When You Pray
By Edgar Jones
6. The Lord's Prayer: The Fifth Petition
Our purpose here is to more fully understand and appreciate this last petition of the Lord's Pray that reads as follows:And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13)Let us examine the last word first. The Greek is poneros and can correspond to "evil" as shown here. You should see below, however, how this word should here be translated as "the evil one", so that a more correct rendition into English reads:And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.The "evil one" is that essence of spiritual wickedness personified and given the name of "Satan", who is also the devil. Jesus not only instructs his disciples to render this petition to the Father, but he also rendered it himself in our behalf as follows, which is one of the reasons that we are speaking here of the evil one, and not of "evil" as an abstraction.I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)In this case, the RSV accurately renders the word poneros as "evil one", which is one of the reasons that Matthew 6:13 should be similarly rendered. We can reasonably suppose that the prayer that Jesus uttered in behalf of the disciples and in similar terms, John 17:15, would be the same prayer that he instructs us to offer in behalf of ourselves.
Related Temptations of Jesus
There are two critical experiences in the life of Jesus that relate directly to this petition of the Lord's Prayer. One is the wilderness temptations and the other is the powerful temptations he endured in Gethsemane.
1. Jesus' temptations in the wilderness
First, review the text that describes these temptations from Matthew:Matthew 4We are informed that Jesus was "led up of the spirit . . . to be tempted of the devil." This has an important correspondence to our Fifth Petition, which is a request that the Father not lead us into temptation. Jesus had been led by the spirit (of the Father) to be tempted by the devil, and he sought to spare us that horrific experience by instructing us to pray to that end.
1 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
I once struggled over this fifth petition, for every time I came of offer it I would question, "Why would the Father lead me into temptation?" I reasoned that it is the Devil, or Satan, who seeks to destroy us by bringing temptation upon us, and our Father should be protecting us from these trials, not leading us into them. But there it is in the experience of our Lord: it was the spirit that led him up into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted, or tried.
The word here rendered as "temptation" can also just as easily be rendered, "trial", "test" or "examination." When we understand it in these terms, then we can understand why the Father can lead us into temptation as a means of testing our faith, to see if we pass the examination. When we pass, this gives us confidence of faith and further strengthens us to resist future temptations. So, we see that the devil presents the temptation, or enticement, and our response to the temptation constitutes the testing of our faith. We might think of it as a manufacturer "testing" his product before putting it on the market, to determine that it meets all standard requirements. So, the Father can be seen as testing his "product" for a similar purpose, which not only gives confidence to the ones being tested, but also assures the Father of our true resolve.
The Parable of the Sower provides more insight into the thinking of Jesus as he instructs his disciples in the rules of prayer. You recall that those sown "along the path" correspond to those who do not understand the Word that is sown in their hearts, so that the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown. We note here that it is "the evil one", not simply "evil" with which we have to deal. Those sown in rocky ground and among thorns also fail. We can see that in each case, tribulation and persecution, or the cares of the world and the delight in riches, make the Word unfruitful. All these things constitute trials, or temptations, to forsake the Word and Way of the Lord. They are all heavily promoted by Satan, and all except those sown in good soil perish as a result of the trials. We can readily see that the Father "leads" his children into this world-environment that is characteristic of His creation, and that it has the result of "weeding out" those who are not genuine. Jesus is instructing his disciples to pray for themselves to the Father that he lead them not into these trials because he knows by personal experience the horrendous experience that it constitutes for one subjected to them. Yet he knows that we, like him, must be tested in this world so as to prove our mettle, as the apostle explained:In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6, 7)In the light of these things, I can now understand why the Father leads his children into testing, or temptation, in this world. I can also understand how difficult the tests can be, as it was difficult for Jesus in the wilderness, and therefore why, out of concern for us, he instructs us to petition the Father that he lead us not into temptation. Nevertheless, it is clear that one of the reasons we remain in this world after being begotten of God is, as stated by the apostle above, "that the genuineness of your faith . . . is tested".
2. Jesus' temptation in Gethsemane
Jesus spent the night before his crucifixion wrestling with the temptation to save his life. He had gone apart from his disciples "about a stone's throw" and in the midst of his agonies, he took breaks to return to the sleepy disciples and urge them to enter into prayer. What he told them to pray was as follows:Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; (Matthew 26:41)He wanted them to offer up this fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer, as previously instructed:And lead us not into temptation.I have elsewhere shown yet another strong connection between Gethsemane and the Lord's Prayer, based on the Lord's concern in both prayers for the doing of the will of the Father. This further strengthens the relationship, and demonstrates that whenever Jesus entered into the mode of prayer, there was in his mind a set pattern to guide him, and that pattern is manifest in the Lord's Prayer.
