Sunday, May 14, 2017

Praying for Protection

Part 7 of Talking to God

Text: Matthew 6:13




“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). 


The Need for Protection

A few years ago, I was pressure washing my deck, and I became curious about how strong the water pressure was. So I sprayed my foot—my bare foot. That was a mistake. My foot hurt so much that I was afraid to look at it, thinking there might be a hole in it. I discovered the hard way why it’s recommended that you wear protective footwear while pressure washing.

The final petition of the Lord’s Prayer is a petition for protection: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). As people often foolishly do a job without wearing the recommended protective gear, we often foolishly go through a day without praying to God for protection from sin. Why do we do that? It’s often because of overconfidence in ourselves.


Lead Us Not into Temptation?

Would God ever lead us into temptation? No, James 1:13 states that “[God] tempts no one.” So why should we pray, “Lead us not into temptation”? The Greek word translated “temptation” (peirasmos) can mean either “temptation” or “trials.” Both temptation and trials are tests. They test our faithfulness to God. [1]

God doesn’t test us by leading us into temptation, but he sometimes does test us by causing us to go through trials. [2]“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials [peirasmos] of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2; cf. v. 12). According to the ESV Study Bible, “The meaning [of Matthew 6:13] most likely carries the sense, ‘Allow us to be spared from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin.’” [3]

But if trials produce steadfastness, should we pray to avoid them? Jesus did. He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). We can pray to avoid a trial, but we must allow for the possibility that it could be God’s will for us to go through the trial. If so, we must pray for protection, knowing that the temptation to sin is greater during times of trial.


The Overconfidence Effect

On the same night that Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from me,” Peter boasted that he would always remain faithful to Jesus, no matter the cost. Jesus said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (v. 34). But Peter replied, “Even if I must die, I will not deny you!” (v. 35). 

Later, Jesus urged Peter, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Peter was indeed willing to be loyal to Jesus, but he didn’t realize how weak his flesh really was. Instead of praying, Peter fell asleep. After Jesus was arrested, Peter’s faithfulness to Jesus was tested. Peter was asked three times if he was a follower of Jesus. Three times he denied it. The rooster crowed, and Peter “wept bitterly” (v. 75). To avoid succumbing to temptation, we must acknowledge our spiritual weakness and pray to God for help. 


Resist the Devil

The Christian life is like a never-ending battle. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). “[Our] adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The Greek word for “evil” (poneros) could also be translated as “the evil one” (i.e., the devil).

The devil and his temptations can be resisted: “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9). “No temptation [peirasmos] 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 Cor. 10:13).

How do we resist the devil? Through prayer and God’s word: “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17-18). When Jesus was tempted by the devil, he used Scripture to resist the devil (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10).


God Cares for Us

Before Peter urges his readers to resist the devil, he tells them, “[Cast] all your anxieties on [God], because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). When trials come into our lives, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us. The cross proves that he cares about us. Don’t turn your back on the one who cares for you.

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[1] “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). It was the devil who did the tempting, not God. But it is true that the Spirit led Jesus into a trial (fasting for forty days in the wilderness) that was used by the devil to tempt Jesus. (The first temptation was “Command these stones to become loaves of bread,” v. 3). The trial tested the faithfulness of Jesus to the Father.
[2] “God tested Abraham” (Gen. 22:1).
[3] ESV Study Bible, 1832.