“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)
This last piece of the model for prayer concerns the everyday spiritual battle of our lives.
We live in a world that is profoundly influenced and driven by one who is the sworn enemy of God. In fact, we are reminded that his influence is so wide-reaching that the apostle was inspired to describe him as the “god of this age/world” whose consuming passion is to “blind the minds of the unbelieving.” (see 2 Cor. 4:4)
We don’t have to take too close a look into culture and society, as a whole, to understand that there is a great darkness at work in, and through, so many people (often without their awareness!). This is nothing new. It has been this way ever since sin entered the world. Evil exists. There is the temptation to do evil. And none of us can escape the influence of evil in this world.
What we need is protection in the midst of temptation. We need help in avoiding that which can so easily overwhelm us… if we are unprepared or unaware.
There are two thoughts in this prayer focus…
One) We are seeking God’s divine assistance in the direction of our lives. We are personally asking God to watch over us – to lead us in paths of righteousness, and away from things that are going to severely test our faith. We are looking to God for His help even before we might need it. We are heading off the threat of evil’s influence before it ever crosses our path. We are intentionally trusting God to guide us in what is right and good – and to give us wisdom when the way might seem dark and confusing to us. This request is preventative.
Two) We are also asking God to make us the objects of His deliverance. The word usage in this passage carries the idea that we are seeking God to deliver us to Himself and for Himself. In our act of seeking God’s guidance, we are seeking to submit to His will and purposes. This request affirms God’s ownership of our lives – that we are in His care… and that we are actually trusting in His power to deliver us whenever evil may threaten our lives.
We see this same thought pattern in James’ instruction: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) The key to handling the temptations that are sure to come is two-fold… submission to God (first!) and then, resistance. We cannot rightly resist until we are rightly submitted!
Knowing that we are in a relationship with God is one thing. Acting upon that knowledge is another. Submitting ourselves to God (through each and every prayer) reminds us that we belong to Him and that we are His responsibility. Once we know that we are His, and have submitted to Him, then we are ready to be the recipient of His faithful deliverance from evil.
Whenever we give in to temptation we have lost sight of the fact of Whose we are… and of His commitment to keeping us in His all-powerful care.
This last admonition, of the prayer model, teaches us to confess that we belong to God and (in our real struggles with evil and temptation) we can fully experience what that truth brings to our lives.