In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray, “…And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Mt 6:13). Also, as He arrived to pray at the Garden of Gethsemene just before the crucifixion, He warned His disciples saying, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk 22:40). Shortly later, after He had Himself prayed and then come to find the disciples sleeping, He repeated His warning: “Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk 22:46). May we then be careful to consider and heed this often neglected command of our Lord. For from these words of Jesus we are led to believe that the temptation to sin which so often results in the suffering and alienation of our souls from God can be avoided by praying for God to deliver us from it.
Temptation is that enticement or lure of our soul toward sin that comes from the world (Gal 6:1, 1 Tim 6:9, 1 Jn 2:15-16) or the devil (Mt 4:1, 1 Cor 7:5, 1 Thess 3:5), but ultimately from our own carnal flesh (James 1:13-14). The same word can also mean a trial or test, and is often used of the Lord testing His people to see what is in their hearts (cf. Gen 22:1, Ex 15:25, 16:4, 20:20, Dt 8:2-3, 13:3, 2 Chron 32:31, Act 20:19, Gal 4:14, James 1:2,12, 1 Pet 1:6, 4:12). For this reason we might wonder if they are the same thing, indeed, if perhaps God Himself doesn’t lead us into temptation. But as James makes clear,
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
It is most important to understand that our own carnal flesh nature is the ultimate source of our temptation, not God. God can and does test us, but it is our own lust that carries us away and entices us so as to turn such a test into a temptation to sin. Thus, when we pray that the Lord would lead us not into temptation, we are ultimately praying that He would save us from the evil of our own lusts.
Let us also understand that God’s grace has provided for the true believer through the death and resurrection of our Lord the necessary means to overcome temptation so he need not fall into sin:
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it (and not fall into sin).
1 Corinthians 10:13
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses (of sin), but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (when we are carried away and enticed by our own lust).
If God rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation.
2 Peter 2:7-9
Let us also consider that our deliverance from temptation or testing seems conditional upon our previous perseverance and obedience. Here are both a positive and negative example from Scripture:
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: “…Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation (or testing), that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to tempt (test) those who dwell upon the earth.”
The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” So the LORD allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua.
Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly). These nations are: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. And they were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses.
Let us especially heed the warning of this previous passage to the Christian. For the nations spoken of here are those which Israel was commanded to completely destroy, with the warning that if they did not, then those which remained would become‑‑like temptation to sin‑‑pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides until they perished from off the good land of their inheritance (cf. Ex 23:20-33, Num 33:55-56, Dt 7:1-5, Josh 23:12-13). May we, then, be careful to take up our cross and completely destroy those Canaanite nations of our flesh lest those which remain become for us a test from God to find out if we will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it, a test that to our own carnal lusts may all too easily become a temptation to sin that will cause us to perish from off the good land of our inheritance in the kingdom of God. Like the Israelites after the death of Joshua, we cannot do it apart from a total dependence upon God’s grace to drive out these enemies from before us. May we then be all the more careful to heed our Lord’s command to pray that God would lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil; may we be ever diligent to pray that He would completely deliver us from all the evil of our own hearts, all the evil of the world, and all the evil of the devil that would tempt us because of our cursed and fallen nature to sin against Him. And may we indeed have faith to believe and obey Him, even for our deliverance from every stain or wrinkle or blemish of sin, that we should be that holy and blameless bride for whom Christ gave Himself (Eph 5:25-27).