Jesus said, “When you pray, say ‘…And lead us not into temptation….’”
Luther explains, “What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”
Salvageable adds: Last month during an interview Pope Francis remarked that he would like to change the wording of the Lord’s Prayer to remove the suggestion that God tempts people to sin. Martin Luther did not need the pope to tell him that “God tempts no one.” We pray that God would protect us from temptation and would guide us on paths that are safe for us and pleasing to him.
God leads us, even when we do not pray for his leadership. By his commands he tells us how to love him properly and how to love our neighbors properly. God tells us what to do and what not to do, not as a dictator who likes to bully others, but as a Creator who knows why he made us and what our purpose is in this world. When you wonder why you were born, turn to the Bible and read the commands of God. They will tell you why God put you here and what he expects you to do.
Like sheep, we go astray. We enjoy temptation. We enjoy walking along the edge of temptation, promising ourselves that we will not fall into sin. Jesus warns us that we are safer removing a hand or foot or eye rather than allowing them to drag us into sin. Of course our hands and feet and eyes only do what we tell them to do; they do not cause us to sin. Sin comes from deep within us, from within our hearts. The devil tempts us to sin, and he is called a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour—but he is a caged lion, restrained by the Word of God, with only the power of his lies available for him to harm us. The sinful world around us tempts us to sin, to sink to its level of evil, but again God’s Word directs us away from sin and keeps us safe from the perils of the world. When we prefer the sinful world to God’s Word, that choice comes from a sinful heart. Rather than removing hands and feet and eyes, we need a new heart. So we join with David, praying, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
God answers that prayer. Jesus is the heart donor who has given us a clean heart and a right spirit. Far more important than the heart we give to him is the heart he gives to us—a pure heart that keeps us alive and leads us away from temptation on paths that the Lord has chosen for us. God tempts no one. He leads us on paths of righteousness for his name’s sake, and he will lead us across the valley of the shadow of death to dwell in his house forever. J.