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Focus: Lead us not into temptation
Matthew 6:9-13 (NKJV) Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
If you’ve lived long at all, you have been tempted to sin and you have sinned. You have faced something that was tempting to you, and you have bit into the apple, chewed up what you bit off, and then swallowed it down. You didn’t just look at the apple and think, “What a pretty thing.” You didn’t just imagine how good it would taste and then walk away. You saw the apple, you thought about how it would taste. You held it in your hand. You brought it toward yourself. Then you opened your mouth, bit into the apple, tasted it, and swallowed it.
We all need to have our faith tested. Through the testing of our faith—we become stronger and our faith in God grows. A ‘test’ is being faced with any wrong thing that would tempt us to go against what God has told us not to do. The test itself is not sin.
In a test, we could be faced with a tempting sight or thought. As we recognize the sight or thought as temptation, we have a choice to make. Will we sin? Or will we not? Recognizing a temptation is not sin. Having the ability to recognize temptation and not sin, is another matter.
Often, we fail to see the moment of choice. When we are faced with temptation, before we even consider the fact that there is a choice to make—we ‘enter in’, which is what happens right before we actually sin.
What Jesus is suggesting in this part of the Lord’s prayer is that we should pray that God will not allow us to reach the point during a test where we ‘enter in’. He is suggesting that we should have the desire for God to spare us from reaching the point of picking up the apple and considering the fact that we could ‘have a bite.’
“Lead us not into temptation’ means, ‘Don’t let me ‘get into’ the temptation. When temptation comes, let me recognize it for what it is, and not go any further—or get to the point where I would actually sin.”
Matthew 26 is an account of some of the last events that happened before Jesus was crucified. Around the middle of the chapter, we see that Jesus has just had ‘the last supper’ with His disciples. Right after that, He takes the disciples with Him to the garden of Gethsemane, where He wants to take some time to pray.
The disciples fall asleep while Jesus is agonizing in prayer over what He is about to face. Jesus is in extreme sorrow and distress as He prays about His crucifixion. He is wanting the disciples to pray for Him and for themselves because He knows that the degree of testing they will all face very shortly is going to be beyond intense.
It’s very interesting that Jesus goes apart from the disciples to pray alone. After a while, He comes back to where He left the disciples and finds them sleeping. He wakes them up and says to Peter in verse 41 (paraphrased), “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing (to do what is right), but the flesh is weak.” Jesus goes back to His place of solitude and continues to pray. He prays three times, and returns to the disciples three times. Each time He comes back to the disciples, they are sleeping instead of praying.
The third time Jesus wakes His disciples when they should have been praying, as He is talking to them, Judas brings the chief priests and elders to take Jesus into custody. Peter suddenly is wide awake. He draws a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the servants of the priests. Jesus tells Peter to put his sword away. Jesus admonishes that if He truly wanted or needed defending He could have asked His Father to send ten thousand angels and they would immediately fight for Him and deliver Him from the situation.
While Jesus was praying, He was facing His temptation to run from His circumstances. The strength He gained through the time He spent praying enabled Him to faithfully offer His lifeblood as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
On the other hand, the disciples had not prayed—they had slept instead. In this moment of confrontation as Jesus was being arrested—the disciples didn’t have the strength or faith to stand by Him. They all left Him and ran. Jesus had asked them to pray three times. During that night, Peter denied he knew Jesus three times. Perhaps if Peter had prayed that he would not ‘enter into temptation’ as Jesus suggested, he would have had the strength to be faithful.
Declaration: I will find new strength by humbly praying that I would not ‘enter into temptation’.
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