The Essence of Temptation
I have argued elsewhere that all sin springs from the love of life, and that this is therefore the essence of sin. All temptations, therefore, relate in some way to the love of life that would drive us either to protect or secure it or to enhance it. This conclusion springs directly from Jesus oft stated Great Principle as stated in John 12:25 and elsewhere:He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)This is the bottom line, and we can see how it relates to the present subject by examining the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness and in Gethsemane.
1. The first temptation in the wilderness is stated as follows:And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. (Matthew 4:2,3)We require food to sustain the life in this world. Jesus had fasted for forty days and nights, and must have been exceedingly weak, even near death. The love of life would have driven him to partake of food to sustain or save that life. We see then how this temptation finds its essence in the love of life. In this case, it was in a desire to save, or sustain, that life.
2. The second temptation in the wilderness is stated as follows:Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone." (Matthew 4:5,6)Here, the temptation is one of life-enhancement by demonstrating to men how he was protected by the angels. His contemporaries would have praised, lauded, and honored him after seeing this demonstration of how his life was protected so miraculously by the Father! So, as in the first temptation, the essence of the temptation sprang from the love of life.
3. The third temptation in the wilderness is stated as follows:Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." (Matthew 4:8, 9)Clearly, this appeal is to the love of life through the enhancement of it. What could adorn a man's life in this world more than becoming the king of the whole world? Surely he would have plenty of body guards to protect his life as well! This temptation, then, finds its essence in the love of life through both its protection and its enhancement. Ha! The glory of this world!
4. The temptation in Gethsemane is stated as follows, in the response of Jesus:Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:38,39)Jesus knew that his hour had come. He was about to die, and he was as averse to this as any man would be, especially in view of the manner of death he must die. It is no wonder his soul was sorrowful unto death! The association with the love of life is obvious, for he was being tempted to save his life, who had clearly taught,For whoever would save his life will lose it, (Matthew 16:25)We clearly perceive, then, that in all his temptations Jesus was being attacked at man's ultimate weak point: his love for his life. Had he yielded to the love of life, he would have saved it and . . . he would have lost it! There would have been no pioneer bravely making a way before us, and we would never have known the essence of temptation or how to confront it.
Now let us refer again to the disciples sleeping away in Gethsemane while Jesus sweated blood. Jesus urged them to pray lest they also be tempted. And what temptation did he expect them to confront? This seems to be unquestionably revealed by their response to the overall situation once they realized where things were headed that night just before dawn:And they all forsook him, and fled. (Mark 14:50)They split like a bunch of startled rabbits! Why? Their lives were on the line, being as they were associates of this man who was about to be executed. They yet loved their lives, never yet grasping the essence of the message of their master. We see yet again that the essence of all temptation springs from the essence of all evil, which is the love of life.
Our investigation of this Fifth Petition of the Lord's Prayer has been fruitful. By investigating the original Greek words and by making comparisons with other prayer events in the experience of Jesus we have learned that all temptation ultimately springs from the love of life, which is the essence of evil. In this knowledge we have been greatly strengthened in our ability of overcome temptation and the tempter. Knowing the enemy and clearly understanding the essence of his strategy for the destruction of our souls gives the children of the Father strength as nothing else can to overcome temptation. We can arm ourselves so as to be not led into it, and so we pray.
There is one final thing to say concerning the translation of poneros defined above as "the evil one." We note that Jesus made these statements:Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20)These four beatitudes depend on poverty (you poor), hunger (you that hunger), sorrow (weep now) and persecution (men hate you, exclude you, revile you, cast out your name as evil). These four conditions easily qualify as "evils" from any human point of view. Now, would Jesus have us pray that we might be delivered from evil, as in this Fifth Petition in some translations, when our eternal blessedness so heavily depends on our experiencing these very things? I think not. This Fifth Petition is a prayer that we might be delivered from the evil one, not from evil itself. We can expect to experience that while we associate with the son of man and remain in this world.
Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. (Luke 6:21)
Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. (Luke 6:21)
Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile
you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! (Luke 6:22)
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