And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:13 ESV
Whenever I begin to finish a sermon series, I almost always have a longing to set aside my previous plans for the following series in order to repeat the current one again. This is because, after having spent dozens of hours each week pouring over each piece of the text consecutively, my original understanding of the overall passage has been dwarfed by the accumulated insights of the study. The Lord’s Prayer is no exception.
Only here at the conclusion of our study have I noticed a flavor of the Trinity within the first three petitions. Certainly, each petition applies to God both in His unity and to each Person of the Trinity. Yet in a particular way, the Father’s name is to be hallowed. For instance, the exaltation of Jesus’ name in Philippians is “to the glory of God the Father” (2:11). With the second petition, we know that Christ is the bringer of the kingdom to earth, both in its inauguration and its consummation. With the third petition, the Spirit plays a distinct role in conforming and shaping us to the Father’s heavenly will.
We could even make such note of these concluding petitions. The Bible often reveals the Father as our provider, our giver (Matthew 6:33, 7:11; John 3:16). Jesus, of course, is our redeemer who by His own blood has ransomed us from the curse of sin. The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our source of strength as we take up our cross daily, killing sin and following Jesus.
Furthermore, as I’ve noted previously, the first three petitions are for realities far too grand and glorious for us to truly comprehend, while the second three address the present needs and weaknesses of our life here and now. We could also note that the final three reflect our embedded nature to time. There is, of course, a temporal element to the first set as well. The hallowing of God’s name is the only truly eternal petition. His kingdom is here but still to come. His will is being done but not yet as it is in heaven. Even still, God’s kingdom and will are eternal and steadfast realities. We, however, are bound to time, and the second set reflect this. In praying for our daily bread, we are reminded of our need for provision in the present. Yesterday’s bread is already eaten, and tomorrow may not arrive. Jesus began with the present because it is where we dwell, and He addresses the present’s primary concern. Yet needy creatures as we are, our present needs are almost always enhanced by the burden of past failures or the anxiety of future possibilities. Thus, the fifth and sixth petitions address the great needs of the past and of the future. Our plea for forgiveness of our debts is a making right of past wrongs. Within that petition, Christ calls us to make our accounts right before both God and our fellow men. The sixth petition, as we will quickly see, is a remedy for our anxiety over future sins, dangers, and sorrows by casting them at the feet of our great Deliverer.
Like all of the Bible, the more time spent meditating upon the Lord’s Prayer the bigger and more encompassing it becomes. Augustine’s words, which I cited at the beginning of our study, ring now even more truthfully than they once did: “the words our Lord Jesus Christ has taught us in his prayer give us the framework of true desires. You are not allowed to ask for anything else, but what is written here” (86). The Lord’s Prayer is the sum of all true prayer. Happy is the one who attempts to plumb their depths!
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
As with the previous petition, this one is composed of two parts, so we will address them each in order to discover what sort of prayer Christ is teaching us to pray.
We first must understand what temptation is and why we would wish to avoid it. Temptation is any draw, desire, or enticement toward sin, which is a problem since sin is our great problem. Sin is the ultimate enemy of humanity because it is what makes evil evil and Satan Satan. Sin is the denial of God’s glory and the rejection of His authority, a futile attempt to overthrow the King of Kings. The danger of temptation is sin. Being tempted is not evil, yield, however, is. There are three general sources of temptation: self, the world, and Satan. As we will soon see from the book of James, we are the primary source of our own temptation. We have a natural inclination toward sin, a disposition toward doing whatever we want. If we were left alone, without the influence of Satan or the world, we would still sin, probably less frequently, but still sin nevertheless.
The greatest testament of sin’s sinfulness is, of course, seen through the lens of the gospel. Such was the severity of our sin that nothing could redeem us except the blood of God Himself. The immensity of a debt is fully displayed by its payment. The heinousness of our sin lies not merely with the sin itself but in its offense against the worth and dignity of God.
Notice also that the petition also begins with the word and, which designates a special connection between the fifth and sixth petitions. It seems that the one cannot be rightly prayed without the other. After all, a longing to be forgiven the debt of sin is likely not genuine unless it also comes with a desire to avoid further sin. Such is true repentance. Likewise, a plea to be spared from falling into temptation in the future will almost always stir up a remembrance of former falls. These two petitions, therefore, are intrinsically bound to one another because our fight against sin must always be fought on both fronts.
