“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13 NIV)
When Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in the desert, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, affirmed in his identity by the voice of God the Father, and led forth to begin his ministry. But the next step was wilderness time.
Scripture seems clear about a few important details. One, Jesus was led to the wilderness by the Spirit. Two, Jesus was tempted/tested in the wilderness by the devil (the narrative seems to make little distinction between these terms). Three, James asserts in his letter that God does not tempt people:
“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” (James 1:13-14 NIV)
So, this prayer Jesus taught–reading it alongside James–has us praying along with God’s own nature and will. He is not a tempter; he does not desire for us to fall.
In praying, “lead us not into temptation,” we are acknowledging our human weakness–“prone to wander, Lord I feel it” as the classic hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” puts it. And we are praying for God to be true to himself–“nor does he tempt anyone.”
Jesus knows we will face temptation, but we must remember it is never God who tempts us. We ask God not to lead us into temptation. But knowing temptation will happen in life, we also pray for God to deliver us.
Prayer: God, I am embarrassed at how easily tempted I am away from the right path you have for me. Remind me that you will not tempt me, but will deliver me through the saving grace of Christ. Amen.