30 Mar The Lord’s Prayer: And Lead Us Not Into Temptation
Having led us through forgiveness, the Lord’s Prayer turns to temptation. Jesus approaches the subject from a curious angle. He asks us to pray that the Father will not lead us into temptation. “This inevitably causes us to ask: Why would an all–good God lead us to the devil’s doorstep? If we believe in the Lord, does he not reward that faith by leading us away from temptation?”
Before answering those questions, we need to remember that we are partners with God in this life. Although he regularly grants us blessings in the form of our “daily bread,” how we use and respond to that bread is up to us. Every blessing and talent bestowed by the Holy Spirit carries with it the seeds of our salvation, and our ruin.
This lesson is taught through the story of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. Jesus becomes “full of the Holy Spirit”1 before it leads him to his sit–down with the devil (a confrontation the Spirit will arrange on our behalf, too, since we must follow in Jesus’s footsteps).2 But why does the great tempter appear when we are full of the Holy Spirit and its glory? The popular cry among Christians is for God to save us from temptation because our “spirit is weak”. The whole sequence of events sounds strange.
We often don’t pray when we feel strong in spirit, because we don’t even recognize the risk—which makes these moments all the more dangerous. But Jesus warns us of the threat we face when he says that many who are first shall be last3 and that the rich man will find it easier to pass through the eye of a needle than the gates of heaven.4
The Sin of Pride
The danger is the sin of pride. And it is a temptation that Jesus overcame not only in the wilderness, when he refuses to be tempted by the devil into proving himself to be a Son of God or accepting rule over an earthly kingdom,5 but in every village he went to during his short ministry.
That Jesus battles the devil and the sin of pride all the way up to his death is something we often don’t notice. We tend to think that he conquers Satan in the wilderness and that’s the end of it. But in the Book of Luke we are told that the devil, having emptied his bag of tricks, only slips away to wait for his next opportunity.6 Knowing that Satan remains with him but in hiding, Jesus goes about his business in ways to reduce those opportunities for the devil to appear and tempt him into pride.
Worried that Jerusalem will replace the gospel of Christ with the personality of “Jesus Christ” (and that he too might get carried away by their enthusiasm), Jesus separates himself from his message. After giving a teaching he retreats and hides.7 When challenged by the Pharisees and Sadducees, he says that he can do nothing of himself nor accept any honor, only carry out the will of Father who sent him.8
Seeing his fame spread like wildfire,9 Jesus tells those whom he heals not to tell anyone else;10 and his disciples not to call him the Christ.11 To the very end, he refuses to be crowned the King of the Jews12 or labeled the only Son of God.13
Jesus the Nazarene wanted his followers to see him as a Son of Man. Just as each and every one of us is a Son of Man—in other words, a son or daughter of mankind. It is together, with Jesus, that we sit on the right hand of the Father14 (i.e. in partnership with God) working toward making “His will be done” and fulfilling our potential as children of God through Christ.
In today’s media–driven world, it’s increasingly difficult to find leaders (be they in religion, the arts, business, or politics) who shun fame the way Jesus did. Instead, those who are uncommonly blessed with talent often seek out adulation and cultivate public personalities. Rather than denying the devil his opportunity, they offer him a seat at their table.
Assuming celebrity status, they attribute their gifts and successes to themselves instead of the Father and Holy Spirit. They apply their talents to work unworthy of their gifts, and begin to feel that they deserve their power and possessions. They succumb to their pride, and in doing so forget that “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”. When the inevitable fall from grace occurs it is never pretty.15 But every public fall should be a reminder to us that the devil’s pride must be confronted and overcome.
It is by prayer that we succeed in this task, not because we are seeking divine providence from without (asking the Father to come down from on high and give Satan the boot) but because through prayer we call ourselves to wakefulness, just as Jesus woke up Lazarus. During prayer, we place conscious attention on the fact that pride is forever lurking with the devil in the shadows, affecting us in ways that we often don’t even realize (i.e. are asleep to) at the time—especially when its a wounded pride whispering in our ears.
Consider Jesus’s fateful night at Gethsemane. Before being captured by Roman soldiers he goes off alone to talk with God. When he finishes praying, he returns to his disciples only to find them “sleeping for sorrow”16—in other words, nursing the “oh, woe is me” canard that our pride inspires when things don’t go our way. Jesus admonishes them to pray, so that they don’t fall into this temptation.
