. Amen.
Study by Maggie Mitchell
About the writer:
Maggie Mitchell attends the Northampton congregation of Grace Communion International and is Chair of the Pastoral Council
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