2007-09-08 - The Prayers of Christ
#9 ~ The Lord's Prayer, cont'd.
Some translations read: "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." I personally prefer the Contemporary English Version, which puts it this way:
Matthew 6:13 Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil. (CEV)
For I believe that this is truer to God's character. And I think that in The Message, Eugene Patterson provides the best rendering that I have yet to read:
Matt 6:13 "Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil." (The Message)
For while God tests us (see Hebrews 11:17, for example.), He does not tempt us. As James 1:13-14 informs us, our temptations come from our very deepest hearts.
James 1:13-14 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
Testing, which God does - is one thing; temptation is another. God allows temptations, but He certainly doesn't cause them. He, above all, doesn't want us to sin. A holy God isn't in the business of trying to entice people to fail Him; if you follow through on that thought process, it wouldn't make sense, in light of what we know about His character.
And in the story of Job, for example, God didn't initiate the action; it was satan who asked God for permission to "mess with" Job. God allowed satan's actions, but God Himself was not the instigator.
But God is ready and waiting, to help us overcome the temptations that inevitably come our way. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
1 Cor 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (NIV)
But when we pray this prayer, we need to be willing to cooperate with the people and things that God provides to help us defeat temptation. For an alcoholic, it can come in the form of an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor provided by our loving Heavenly Father, to help keep him / her accountable, but meetings must be attended faithfully. For a spouse who feels the "grass is greener" with someone other than his/her partner, God may provide alternate activities (which must be participated in), or a bluntly honest friend (whose advice must be heeded). If we are tempted to spend beyond our means, God will help us get our priorities in shape, but we have to stop going to the stores that contain the items yearned for.
God will do His part, but He won't do ours. That's a common misconception today, that we are to just pray and /or fast, and God will take care of everything else. And for sure, we should pray. But we must be active disciples, not passive ones. While the phrase "God helps those who helps themselves" is not in the Bible, it is nevertheless true. For example, God can certainly miraculously cure an addict in a split second, but most often He does it through the help of friends holding the addict accountable, and a lot of self-discipline on the part of the addict.
Even the Apostle Paul admitted a lifelong struggle with temptation. In Romans 7:14-15, confessed: "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."
I encourage you to think (along with me) about y/our weaknesses, and to ask God to help you/us to trust Him to do His part, and help us to do ours.
Comments or Questions?