"And lead us not into temptation"
Today I am getting back to the last section of the Lord's Prayer. This prayer, that I have been saying since I was a child, is actually full of wisdom and it has been the focus of my soul tending blog for quite a while. Today I pick up on the section that comes right after the part about forgiving our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.
It truly is no accident that this phrase: "And lead us not into temptation" follows immediately after the the command to forgive others. When I am in a state of unforgiveness, I am holding tight to my anger and reviewing wrong doings quietly in my mind, and perhaps not so quietly with a sympathetic friend! Ironically this makes me more vulnerable to temptation. The toxic effect of unforgiveness festering there in my heart distorts my thinking and reduces my resolve. It’s a great distraction and an even better justification for my own bad behavior.
"Lead me not into temptation,"This phrase always troubled me as I prayed it in the Lord's prayer because it seemed to suggest that God might be leading me astray. In Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes Kenneth E. Bailey says, “Lead us not into temptation” is better translated, ‘Do not bring us to the time of trial.’ Also, ‘do not bring us’ can be understood to mean ‘Do not permit us to go.’ This language may be a reflection of the classic request of a trusting pilgrim to a respected guide.”
Recently a discussion with a friend about this phrase revealed the notion that I am simply just all too ready to run toward temptation, and God is certainly not taking the lead on that. Probably that much more so, when I am carrying the burden of others wrong doings or my own on my shoulders. This is far beyond the original design capacity.
Temptation is tricky and can take a variety of forms. This endless morphing renders it that much more difficult to manage. Remember after all, who the source of temptation actually is—Satan. He is the master of taking things and making distorted and perverted copies.
In her book The Wall Around My Heart, Mary Demuth lists five ways we can be tempted.
1. Temptation to give into fear.When we find ourselves backed up against a wall and feeling panic rain down on us, we might be actually experiencing a form of temptation. The strategy is to give the fear to Jesus and ask Him to rule in our hearts and operate in faith to find a way forward.
2. Temptation to believe the first story you hear.When we get hurt we can become far too easily influenced and fall victim to believing the first story we hear. A friend talks about a person in a negative light and we just accept this as the truth—no filter, no discernment. Things are seldom so completely black and white, but pain can drive us to cling to believing the negative and constructing a plan of reaction based on some false assumptions.
3. Temptation to defend ourselves.Demuth admits that she has fallen into the trap of “I’ve lived to micromanage my reputation, forgetting to let the God be in control of that. I am finding strength to let go of what people think of me. To let negative opinions (whether they were accurate or not) roll away. We actually shortchange God’s ability to defend us when we give into the temptation to take up our cause (p. 191)."
4. Temptation to give up.This is the desire to give up, go home and never try again. Anything worth doing in the kingdom is hard work and may bring opposition. We must lean into God and beg Him for help and not give up when He has called us to complete His mission.
5. Temptation to misplace our trust.People can not ultimately satisfy us. When we give them that kind of power in lives—the power to define us or shut us down, we are giving them what God alone deserves and can handle.
Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.
When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. Psalm 146: 3-5 (NIV)