A Perplexing Yet Pressing Petition for All of God’s People —
Having arrived at the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, since there are no events of Presbyterianism available, we are confronted by a perplexing yet pressing petition for God’s people. The Shorter Catechism’s question and answer which illustrates it says in number 106, “In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we pray, that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support us and deliver us when we are tempted.” Each one of these explanations are tied to the parts of the petition itself.
The perplexing part of the petition is obvious. Does God lead His people into temptation? That’s the natural conclusion which comes to our mind when we read the first part of this petition. We answer by pointing out first that the word “temptation” is used in Scripture in one of two ways. We always think of it in an evil sense, and indeed that is possible from one of the ways. But the other way is to think of it in a testing sense, in that God tests us in a variety of ways for our good and His glory. So the context is necessary before we look into its meaning. Second, God does not tempt anyone to sin. He is holy and just and righteous. Scripture plainly declares this in James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (NASB) No one can blame God for his or her temptation into sin.
But having said that, God can and has permitted us to fall into a time of testing for His sovereign purposes, as well as our good. Think of Job in the Old Testament. Now that was a time of testing! Would the patriarch blame and blaspheme God if all he possesses, including his very children, were taken away? For the record, he did not blame God, and the Lord blessed him mightily at the end of it all. Or think of Peter at the time of our Lord’s trial and crucifixion. He had an overconfidence, even an arrogance, in his own self, and needed to be cleansed of it. His sinful pride led him to deny the Lord three times; God’s grace overcame his sin and he was forgiven and drawn back to the Lord in love and mercy.
James says again, that “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust, Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15, NASB)
So the first part of this prayer is us praying that “God would keep us from being tempted to sin.”
The second part is that Our God and Savior would support and deliver us when we are tempted. The appointed means for our sanctification are the Word of God, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. All of these are in sum the God-ordained means of grace for helping us to resist the temptations which come from that unholy trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We can trust our God to support and deliver us when we are tempted by the evil one, or from the realm of evil itself.
Words to live by: Who does not need to pray this petition daily, or even more than once when we are faced in the ordinary occasions of life in our family, work, church, and society in general? The answer is simple. No one. So this last petition has a pressing nature about it which all of God’s people can resort to in their daily need. Pray it, and pray it often.
Through the Scriptures: Revelation 10 – 12
Through the Standards: Detailed description of righteousness
WLC 90 — “What shall be done to the righteous in the day of judgment?
A. At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds, shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted, shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men, and shall be received into heaven, where they shall be fully and forever freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity. And this is the perfect and full communion, which the members of the invisible church shall enjoy with Christ in glory, at the resurrection and day of judgment.”