March 22 – Lord’s Prayer Week 4
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Wondering what to do under the new normal of COVID-19? Check out our post The Witness of Waiting: Being still in the midst of crisis
We’ve come to the final week of our sermon series and the sixth and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. At first glance verse 13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” sounds like two petitions: “lead us not,” and, “deliver us.” But this is actually an age-old form of Hebrew rhetoric called parallelism, where two phrases are put one after another that are different but say the same thing. The Psalms do this all the time, “The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.” (Psa. 29:5-6) So verse 13 is really one concept of protection and deliverance, said from two different angles. This 20 minute devotional from R.C. Sproul is helpful both in identifying that couplet and understanding the difficulty that verse 13 present.
The difficulty lies in the first half, “Lead us not into temptation.” You might give that a longer look and wonder, if we’re asking for this not to happen, does that mean it can in fact happen? Would God intentionally lead us into temptation? Doesn’t he want us to be obedient? Shouldn’t protection from temptation be a default setting in Christianity?
James points out, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”(Jas. 1:13) Looking at the whole of scripture, only one being is called the Tempter, and that being is Satan.(Mat. 4:3) We can understand this verse in the Lord’s Prayer out of this paradigm, that God does no tempting but Satan is characterized by it. And that’s pretty relevant to the Lord’s Prayer; “deliver us from evil,” can also be translated, “deliver us from the Evil One.” (For you Bible nerds out there, τοῦ πονηροῦ puts “evil” in the nominative case after a direct article, so at the very least it’s “The Evil,” but most likely hinting at a singular noun, “The Evil One,” being addressed here.)
We can also understand Matthew 6:13 out of Jesus’ own story of temptation. Just two chapters before the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew Jesus was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”(Mat. 4:1) Here again is our paradigm that God does no tempting, but Satan does. Jesus spent forty days fasting in order to be tested by Satan, proving himself both obedient and faithful to God’s mission on earth, a test that you and I would have certainly failed (after 40 hours I can make no promises about what I wouldn’t give for a loaf of bread). This is encouraging to think that Jesus, having recently accomplished monumental feats of obedience to God, is giving us permission in the Lord’s Prayer to ask our Father to not lead us into temptation.
Interestingly, the prayer stops right at, “But deliver us from evil.” Wondering what happened to the, “For thine is the Kingdom…” part? Check out our blog post on just that. Jesus doesn’t even leave his prayer off with an amen. Why is that? Perhaps Jesus meant for us to continue praying in our own words. With six petitions in the prayer this could point to a Sabbath motif, where the seventh movement of the prayer is stopping and resting, listening to God’s presence and being still. Or it could be something else entirely, though I think it’s very safe to assume the omission was intentional and Jesus means to do something is us through it.
Questions for Discussion
This shorter discussion is optimized for virtual gatherings. Check our virtual gathering tips post for ideas on how to run your virtual meetings (last updated March 25).
• Can someone read Matthew 6:9-13 for us?
• This week we’re looking at verses 11-12. What stands out to you from those verses?
• How can this part of the prayer shape our lives right now?
• How does calling God “Father” help us ask for “daily bread” and forgiveness?
• Let’s finish our time by reading The Lord’s Prayer out loud together (6:9-13).