The Lord’s Prayer: Lead Us Matthew 6:9-13
5/4/2019 3:21:41 AM
March 31, 2019
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Matthew 6:9-13
Anybody here still in school? Anybody remember being in school? How did you feel about tests and exams? Did you ever forget that you had a test? I remember one year I had the date wrong for a final exam. I thought it was in two days, but walking home I met a classmate’s girlfriend who asked if I was prepared for the exam yet. I said something about having another day and she said her boyfriend was writing the next morning! I ran home and checked! Thank God I ran into her! Otherwise I would have completely missed the test and failed!
Even if we can prepare for a test, most people would rather not have to take it. Whether it’s a test in school, or a medical test, we rarely look forward to times of testing. Why? Because we know that failing a test is usually a bad thing! Whether it’s a medical test which may bring bad news, or a school test affects our grades and future, or even a driving test which affects our independence. Tests can lead to a lot of anxious feelings and even fear.
We’re working through a series on the Lord’s Prayer. We come to the final petition or request. It‘s about times of testing. Let’s see what Jesus teaches his followers to pray.
What It Says
First, we’re going to talk about four things in the text. Three are clearing up confusion and one is highlighting something.
This verse can be tricky to translate. Traditionally, in English, we read it as “lead us not into temptation,” but that can bring some confusion. Why? Because God does not tempt us! James 1:13 says that God does not temps us to do evil, but when we are tempted it is because of our own fallen desires.
So what, then, are we asking? The word “temptation” is better translated “test” and is morally neutral. In English, temptation is being enticed to do something wrong. Testing, however, is being given an opportunity to pass or fail. It is a way to determine how strong something is- perhaps how strong your knowledge of history is like a history test, or how strong your commitment to Jesus is like a test of your faith under persecution.
In the NT this word is used 37 times and only 1 time is it “to do wrong.” all other uses are morally neutral- testing. [RT France, Matthew, p. 136] What we are asking is that we not enter of time of testing because we know we may fail. God doesn’t entice us to evil, but does at times allow us to undergo testing to demonstrate our faith, our maturity or lack thereof. We are asking to avoid testing because we now our own weakness and know we are spiritually and morally frail.
That’s the first point. The second is about the word “deliver.” “Deliver” is a violent word like “snatch.” This is not a gentle word, like delivering the mail. Rather, it’s an extreme word like rescuing someone from a fire, or from falling into a pit. [Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew Vol 1, p. 255] The Evil One is constantly luring us into pits. The Father must be more powerful and quick, snatching us away from danger! Think of a parent grabbing a toddler who’s wandering into traffic. They snatch their kid back from danger!
Third, evil, generally speaking, and “Evil One” personified are both legitimate translations. The confusion is because “evil one” is grammatically masculine in Greek and evil generally is neuter, but in this sentence structure masculine and neuter are the same! So it’s literally impossible to differentiate from the text itself. However, in the end, the difference is minimal. Whether we are asking for deliverance from evil or from the evil one who inflicts it upon us makes little difference. In either case, we are reminded to pray continually for deliverance because we are in grave danger.
Finally, the doxology is missing from the earliest texts, but is present in very early texts. Jewish prayers typically ended with a doxology, like “For yours is the kingdom, the power and authority forever and ever.” Jesus likely would have ended the Lord’s Prayer with such a phrase. It’s possible that in early versions of Matthew a doxology is assumed, whereas in slightly later, but still early versions it was explicitly added. Certainly
in the early church it was included in worship services, so perhaps the early texts reflect people writing how it was used in practice. The case for the doxology is actually stronger than many theology students think. [Leon Morris, p. 149]
What It Means
Having looked at some issues in the text itself, clarifying what it says, we must now take a step back and see what it means. What are we praying for in this final petition? What are we to learn from it that we should apply to our own prayers?
“Forgive us” frees us from a bad past. “Lead us” and “deliver us” frees us from a bad future. We learn in this prayer both to look back to times when we failed the test and ask forgiveness (as well as forgiving others for failing tests and hurting us), and also look ahead asking God to deliver us from similar tests which, if failed, would give us more that needs forgiveness!
We are reminded that there are no spiritual heroes. We ask God not to lead us into times of testing because we know we are spiritually weak. It is tempting, during times of spiritual growth, to dare temptation, “Bring it on!” But this is misguided. We ask God to lead us not into testing because we are afraid to fail. We are all too aware of our own fallen nature and so we ask God to take control, to take the lead.
There’s another subtlety at work here too. In the word “lead” there is both a causative and a permissive element. We are asking God not to allow or permit us to fall into testing and temptation. [Joachim Jeremias, in Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 129] We are asking God to not let go of us and let us wander where we would naturally go following our sinful, fallen nature.
