Matthew 6: 13
13 And lead us not into temptation,
I think I mentioned a few weeks ago when talking about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness that the word used in the original as tempt can just as easily be translated as test. This though would lead to problems in the context of this prayer. Could we really look upon a God who tests us as a loving father? Then again to modern ears tempt is never a good thing. We are tempted by the delicious chocolate cake, we are tempted by the chance to have a lazy day, not in themselves bad things but if we overindulge then they can be very bad for us. Above all, temptation nearly always involves some form of sin; we never say we were tempted to help out someone who had fallen on bad times. Perhaps that is a failing on our part to assume tempt is always negative, which is a pity because temptation is not there to cause us to fall but rather to make us stronger. Abraham, coming down the mountain not having sacrificed Isaac was a stronger man, and when Jesus emerged from the wilderness he was strong enough to undertake his ministry of salvation.
Yet life is full of what can be destructive temptations if we are not on guard. Robbie Burns fell under the influence of a man of very lax morals when he was a young man called Brown, of whom he later wrote “his friendship did me a mischief”, Jean Armour would no doubt agree.
We are tempted by many things; peer pressure, society in general and many other external forces, and it makes it easy sometimes to use these as excuses for when we fail, remember Eve? It was the snake made me do it! But the most destructive and pernicious form of temptation comes from within, when we know what is right and what is wrong yet still tend towards the wrong because it’s more rewarding, or easier, or more to our liking than the right.
So we pray to God to protect us from temptation but also from ourselves, fortunately we have several strategies to help us.
Self-respect, when we respect ourselves (not always easy admittedly) we can more easily choose between right and wrong.
Tradition, which has a subtle effect upon, us we cannot easily betray the traditions family, Church and society have handed on to us.
Love, you will not be surprised to hear also has a profound effect on our ability to resist temptation. Many years ago I knew a young man who worked on the fishing boats in the North Sea. He was well paid and used his money to have a “good time” drinking to excess every weekend, frequently involved in fights, and was not unknown to the police and Sherriff’s court. He maintained this lifestyle for many years, and to be honest we all expected sooner or later he would self-destruct. He didn’t somehow, he met and attracted a young lady to himself, he cleaned up his act and became a devoted husband and wonderful father, all because of the love of a good woman. How much greater than that love is Jesus love for us, our last form of defence. Just as my fisherman friend changed his life because he could not face betraying his wife’s love, so too we can achieve great things because we will not betray Jesus’ love for us all.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, when we are weak give us strength, when we are tempted give us resistance, when we are tested give us the power to resist and overcome, so we may greater serve you and bring glory to your name.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,