Click on the quote below to read the article...

At one time or another, I have written articles on almost all of the lines in the Lord's Prayer. But there is one that has been a bit of a problem, at least from a theological perspective:  "Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."  I would like to look at that a bit more in this article, and to suggest a possible resolution for my own bafflement.

Asking God to protect us from evil, and even from temptation seems inconsistent with the fact that we were put here on the Earth for the express purpose of making a choice between good and evil.  "Evil", of course, would not be the logical choice for anyone unless it had certain appealing qualities, which we call temptation.  Isn't a request that those appealing qualities be hidden from us something of an unfair request?

In the story of Job, it seems that God almost delights in proving to Satan that his servant is not going to give in, even though the Devil brings all kinds of sorrows upon him.  It is an inspiring story, where Job has the option of cursing God, but he refuses to do so despite extreme suffering.  By contrast, it is not so inspiring to hear of someone who does the right thing largely because they have never been put in a position where it was difficult to do otherwise.

And yet Jesus instructs us to pray for deliverance from evil AND EVEN deliverance from temptation itself.  While we ponder on that conundrum, let us read these verses from James:

James 1:13-15 (King James Version)

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

This makes me think of something I heard as a young man, which was said in the context of sexual temptations:

"The first temptation is just to let ourselves be tempted."  In other words, we often go looking for temptation when we should actually be seeking to avoid it.

I heard a story once about a boy in an old general store back in the 1800s, who was hovering over a jar of sweets while the shopkeeper was at the back of the shop.  The shopkeeper noticed the boy and said, "Are you trying to steal some of those sweets?"  The boy looked up and said, "No, sir, I am trying NOT to steal them!"

Obviously, if we are genuinely committed to not sinning, there is a contradiction is us even looking at something that is going to tempt us if.  That can apply to sex, to material possessions, or even to bitter thoughts about other people.  Why give sin a chance to take root in our hearts by turning our attention to such things in the first place?

Theologically, I wonder that an omniscient God would make a creation that is capable of so much sin.  There seems to be this leaning toward doing the wrong thing that has been around since the creation.  Theologians tell us that it came as a result of the "fall" in the Garden of Eden, i.e. that it is all Adam's fault, and not God's.  But then, God made Adam.  Was there a flaw in Adam's makeup?  Was it a mistake that God ever gave us free will to begin with?  Is it possible that God gave the devil too much power in the tug-o-war between himself and Satan?

My theory at the moment is that God may not be as perfect as we have declared him to be.  From the human position, of course, we could never fathom his infinite wisdom, but from his perspective, there may still be an element of trial and error in his creation.  Consider the story of the flood, where it says, "It repented God that he had made man."  Why can't an infinitely superior and powerful God make a mistake (or at least think he may have made a mistake), and then take action to correct it?

Imagine ourselves making something really special, like a living breathing ball of fur with big round eyes that we would love to play with.  Then imagine that this beautiful little creature keeps biting us whenever we try to have some fun with it.  Could all of those bites eventually lead us to consider tossing it out and starting over with something better?  This element of experiment may specifically relate to mankind and free will.

The Lord's Prayer may be instructing us to recognise this flaw in our make-up, that is, our tendency to do the wrong thing, and it may be instructing us to ask for help from God in overcoming that flaw.  Our pride so often makes us think that we CAN stay faithful despite opposition (and I would hate to have to count the number of people I have seen who bit the dust in that way), but asking for protection from temptation is honestly and humbly acknowledging our inability (without some extra divine help) to resist temptation even when we know that resisting temptation is what we should be doing.  We are asking to be delivered from (or shown a way to avoid?) those temptations before they bring us down.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible says that God will not test us more than we are able, but that, with each test, he will either give us strength to endure it or "a way of escape" it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13)  In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus is just instructing us to ask for the latter.  Sure, our lives may not be as inspiring to other people if we have not faced some of the temptations that others have faced and come out victorious over them; but neither would they inspire anyone if we were to brashly head into temptation only to become swallowed up by them.

"Lead us not into temptation" seems to be a prayer designed to teach us humility more than anything else.  It is only pride that makes us think that we can walk into temptation and not be affected by it.

So let's start by asking for the easy way, and then hope that God will give us strength to endure if he decides to answer that other part of the prayer he gave us to pray ("nevertheless, thy will be done") to let us face a few temptations despite our request to escape them.

Pin It
Don't have an account yet? Register Now!

Sign in to your account