What exactly is Jesus teaching us to pray whenever we say lead us not into temptation? Does this mean that God tempts us to sin? By no means! James 1:12-14 gives to us a clear teaching on the nature of temptation:
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
God tempts no one to sin; instead, temptations arise from our own desires, bubbling forth into sin and eventually death. Temptation comes from us, never from God. Thankfully, James’ teaching could not be clearer. Yet James also speaks of trials, which is noun form of the Greek verb for tempted. In fact, the King James translates trial in verse 12 as temptation. The same word was also used earlier by James in verses 2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Although God tempts no one, He allows us to endure trials as seasons of testing to produce in us the fruit of steadfastness. These trials may lead to temptations, yet the temptations themselves do not arise from God. Consider the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. We are explicitly told that Jesus “was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2). Jesus’ temptation came from Satan, yet the Holy Spirit led Him into such testing. Likewise, Job’s temptation to curse God came from the hand of Satan, but it was God who permitted the devil to touch him.
Why would God allow such things to happen? If His will is that we would abstain from sin, why then does He permit us to be tempted by our own desires or even to endure demonic suggestions? As James stated, the testing of our faith produces steadfastness and the one who endures to the end will receive the crown of life. We are led into periods of testing in order to progress in our sanctification. As a knife must be sharpened by passing along the sharpener, so God prepares us for use by sharpening us through trials.
Still, if God brings us through trials for our ultimate good, why does Jesus teach us to pray that we would not be led into temptation? While we will certainly undergo trials of God’s design, we should readily pray that they would be few and that we would not succumb to sin as we pass through them.
As Jesus went to pray in Gethsemane, He told His disciples to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). Then while praying in the garden, Jesus modeled for us how we are to pray to be spared from trials. His greatest trial was the crucifixion, and as He prayed in great distress, He asked for the Father to be spared the suffering. Yet more important than His anguish over the horrors about to befall Him was His desire to do the Father’s will. In the same way, we certainly may pray for God to withhold suffering and trials from us, but we must make such petitions with a readiness to submit to God’s good designs, even when they involve our affliction.
We should also pray for strength to withstand temptation whenever it comes upon us. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Every temptation comes an escape route by the faithfulness of our heavenly Father. We should pray, therefore, for the Father’s grace to flee temptation whenever it appears. Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews encourages us with these words: “for because he himself [Jesus] has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (2:18). Our God possesses great sympathy for our weakness and will come to our aid when we cry out to Him.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Jesus then continues the petition by teaching us to pray deliver us from evil. Many commentators note that because the Greek word for evil here is masculine instead of neutral that it would be better to read it as the evil one rather than evil in general. Both are certainly applicable, but Jesus appears to be referencing Satan specifically.
Why is this?
Even though our sin is our great enemy, we should not underestimate the danger of Satan. Some Christians spend an improper amount of time focusing upon the devil, believing him to be at the root of every hardship or sin in their lives. Equally harmful though is the opposite extreme. If Peter calls Satan a roaring lion seeking those he may devour, it would be foolish of us to neglect such a warning. Instead, the reality of Satan is that he is powerful and deadly but also limited. He himself is clever but not omniscient. Some Christians believe that they are called to rebuke Satan in Jesus’ name, but the reality is that we are probably never attacked by the devil himself but rather his demonic minions. These evil spirits, like Satan himself, have the desire to see us plunge into sin. For this reason, these two parts of the petition are one idea. To be kept from temptation is a general plea to be preserved from the luster of sin, while being delivered from the evil one is praying for specific protection from satanic onslaught.
Just as we should fervently pray for grace to stand in the hour of temptation, so we should pray with great fervor to be protected from the wiles of Satan. Even though Satan’s ultimate goal is to cause us to sin, his tactics for doing so are myriad. We tend to think of demons as mainly tempting us toward overt sins like lust or drunkenness, yet they just as often can tempt us toward more subtle sins and even tempt us to doubt our forgiveness in Christ. In many ways, subtle sins can be even more deadly because they tend to go unnoticed. But what constitutes one of these subtle sins? While discussing the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins, we established two forms of sin, sins committed and sins omitted. Typically, sins of omission are easier to slip by as opposed to the more blatant sins of commission. Yet sin is sin. All sin is disobedience, whether that disobedience comes in the form of an action or inaction. How often do you actively strive to love God with all your heart, soul, and might? Regardless of the outward piety of your actions, you are disobedient without fulfilling this command. But, you may say, we will never fulfill that command fully in this life. True, yet by the grace given to us in Christ, we should labor each day, each hour, to make it a reality. Still, we can turn to another command: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Is this true of you? Is your Scripture reading simply another item on your to-do list, or is it your daily bread?
