Jesus teaches us to pray: “And do not lead us into temptation.” What do those words imply? They indicate to us that God has the final say. He can control how much temptation is allowed to come our way. Consider the tribulations of Job; God put a limit on what the tempter could do. When God said “enough,” the temptations ended. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
We know that “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13b).
If God does not tempt us, then where does temptation come from?
James says: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). However, God can make sure that the temptations that we have in our lives do not have the final sway, and 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises us just that.
1. Why did Jesus instruct His disciples to pray: “Do not lead us into temptation”?
Was the intent of the prayer perhaps to say “do not lead us into temptation now, at this point in time?” Jesus knew His disciples. Perhaps Jesus knew that the disciples were still weak and was fearful that they may succumb to temptation? In John 15:12 He told them: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
2. What makes us vulnerable to temptation and causes weakness?
a) If we are too sure of ourselves and think we are strong without the Holy Spirit, that is a sign of weakness. Peter felt invincible before he betrayed Christ saying: “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33). But when Peter realized his weakness and no longer relied on his own power, he was reinstated as an apostle by Christ Himself and given a significant role: “Feed my lambs; Tend my sheep; Feed my sheep” (see John 21:15-17). Let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul, who said:
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
b) Another reason for weakness may be that we have not asked for the strength we need in prayer. Before Peter’s denial, Jesus said to him:
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 25:41).
In Luke 22:40 we also read: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
c) After the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they preached the Word of God with power, and the fear that they had previously known vanished. We know that we need to be born again and experience the forgiveness of our sins to enter the Kingdom of God. However, with the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives we can be effective in the Kingdom of God and overcome all temptation. That is why Jesus told His disciples:
“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
This was the fulfillment of an earlier promise when Jesus said:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:12-13).
How about you? Have you been filled with God’s Holy Spirit? If you are a child of God, the Father wants you to be filled with His Spirit. Jesus told His audience that they knew how to give good gifts to their children, but “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)
The Bible says: “Ask and it shall be given unto you” (Matthew 7:7).
3. We are to Flee Temptation
We can pray for God not to lead us into temptation – but we also need to do our part. We are admonished to flee temptation. Paul wrote to Timothy:
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (2 Timothy 2:22-23).
Here we have some good advice: flee the lusts that could ensnare you, use your energy to pursue righteousness and peace, and avoid arguments that are detrimental.
We are also told to flee from other sources of temptation: “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14), and “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Pornography and sexual immorality has been the downfall of many people on a personal level – good reputations and successful careers have been ruined by their influence. We frequently find out about such cases from radio and newspaper reports. However, we are to flee! Instead of just saying no if the opportunity arises, there are parameters we can put in place, so that we further protect ourselves from the power of temptation.
James 4:7 reads: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Each one of us knows what our particular weaknesses are. It is wise to set up double precautions to overcome them. A man I knew well used to regularly go to the bar after work before becoming a Christian. Once he became a Christian, he gave up drinking. If he knows he could be tempted to drink when he passes the bar, to avoid this temptation he could simply change his whole route home. This is a good example of someone setting up an additional barrier between temptation and themselves. It is similar to the way we don’t let a child play close to the ledge of a cliff even if there is a fence in place. In case the fence breaks or is inadequate, we also keep the child close and teach them to stay away from the ledge.
Martin Luther said that we cannot help that birds will fly over our heads, but we can prevent them from building a nest on our heads.
Ephesians 6:11-12 says:
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
And yet, “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (See 1 John 4:4). So God can and will help us to overcome and live victoriously.