From the Pastor’s Desk
“Forgive us our Debts”
Matthew 6:7-8, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this …”
For the last several weeks, we have made our way through the preface and the first five petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Today we come to the sixth and final petition, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6:13). As the fourth petition was a prayer for provision and the fifth petition was a prayer for pardon, the sixth petition is a prayer for protection. Put simply, as we pray this petition to our Heavenly Father, we are praying for both protection and deliverance – protection in the trial and deliverance from the trial. There are a few things to take note of regarding this petition.
First, we need to realize what is assumed or presupposed in this petition. And that is the reality of evil and the evil one, Satan – the reality that we live in a world hostile to the gospel, a fallen world, a world groaning under the curse, a world that calls good evil and evil good. Moreover, we need to reckon with the reality of Satan. He is real and he hates the church and the believer. And our prayer is that the Lord would grant us protection in the multitude of trials and onslaughts we face, and deliverance from the multitude of trials and onslaughts we face.
Second, we need to understand the relationship of God to the trials, tests, and temptations we face. We must be absolutely clear that while God in no way tempts us to sin (James 1:12-15), he does test our faith with an eye to our growth, maturity, and sanctification (Gen 22:1; Matt 4:1-11; John 6:5-6; 2 Cor 2:9; James 1:2-4). While Satan may use a given trial to tempt us to sin, our Heavenly Father uses the same trial as a means to test and refine us as his precious and beloved children. For example, while Satan attacked Job with an end to his sin and cursing of God, God was using Job’s trials to reveal himself to Job and to grow and mature him. Our prayer is not, “Lord do not test my faith.” For testing us good for us – in fact, we need it. We need tests to show us our weakness and to remind us that we are absolutely dependent upon the Lord – to keep us looking to and clinging to our Savior. Rather our prayer is, “Lord do not let me be so tempted that I sin and fall from you. Protect me and deliver me.” The Apostle Paul echoes this idea when he writes, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).
Finally, we need to consider the various ways God does protect and deliver us. Perhaps at times, the Lord simply removes us from the temptation – he removes us from the situation. Or perhaps at other times, he gives us a ‘strength we did not expect.’ He fills us with his Spirit and provides us with an unexpected courage to stand. These occasions are likely the exception in the life of the Christian; thus how does our Lord ‘normally’ work? He allows us to go through the trial – he is with us in the trial – and he strengthens us for the trial. Brothers and sisters, we must recognize that God has given us the tools to be equipped for the battle and the testing. He has given us his word – he’s given us the gift of prayer – he’s given us other believers – he’s given us pastors and elders – he’s given us the local church. He’s given us the armor of God (Eph 6:10-20). Oh dear friends, may we use such means. May we use the tools God has given us. May we stand faithful. And may we pray, “Lord protect and deliver us.”