One of the first movies that caught my attention when it comes to finding truth and faith in film was Changing Lanes, a 2002 film with a young Ben Affleck and a younger Samuel L. Jackson. The two main character’s lives changed because of a traffic accident. One, a young punk lawyer, began to realize who they had become and wanted to change, the other, a simple, honourable Father, was tempted at every turn to become a person he never wanted to be. Two words that depict this movie are also found near the close of The Lord’s Prayer: Temptation & Evil.
These aren’t two words we love to talk about. They are words we hope don’t associate with us very much. I want nothing to do with evil. I want very little to do with temptation – at least I don’t want to succumb to it. Jesus puts it like this, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” He choses to include these words with this final petition.
Lead us not into temptation…
At first glance, this sounds about right. I don’t want to be tempted, I don’t want to fall into temptation – do things that I have no intention of doing.
A few things we have to think about when reading this:
First, the word temptation may better be translated testing. That changes how I understand this phrase. Temptation is something I struggle with. Testing is something I deal with. I am tempted to do something wrong (personal). I am tested in a circumstance and have the opportunity to overcome or succumb. Some might even say that testing can refer to future judgement or difficult times for those who want to follow Jesus in this world.
But what about James 1 (trials/testing is pure joy) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (2-3)
Or 1 Corinthians 10 (God will not give me what I can’t handle) So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (12-13)
Jesus did say, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)
In light of those scriptures, it’s fair to say that we will experience difficulty or testing or even temptations, but Jesus says, I have overcome this for you. Perhaps we should understand the prayer to mean that we can ask God for help so we don’t fail or fall from or because of these obstacles in our lives.
Remember that Jesus was also tested and tempted. In the wilderness with the Devil, and in Gethsemane where we read something like this, ‘If you could remove this from me…please do…BUT…your will be done through me.’ Those two instances (including John 16) say something about what he dealt with, but also that he overcame troubles for us.
So…when we pray these words, we are asking God to help us not succumb to temptation and not to fail in times of testing.
But deliver us from evil/evil one…
What is Evil…? How do you define it? I guess you can answers this with simple responses or significant ones, with (lower case) evils to (UPPER CASE) EVILS.
Evil is all around us. We are naive to think that it isn’t. From one of the first scenes in Scripture we find humanity turning something beautiful into something not so beautiful. In ideal conditions, Eve and Adam fail their test. We’ve been failing tests and falling prey to temptation ever since.
Does evil come from inside or outside of us? It has to be a bit of both. Perhaps a cycle that can only be broken with God’s intervention and power. In Matthew 15 we read that evil thoughts flow from our heart. So it’s in us. However, we also know that people’s lives have been influenced by the evil done to them or shown to them.
Some standard responses to evil are:
– head in the sand (pretend it doesn’t exist)
– the opposite (think that it’s everywhere)
– self-righteousness (I’m not as bad as them)
Jesus uses none of these. Instead, he recognizes evil’s reality and power, and he confronts it with the reality and power of the Kingdom. (i.e. beatitudes, fruit of the spirit, clothes in Colossians 3)
With that in mind we must balance how we view evil. It may not be everywhere, but it’s also got to be somewhere. We can’t talk about it all the time (conspiracy theorists), but we also can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.
Our response should be this:
– Recognize & Pray (Matt 26:41 says to watch & pray)
– Confront evil with who we are & how we live
– Romans 12:41, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We pray this prayer because as we follow Jesus we are called to be in the middle of the action, making a difference, being a witness, shedding light in dark places. In those places, doing those things, with Jesus with us, we pray this prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” so we can do all that he, Jesus, has called us to do.
And remember this, both our wrong doings (fulfilled temptations) and the wrong in the world (evil) have been conquered by the cross of Jesus. One writer puts it like this, In the cross God has seriously and radically dealt with evil. When we pray this prayer we are ‘inhaling the victory of the cross…’
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small(er) group questions: (video recap)
When say Temptation & Evil, what goes through your mind first?
The word temptation can easily be translated as testing. Does that make a difference for you? If you’re praying for either, what kind of things are you praying for?
Read (from above) James 1, 1 Corinthians 10 and John 16. Do these verses seem to contradict what Jesus invites us to pray for? Jesus was tempted and also prayed to avoid testing. What do you make of that?
How do you define evil? What words or phrases or actions would you use to do so?
Are you an evil is everywhere or evil is nowhere kind of person? Why do you think there’s such a drastic difference in perspective from person to person?
What can we learn from Jesus’ response to evil? Recognize, Pray, Confront?
How does Romans 12:41 help us here? (Overcome evil with Good)
How is our calling to serve impact the context of our prayer?