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Lead Us to Resist Temptation

By Rev. David Petersen

THE SIXTH PETITION And lead us not into temptation.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things,we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

We receive God’s grace through Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Communion, and the Holy Bible (wherever it may be found, such as in the Holy Liturgy). We have been reconciled to God in Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection have paid for all our sins. They are removed. God has forgotten them.We are declared righteous and holy even as Jesus is righteous and holy for we are baptized. We eat the body and drink the blood of our risen Savior. He joins Himself to us. We are the temples of His Holy Spirit not built with hands, nor by the aid or will of a man, but by His holy Word. He speaks, and it is so. He keeps His Word in us. He lays hands upon us and comforts us through His ministers. He hears and answers our prayers. He loves us, and therefore He banishes all guilt and shame. We are His, and we are free.

But all is not complete. God is not yet done with us. Temptation remains. God Himself tempts no one. It is the devil, the world, and our sinful nature that deceive or mislead us. When our Lord took up our flesh, He also faced temptation. His greatest temptation was to come down from the cross. He was taunted, “Physician, heal yourself.” The devil wanted Him to be God somewhere else and leave us to him, to leave us to what we deserved.

Why should Jesus go hungry in the desert when evil men are satisfied all over the earth? Why should He not enjoy the miracle He performed for His people in the exodus? Why should He suffer for those who hate Him? The devil laid all these things before Jesus that the Father had not given. He could have had them by divine right, but He had humbled Himself. As a man, He did not always or fully use His divine rights and powers so that He might suffer even as we suffer and ultimately die even as we die. So also was He tempted as is common to man, but the devil did not find an ally in Him as the devil finds in us. Jesus overcame these temptations. He defeated the devil.

Temptations come also to us. We are not above our Master. Even though we have been forgiven and abide in the grace that He gives, we still suffer these attacks. It is not God who sends them. But God does use them. He uses them to teach us to pray, to show us what is truly good, and to purify us through trials. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer that we would not be led into temptation. We are really asking that we be led out of temptation. Although we are attacked by these things, we ask that we would finally overcome them and win the victory. We cannot do this on our own. Our spirits are willing, but our flesh is weak. We like our sins. So the Lord teaches us to pray. He teaches us to throw ourselves upon Him and His mercy, to pray for His Kingdom and His will. It is hard to sin while praying.

What then should you pray to avoid temptation? Why not the Lord’s Prayer itself? It certainly isn’t the only prayer you could pray, but there is none better. Like praying the Psalms, the Lord’s Prayer has the advantage of also being the very Word of God. Nothing shuts the devil’s mouth like the truth, and nothing is as true as God’s Word. What could be more true, more confounding to the devil than the perfect prayer given from our Lord’s own mouth?

For a while you must endure temptation. Absolution, even Holy Communion, will not remove it. But it will be removed. It will be taken away. You will overcome these things and win the victory. You will come out of these great tribulations, out of the grave, and be arrayed in white like your fathers before you.

Rev. David Petersen is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is also on the Higher Things editorial board. His email address is David.H.Petersen@att.net.