The Lord taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” ~ Matthew 6:13. It’s the oddest of requests really. Why in the world would God ever lead us INTO temptation? Do we really need to request that God not?
Yet, I have been feeling a bit tempted lately. For me this generally begins with a thought. When the thought occurs, I know it is temptation. It is not nice or not helpful to think it, but it doesn’t seem all that bad, really. As long as I don’t act on the thought.
Well, temptation is a slippery slope, and like most slopes, if you stop yourself before it gets too steep, you have a better chance of not falling. So, I had this other thought. What if, whenever I felt tempted, I just spoke the words to myself: “Lord, lead me not into temptation…”?
Worth a try, right? Well, the instant I adopted the practice, I was astounded at the frequency with which I put this to use. It’s a bit embarrassing. In just a few hours, I was tempted:
- to complain about the kids blocking the aisle
- to chastise the smokers in the parking lot
- to judge the outfit
- to find fault with the other patron
- to lose my patience
- to take advantage
- to blame
- to run ahead of God
- to seek validation and admiration
- to gossip
- to compare
- to rush to be done and submit less than my best
- to be selfish
- to dismiss another by talking over them
- to dodge my responsibility
- to neglect
- to steal by plagiarizing
- to worry
Wow! Think of the evil I was delivered from! Ha. And I thought I was doing pretty well. (see validation/admiration above) Guess this is gonna be a greatest hit on my prayer list.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
For some reason, this feels especially true today …
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
as it is in Heaven.
Give us, this day,
Our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive
those who have trespassed
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
is the Kingdom,
and the Power,
and the Glory.
The disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray,” but was that what they really wanted? To learn how to pray? Or was their request really, as Jesus knew, for Him to teach them to listen?
What if what we call the “Lord’s prayer” or the “Our Father” isn’t just an outline for how we “should pray” or the format for the “perfect theological prayer” but the kindness of God showing us how to reach Him? And a way to show others how to reach Him?
Recently, I was caught up short when I read a Sports Illustrated piece about Lauren Holiday, one of the members of the World Cup winning US Women’s soccer team. It was called Going Out on Top. She surprised most everyone by announcing her retirement at the age of 27. Why? In this wonderful article by Jeff Kassouf, Holiday explains,
“I’ve been praying about it for a couple years now and really just this last year, it was so clear to me,” she said. “I had so much clarity about it. I knew that I wanted to give my all to the World Cup. I wanted to be able to say that I gave it my all to fulfill the final dream of winning the World Cup and I feel like I did that. Even if we wouldn’t have won, I felt very comfortable in my decision. I feel like God had led me to that decision, so I was ready either way.”
So… she prayed for a long time and it was clear she should retire. God showed her this when she listened to God in prayer.
Can you imagine listening to God in the midst of the physical, mental and emotional grind of World Cup preparation? Amid all of the media, the teammates, the fans, and the coaches all yelling, to listen deeply? I imagine there were many voices, including the one tempting comfort, “You’re retiring soon, don’t worry about it. Just take it easy.”
That’s not the voice Lauren heard when she listened, or at least not the one she chose to follow. She heard, “Play for My Glory and all will be well.” True, they won, and the world thinks all is well. But for Lauren, playing was Glory: the outcome she had given to God. Her decision for a life course did not rest on winning or losing. Ironically, having the decision made probably boosted her to play her very best.
Holiday’s story, and her wonderful sharing of the truth without agenda or podium, leaves me speechless — and listening, for myself and for my children. If they were faced, as they will be, with BIG decisions, life-changing moments, and huge round-abouts, would they choose prayer?
Have I done more than instilled in them the words of the Lord’s prayer?
Have I helped them listen under the words?
Have I shown them the calm in the silence after the question?
Have I encouraged them to trust in the voice that speaks in that silence?
Have I been Christ to them?
How powerful is that on-going conversation with God about how to lead life. He doesn’t ask that we trust and obey, only that we listen and pray. That’s how we will come to trust the Voice that speaks completely for our good. That is not just the voice of reason but the Voice of Life itself.
Oh Loving God, how kind you are to give us more than we ask, by offering all that we need.