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Matthew 9: 13                  KJV

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

This is part of the Lord’s prayer; you probably recognize it. Many people can quote this passage and many of us learned it in the poetic King James Version. For myself, learning it as a child, it took years for me to untangle the meaning from the pretty prose. The Lord’s prayer was a saying, almost a slogan but it didn’t have a lot of meaning for me for many years.

This, the Lord’s Prayer has been taught on extensively. Knowledgeable preachers break it down into its constituent parts and teach us how the individual parts combine to outline a form of prayer. Today I would like for us to think about this one little section and consider what it means and also what it means to our lives individually.

There are some passages of scripture that are hard to read in any version other the King James when you were brought up with it. I still hear this passage in King James language though I have used the New American Standard Bible for forty years. Let’s explore a couple of other versions though. The Names of God version reads, “Don’t allow us to be tempted. Instead, rescue us from the evil one.” The New American Standard says, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Can you see a difference from our traditional understanding.

Here is the question which frames comprehension of this verse, “Would Jesus pray asking God, the Father, not to lead us into temptation as if sometimes He does lead people into temptation?” “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” (James 1: 13). Father God never leads people into the way of temptation, so, what was Jesus asking the Father?

Jesus taught that upon his exit from the earth, the Father would give us another helper and that helper, the Holy Spirit, would guide us. So, it is perfectly correct to think in terms of allowing ourselves to be led by God. This is how I would phrase today’s verse in modern English as I think about the Holy Spirit guiding my steps, “Father, lead me away from temptation.” I may, under my own power, be headed right for trouble but we can enable the Godhead to intervene and lead us away from the path of destruction.

I want you to notice also the second part of the verse. Here is the Names of God version again, “Don’t allow us to be tempted. Instead, rescue us from the evil one.” Jesus recognized from where temptation comes, the evil one. So he petitioned the Father to lead us away from the evil one, so as to rescue us from his temptations. Remember who tempted Jesus in the wilderness. It was the devil. Jesus’ prayer asks the Father to steer us away from the traps the devil has laid so that we will not be tripped up.
When you see this passage of scripture in modern language and in context with other scriptures, it takes on entirely new meaning. Sometimes it seems like the world has been sown with land mines. Jesus constantly intercedes for us asking the Father to navigate the mine field for us. That is good news, isn’t it?

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