Today’s passage: Matthew 6:9-15
How people communicate can tell you a lot about the kind of relationship that they have with each other. If they barely talk, you know that something is wrong. The same is true if one only sees one party talking and not giving the other a chance to speak. During his sermon on the mount, in which Jesus was describing the life fully committed to God and His kingdom, Jesus spent a bit of time teaching his disciples what the prayer of a person fully committed to God while living in a broken world looks like.
Jesus taught us to pray to our Father who is ever near; to remember that our God isn’t just some distant, uncaring deity, but a loving and caring and good Father who cares deeply for us. As His adoptive children, it’s only right that we should long to see our Father-God revered and respected by everyone, and that we ask that His kingdom would come and His will be done. As we saw when we looked at those verses, it is impossible to ask for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done without setting ourselves to live out God’s will for the sake of His kingdom. To refuse to follow God’s will and simultaneously ask for it to be done would be utterly incongruous.
Jesus taught us to pray first and foremost for God’s will to be done, and for God’s name to be famous. But He also taught us to bring our own needs to God. As our loving Father, God can be trusted to meet our needs for today. And as our gracious rescuer, he can be trusted to forgive us our sins. As with the rest of the prayer, these are truths that can’t be prayed honestly without challenging our own attitudes towards others.
And now, as we come to the very last line of Jesus’ model prayer, Jesus teaches us to ask our Father to lead us not into temptation, but to deliver us from the evil one.
Temptations. We all have them. Things that we know are wrong or are bad for us, but which still seem to have an incredible alluring power to them. Quite often, our temptations are things that we are ashamed to speak of, being sure that we are the only ones who would be tempted in that way. We keep quiet, being convinced that if others knew the things that secretly seduced our souls, they would reject us and ostracise us.
We can sometimes even wonder if God wouldn’t reject us if He knew the things that tempted us.
But here’s the thing: our Father does know what tempts us. He knows us better than we know ourselves – and He knows our weaknesses better than we know them ourselves. And knowing that, He still chose to send His Son – Jesus – to die for us and to invite us into His family.
And as for our peers. I am firmly convinced that when it comes to temptation, there’s not all that originality in the world. And besides, even if our temptations are different, we are all tempted to the same end: the dragging of our souls (mind, body and spirit) away from God’s will.
But why, if temptation’s aim is to destroy us, does Jesus tell us to ask our Father to not lead us into temptation. Pastor Brian Wilkerson likens this to asking a trail-guide to not lead us over the edge of a cliff. What is Jesus on about here? And what do we do about James 1:13, which unequivocally states that God never tempts anyone? Is it possible that what God intends as a test can simultaneously be abused by the evil one or our own sinful natures as a means of temptation?
Why does Jesus insist that we need to ask God not to lead us into testing/temptation? Is it possible for us to avoid temptations entirely in this life? Is the very fact of being tempted a black mark against our souls before God?
If the first half of the Lord’s prayer is focused on God’s character, might and rule, the last three seem to be focused on our absolute dependence on Him for everything: our basic essentials of life, our forgiveness and right standing before Him, and our capacity to survive in a world where we are prone to stumble and leave the God we love.
How good are you at coping with temptations in your own strength? Is it possible Jesus asks us to pray as He does because He knows how much we need God to guide and lead us through the dangers to safety?