Brothers and sisters, distraction is as great a tool in the hand of Satan as persecution. Through persecution, many of our fellow Christians are being tempted to deny Christ in order to save their lives. Although we hear the inspiring stories of the martyrs, we must remember that many will take the broad and easy path instead. As we pray this prayer in the plural form, we should pray that Christ would not allow them to fall into Satan’s hand, to sift them like wheat (Luke 22:31). But if their temptation is to flee from Christ like the disciples when He was arrested, ours is to fall asleep like the disciples in Gethsemane. Satan is an expert crafter of lullabies. In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus warns us to stay awake as await Christ’s return. Revelation 16:15 makes a similar plea: “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”
The Scriptures call us to stay awake, to be watchful and sober-minded. These descriptions describe a life of vigilance. Paul told Timothy to be strengthened by the grace of Christ and to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1-3). The life of a soldier is a life of discipline, diligence, and vigilance. He, therefore, also gave Timothy this warning: “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (v. 4). Since we are entrenched in a cosmic war with spiritual beings, we must live as soldiers who are devoted to Christ our captain. Unfortunately, we often do not consider the eternal reality of this conflict because we have already immersed ourselves in “civilian affairs.” We feel little need to cry for our Lord’s mighty protection whenever we are oblivious to the danger. It is as foolish as someone walking nonchalantly through a minefield because they are absorbed in a video on their phone.
In a fitting sense of symmetry, the first petition for God’s name to be hallowed is really a plea for us to become cognizant to reality itself, since His glory is the bedrock of all existence, and this petition is a cry for us to be awakened to the present dangers of the world. Indeed, is not this one of the very purposes of prayer, to mold us to God’s will and vision? May the Father, therefore, awaken us to the horridness of sin, the goodness of Jesus, and the greatness of God’s glory.
KINGDOM, POWER, GLORY
If you use a King James Version or New King James Version of the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer ends with the words for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. If you read from the New American Standard Bible, those words are bracketed, and if you use the English Standard Version (as I do), New International Version, New Living Translation, or the Christian Standard Bible, the closing doxology is entirely absent.
What’s the deal?
If you take note of the footnotes in the latter two categories of translations, you will find a note saying either that the earliest manuscripts do not contain said doxology or that it only appears in later manuscripts. While some theologians will argue for these words being an original part of the Lord’s Prayer, many have now come to believe that it is a later addition due to its absence in the earliest copies of the New Testament. Although I am certainly no textual critic, this seems to be the fact of the text.
If this doxology is a later addition, should we consider it a part of Scripture? I think not. This does not, however, mean that the doxology is not scriptural. It certainly is! In fact, it seems to be a condensed form of David’s prayer from 1 Chronicles 29:11-12:
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
Furthermore, the three aspects of this word of praise are reflecting back upon the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. The kingdom obviously corresponds to your kingdom come. The power mirrors God’s will, which one day will be done entirely on earth as it is in heaven. Finally, the glory reflects God’s hallowed name, since in many ways God’s glory is the radiance and display of His holiness (as Piper has noted).
Even if these words were not actually spoken by Christ (remember, though, that scholars have only made a studious guess), these words are certainly scriptural, even if they are not actually part of Scripture. This doxology serves as a fitting response of praise to the glorious prayer that He has given to His people.
As we pray, therefore, to the eternal Creator who because of Christ is our Father, praying for His name to be seen for as the holy name that it is, for His kingdom to come fully and visibly, for His will to be done on earth as it is already done in heaven, for Him provide us, His children, with our daily needs, for Him to forgive us our sins against Him, and for Him to protect us from the deadly sting of sin, we consider with amazement and wonder that we have the ear of the Almighty. As we draw near with confidence in Christ to the throne of grace to receive our Father’s mercy and grace in our times of need, we rightly respond to Him with praise, saying, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.