By telling them to pray, what Jesus is really asking them to do is wake up and realize that it’s wounded pride causing their sorrow, not sadness over Jesus’s fate—sorrow that they aren’t going to rule with Jesus over an earthly kingdom17 and be lionized for their greatness.18 The same sorrow we feel when we don’t get what is coming to us, what we think we deserve. A sorrow that can quickly turn to hate and violence: as shown by the apostle who shortly after Jesus’s admonition to pray leaps up to slash off a soldier’s ear.19 A sorrow that conveniently leads us to the next line of The Lord’s Prayer: but deliver us from evil.
Read Chapter 11: But Deliver Us From Evil (Overcoming Our Egos)
You have been reading Chapter 10 from the book The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life (with New Testament Gospels). This faith book on life and the power of The Lord’s Prayer is available for purchase in trade paperback below.
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- On returning from the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was led by the power of the Spirit through the wilderness for forty days, tempted by the devil. – Luke 4:1 [↩]
- Calling the people and his disciples to him, Jesus said: “If anyone wishes to walk in my steps, let them renounce self, take up their cross, and follow me. – Matthew 16:24 [↩]
- Everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or fathers, or mothers, or children, or land, on account of my name, will receive many times as much, and will ‘gain Immortal Life.’ 30 But many who are first now will then be last, and those who are last will be first. – Matthew 19:30 [↩]
- Jesus said again: “My children, how hard a thing it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to get through a eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Mark 10:25 [↩]
- Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. 2 And, after he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he became hungry. 3 And the tempter came to him, and said: “If you are God’s Son, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But Jesus answered: “Scripture says: ‘It is not on bread alone that we are to live, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placing him on the parapet of the temple, said to him: 6 “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for scripture says: ‘He will give his angels commands about thee, And on their hands they will bear thee up, lest ever thou should strike thy foot against a stone.’” 7 “Scripture also says,” answered Jesus, “Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God.’” 8 The third time, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain, and showing him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, said to him: 9 “All these I will give you, if you will fall at my feet and pay homage to me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him: “Begone, Satan! For scripture says: ‘Thou shall pay homage to the Lord thy God and worship him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him alone, and angels came and ministered to him. – Matthew 4:1–11 [↩]
- When he had tried every kind of temptation, the devil left Jesus, till another opportunity. – Luke 4:13 [↩]
- “While you still have the light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light.” After he had said this, Jesus went away, and hid himself from them. – John 12:36 [↩]
- I can do nothing of myself; I judge as I am taught; and the judgment that I give is just, because my aim is not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. – John 5:30 [↩]
- The fame of Jesus spread at once in all directions, through the whole neighborhood of Galilee. – Mark 1:28 [↩]
- The man’s ears were opened, the string of his tongue was freed, and he began to talk plainly. 36 Jesus insisted upon their not telling anyone; but the more he insisted, the more perseveringly they made it known. – Mark 7:36 [↩]
- He asked, “Who do you say that I am?” To this Peter replied: “You are the Christ.” 30 On which Jesus charged them not to say this about him to anyone. – Mark 3:11 [↩]
- Meanwhile Jesus was brought before the Roman governor. “Are you the King of the Jews?” asked the governor. “That is what you say,” answered Jesus. – Matthew 27:11 [↩]
- “Are you, then, the Son of God?” they all asked. And Jesus said: “You say that I am.” – Luke 22:70 [↩]
- From this hour ‘the Son of Man will be seated on the right hand of God Almighty. – Luke 22:69 [↩]
- “But those who have listened and not acted upon what they have heard may be compared to a person who built a house on the ground without any foundation. The river swept down upon it, and the house immediately collapsed; and great was the crash that followed.” – Luke 6:49 [↩]
- He rose from praying, and came to the disciples, and found them sleeping for sorrow. 46 “Why are you asleep?” he asked them. “Rise and pray, that you may not fall into temptation.” – Luke 22:45 [↩]
- We were hoping that he was the destined deliverer of Israel. – Luke 24:21 [↩]
- They began questioning one another which of them it could be that was going to do this. 24 And a dispute arose among them as to which of them was to be regarded the greatest. – Luke 22:24 [↩]
- The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 One of those who were standing by drew his sword and struck at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. – Mark 14:47 [↩]