Lead us Not Into Temptation

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47da-e98b-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.rNo one plans on tramping through a poison ivy patch (at least not anyone (like me) who has a known poison ivy (hyper)sensitivity!).  No one purposes to swim in shark infested waters, or in a toxic waste dump site.  No one intentionally gets ambushed by banditti.  These dangers befall the unaware, the unsuspecting.  It isn’t hard to get oneself in a mess. In fact, it often takes careful forethought and prudence to avoid it.

The reason we so often fall victim to temptation is that we don’t see it coming.  It is far easier to defend oneself against an anticipated attack.  The Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks were so effective because they were so unanticipated.  Who could have conceived that anyone would fly airplanes into buildings?  But, of course, they did.   

Armies rely on the element of surprise.  So too does the Devil.  It is one of his greatest tools of tradecraft.  He likes to catch us napping.  He’s quite effective at it!  So, we are warned repeatedly to “be sober-minded,” to be “watching,” to be “alert” for many dangerous temptations.  Here are a few such scriptural warnings:

Watch out for false prophets.   Matthew 7:15  

Watch out that no one deceives you.   Matthew 24:4   

Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.   Mark 8:15  

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed…  Luke 12:15  

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.   Romans 16:17   

These are warnings against all sorts of temptations:

  • Temptations of false teachings and phony worldviews.
  • Temptations concerning the nature and identity of Christ and the understanding of his saving work.
  • Temptations that lead to divisions within the community of faith.
  • Temptations to pursue our own selfish desires.

The sixth petition is an acknowledgement of our vulnerability.  We are going to walk into paths where temptation is a real possibility (and even likelihood).  Our first parents were tempted (and they fell).  The Israelites were led in the midst of the wilderness for forty years; they were tested repeatedly (and they repeatedly fell).  Our Lord (like us in every way, yet free from sin) was tempted (but did not fall).  We seek to walk the path that he walked – the path of trusting in the Father and in the Word of God.

We will be tempted.  But praying in keeping with the Lord’s Prayer alerts us to our danger.  We wake up, sober ourselves in mind, put ourselves on alert.  We make ourselves vigilant to the danger of attack.  And we determine on resistance, with God’s help.  The God who will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death is certainly able to sustain us in the face of the temptation of today.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”   1 Peter 5:8