I happened to read something yesterday that mentioned the Lord’s Prayer and noted one thing in it that has confused and disturbed Christians throughout the ages—the section that goes like this:
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: (Matthew 6:13)
I was surprised at the questions that arose over this phrase. They were along the lines of, “This suggests God leads us into temptation. Why would God do this if He is good?” “There is something problematic about this picture of God. It is also disturbing that it is Jesus who presents it.”

I was surprised because I had usually looked at that verse’s phrasing and sort of.. you know.. rewrote it in my head to something like, “Lead us away from temptation.” Or I had paid more attention to the “deliver us from evil” part. Because you know and I know that God doesn’t tempt anyone.
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. (James 1:13-15)
Still, I wondered if maybe there was something else I could get from the phrasing in the Lord’s prayer by carefully considering the language just as it was. Was there something more?

I thought about times when I’d anticipated that I was going into a situation of temptation that happened to be where I would be giving service. That’s hard. I wanted to avoid the situation, but to do my duty as I saw it, I had to go. That was a time when I prayed to resist temptation.

What about Abrahamic tests? “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Can we really pray to avoid those tests if modern prophets have told us that they will come? I don’t know.

It was at this point that I had one of those sudden inspirations that are so hard to explain logically. Somehow I started thinking of the whole verse instead of just that little bit.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever (Matthew 6:13).
Could it be that we can pray for an end to temptation once we’ve really learned that “thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever” and we don’t want to fight God anymore?

Often we like to convince ourselves that the commandments don’t apply to us or that God didn’t mean what He said. We are “drawn away by [our] own lust,” as James would say, forsaking the commandments because we want something different.

Could it be that God is perfectly aware of when we have deceived ourselves this way? Would God want this to continue? Of course not. Could it be that God then puts us into situations or suffers us to go into temptation to try to show us through the consequences of our actions that He really DOES mean what He says when He gives us such-and-such a commandment?

And could it be that once we have truly and fully accepted that God means what He says, that the kingdom is His, that all power is His, that all glory and credit goes to Him, that we can submit ourselves to Him and be completely delivered from the evil within and no evil without will have any appeal for us?

I think so.

So to review.. Heavenly Father does lead us into temptation. That, taken by itself is an incredibly difficult idea. The religious mind fairly rebels at it. (I think I twitched a bit myself as I was typing it.) It is necessary to add all sorts of clarifying statements to prevent misunderstanding, such as:
  • He warns us ahead of time through the prophets when we need a realignment of our loyalties and goals, and if we are teachable and submit, we can avoid a lot of pain right off, and it is only when we are stubborn and deaf that He has to use such tactics.
  • He may lead us into temptation, but He doesn’t TEMPT us because the adversary does the enticing, and all too often we are only too happy to give in to sin.
  • He provides a way for our escape from sin through the Atonement of Christ.
We may be more comfortable with thinking that God SUFFERS us to enter temptation instead of leading us there to ultimately get us out.

Perhaps I have opened a major can of worms by pointing this out. Perhaps I am dead wrong. I will end by saying I think the important point of the prayer phrasing Jesus used was to teach us better discipleship—to get us to the point that our loyalties and submission to God have finally risen above the lusts of the flesh, so that we will pray to have those temptation removed, so that we have no more desire to do evil. (“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).) I DO know that is what both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want for us. And I know that they love us, that they want us to do what’s right, and Christ suffered for our sins to redeem us. I’m certain of that.
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