“In this manner, therefore, pray: 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.”
Many years ago as I was considering temptation I was led to the observation that temptation has only three causes or sources.
The first is the devil. He is the source of the first temptation that befell Eve in the garden. He is the source of the three great temptations that Jesus was victorious over in the wilderness. He is without a doubt the instigator of many of the temptations we face each day. There’s some truth in the statement, “the devil made me do it.”
But the devil isn’t the only source of temptation. Other people also impose temptations upon us, and they are the second source of temptation. Sometimes those provocations are intentional and other times they’re the product of thoughtless actions but still many temptations will come today that find their source in other people.
But there’s also a third source and that source is our own self: our weaknesses, our wants and our desires. I believe that we, in our unsurrenderedness, unsubmittedness, carelessness and distractedness, are the largest contributor to the stream of temptation we experience each day. The apostle John tells us that when the devil prepares his temptations he first consults our personal desires so that he can better guarantee the success of his efforts. This means that even the devils temptations find their inspiration in us.
So when we prayer the Lord’s Prayer and ask that God, “lead us not into temptation but to deliver us from evil,” we are to a great degree asking that God would lead us away from our own sinful selves. We’re asking that God would somehow lessen the hold that our own perverted wants and desire have on our lives so that God can deliver us from the evil thoughts and impulses that have their beginning in us. We’re asking that God would save us from ourselves.
It’s important that we realize this because without this realization we’ll never be able to fully cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he works to bring the, “Yes,” that God gives our prayer to fulfillment. If we don’t recognize that God is, in fact, leading us away from ourselves as he leads us to himself we won’t be able to follow as willingly as we need to. The old man of sin Jesus is trying to relegate into the distant past will keep interfering with his insistence that we take a different path if we don’t take the steps we need to take to silence and marginalize him.
Lead us not into temptation is not just what happens outside of us. The greatest part of that prayer will, in fact, happen inside our own hearts and minds.
O Jesus, lead me in the paths of righteousness. Lead me away from the sinful impulses and desires that characterize my own heart. Deliver me from the evil that is my own nature. Protect me from the interference of the devil and others. Lead me to Jesus today.