One scholar, who’s spent years in the Middle East, spoke of being in Egypt and having a well-known guide lead them through the desert to a particular location on several occasions. This guide was legendary. He didn’t “walk through the desert” but rather “glided across it.” There was no danger of him leading them astray. Yet, as the tourists gathered for the journey, they would say to him, “Don’t get us lost!” Why? It wasn’t because they thought he was incompetent or had evil intent. Much to the contrary, they were acknowledging that without him they didn’t have a chance of surviving in the desert! [Bailey, p. 129]
The Lord’s prayer, then, included a cry of desperation, of total dependence upon God to guide us through the minefield of the world with all the sin and temptation infesting it, including the Evil One, a malevolent personality intent on leading us into terrible pits of sin.
We are entrusting ourselves to God, asking him to lead us instead of leading ourselves. Remember, the prayer begins “Our Father.” It is followers of Jesus, who have been forgiven their sins through Christ and have been adopted as children of God that are praying this prayer. So asking God to lead us is also an act of submission, an act of repentance. When we don’t have Christ, we lead ourselves. When we lead ourselves, following our own paths, seeking our own meaning and destiny, trying to find our own meaning “within” we fall into testing and into the clutches of the evil one!
Having asked God to provide for our physical needs, we then ask for provision of our spiritual needs: forgiveness and deliverance. It is no trivial thing to ask for God’s leading and deliverance, but notice its proper place in the priority of things: First, we ask for God’s name to be set above, then we ask for his authority to be recognized and his will to be done. We then turn to the needs of the community- provision for our physical needs, forgiveness from God and among one another, and only then do we ask for guidance and deliverance. Too often we start our prayers by skipping God’s concerns and going straight to our own concerns.
How, now do we apply this lesson to our own prayer lives? Remember, we are fallen people. Certainly before we come to Christ, but even as disciples we are frequently in rebellion against God, following our own desires and inclinations.
We must daily submit to God’s leading. This is an act of repentance, of reorienting our life’s trajectory to head towards God. “Lead us” is a replacement for us leading ourselves! In our frailty, we entrust ourselves to God daily in prayer knowing that too often the tests are beyond our ability to pass on our own strength. So we ask not to be lead into testing, but to be delivered from evil.
We pray to be snatched from danger. Why? Because not only is there sin living within us, but there is evil outside us in the world too. Many people dismiss the idea of a personal devil. I do not. I think that is a tool he
uses to operate without hindrance. But even if you don’t believe in “an evil one” you only have to look around to believe in “evil” in general. And much of that evil is carried out by people, even “good people.” So we pray to be snatched both from the evil of others and the evil of which we ourselves are capable!
How does God lead us? First, he leads us through his Word. Similar to our discussion of God’s will being done, we see what God wants most clearly in Scripture. Following God’s leading means walking in step with God’s Word. We can learn what God is like, what his character is like, in Scripture which helps us follow his lead. If we are to avoid temptation and evil, Scripture is an excellent guide!
God also leads us through circumstances when it comes to life’s decisions. Paul, in Acts 16, was lead through circumstances. The Spirit prevents him from carrying out his own plans to visit various cities. But then, in a dream, he is called to Macedonia.
The same can be true for us today- God leads us through circumstances, closing doors of opportunity in one direction and opening other doors. Paul had not considered Macedonia, so for God to lead him there God had to close all other options!
God can also lead us through wise council. Paul repeatedly instructs the elders of various churches to work together to make decisions. The elders are wise counselors. God can lead us through the wisdom and experience of other believers.
The Holy Spirit can also speak to our own hearts. God frequently leads us by giving us desires or goals that serve God’s purpose. The Spirit can speak to us directly. We must be careful not to believe every desire, every spirit. We must test the spirits against Scripture and the wise council of Godly people. But God does speak to us directly.
As we spoke with respect to God’s will, God’s desires for us are to become more like Jesus. God desires for us to hallow his name, to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world, to make disciples and to advocate for the marginalized. His leading will lead to these things.
Our prayers are for open eyes and ears to follow God’s lead. God will continually lead us to proclaim the good news of his Son through word and deed. God leads us to times and opportunities to glorify him and his Son Jesus. Sometimes that means we are tested to demonstrate our faith, or to strengthen it. Sometimes God leads us to green pastures and beside still waters. Sometimes he leads us through the darkest valley. But always, even in the darkest valley, God is with us, guiding and protecting us, to bring us to the banquet on the other side!
Let us stand together and pray as a community as Jesus taught us how to pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
-In Jesus name, amen!
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