A Laymen’s Commentary on the Large Catechism: Sixth Petition

This is part 23 of 26 in the series A Layman's Commentary on the Large Catechism

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the Lord surrounds his people,
    from this time forth and forevermore.
For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
    on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
    their hands to do wrong.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
    and to those who are upright in their hearts!
But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
    the Lord will lead away with evildoers!
    Peace be upon Israel!

(Psalm 125)

 

The Sixth Petition.

And lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean?–Answer.

God, indeed, tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and gain the victory.

(Small Catechism)

 

Into temptation lead us not.
When evil foes against us plot
And vex our souls on every hand,
Oh, give us strength that we may stand
Firm in the faith, a well-armed host,
Through comfort of the Holy Ghost!

(LSB 766)

 

The Sixth Petition.

99] And lead us not into temptation.

100] We have now heard enough what toil and labor is required to retain all that for which we pray, and to persevere therein, which, however, is not achieved without infirmities and stumbling. Besides, although we have received forgiveness and a good conscience and are entirely acquitted, yet is our life of such a nature that one stands to-day and to-morrow falls. Therefore, even though we be godly now and stand before God with a good conscience, we must pray again that He would not suffer us to relapse and yield to trials and temptations.

101] Temptation, however, or (as our Saxons in olden times used to call it) Bekoerunge, is of three kinds, namely, of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil. 102] For in the flesh we dwell and carry the old Adam about our neck, who exerts himself and incites us daily to inchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, avarice and deception, to defraud our neighbor and to overcharge him, and, in short, to all manner of evil lusts which cleave to us by nature, and to which we are incited by the society, example and what we hear and see of other people, which often wound and inflame even an innocent heart.

103] Next comes the world, which offends us in word and deed, and impels us to anger, and impatience. In short, there is nothing but hatred and envy, enmity, violence and wrong, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, raillery, slander, pride and haughtiness, with superfluous finery, honor, fame, and power, where no one is willing to be the least, but every one desires to sit at the head and to be seen before all.

104] Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, and bring us into misbelief, false security, and obduracy, or, on the other hand, to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things. These are indeed snares and nets, yea, real fiery darts which are shot most venomously into the heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil.

105] Great and grievous, indeed, are these dangers and temptations which every Christian must bear, even though each one were alone by himself, so that every hour that we are in this vile life where we are attacked on all sides, chased and hunted down, we are moved to cry out and to pray that God would not suffer us to become weary and faint and to relapse into sin, shame, and unbelief. For otherwise it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation.

106] This, then, is leading us not into temptation, to wit, when He gives us power and strength to resist, the temptation, however, not being taken away or removed. For while we live in the flesh and have the devil about us, no one can escape temptation and allurements; and it cannot be otherwise than that we must endure trials, yea, be engulfed in them; but we pray for this, that we may not fall and be drowned in them.

107] To feel temptation is therefore a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. We must all feel it, although not all in the same manner, but some in a greater degree and more severely than others; as, the young suffer especially from the flesh, afterwards, they that attain to middle life and old age, from the world, but others who are occupied with spiritual matters, that is, strong Christians, from the devil. 108] But such feeling, as long as it is against our will and we would rather be rid of it, can harm no one. For if we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But to consent thereto is when we give it the reins and do not resist or pray against it.

109] Therefore we Christians must be armed and daily expect to be incessantly attacked, in order that no one may go on in security and heedlessly, as though the devil were far from us, but at all times expect and parry his blows. For though I am now chaste, patient, kind, and in firm faith, the devil will this very hour send such an arrow into my heart that I can scarcely stand. For he is an enemy that never desists nor becomes tired, so that when one temptation ceases, there always arise others and fresh ones.

110] Accordingly, there is no help or comfort except to run hither and to take hold of the Lord’s Prayer, and thus speak to God from the heart: Dear Father, Thou hast bidden me pray; let me not relapse because of temptations. Then you will see that they must desist, and finally acknowledge themselves conquered. 111] Else if you venture to help yourself by your own thoughts and counsel, you will only make the matter worse and give the devil more space. For he has a serpent’s head, which if it gain an opening into which he can slip, the whole body will follow without check. But prayer can prevent him and drive him back.

We have now prayed for God to preserve us in our lives and to enact His will among us.  Also, we have prayed that He forgive us when we fall. Now, we plead with God to preserve our faith (Isaiah 40:1-8).

In this life, we wrestle with temptations of all sorts which threaten to pull us away from faith.  This is what is meant by Luther’s reference to the now obscure German word Bekörunge which basically means tentatio, that is, temptation and trial.  This struggle is what makes us better theologians and Christians.  While meditatio (meditation) and oratio (prayer) mold and shape faith, tentatio hardens and purifies faith in the fire of tribulation.

Temptations can be divided into three types in this life.  The flesh, the world, and the devil.  Each of these assault Christians in different ways.

The temptations of the flesh are the inherent desires that dwell within us.  These are the classic seven deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony (Galatians 5:16-26, Colossians 3:1-17).  These insidious desires feel like perfectly natural impulses and instincts which makes them difficult to discern and fight against.

The world is next, which offends us in word and deed.  The world spurs us on to desire to harm our neighbor. These temptations are external to our own corrupt flesh but play on our flesh’s desire (Luke 14:7-24).  The world encourages our flesh by celebrating the very impulses of the flesh as good, right, and natural.

Finally, we have the devil, who actively pokes and prods us to sin.  He tries to wrest away our faith, hope, and love. He then throws us into despair when we do sin.  The devil also tries to corrupt pure doctrine and constantly assails the church (2 Timothy 2:14-26, Ephesians 6:10-20).  Satan and his minions are tireless not only in their work in the world to turn wrong into right but also in inciting our flesh to do what is evil in order destroy our faith.

These temptations constantly surround us and assault us (2 Corinthians 4:7-18). We cannot escape temptation in this life. It is in our very flesh and blood, our sinful and fallen nature. These temptations are not removed by the Lord but rather He uses them to discipline us and gives us strength to endure them.  This strength that the Lord provides is His Holy Spirit who comes to us to fortify us with His sevenfold gifts (Isaiah 40:9-31, Hebrews 12:3-17, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, 2 Timothy 2:1-13).

Thus we pray in this petition that temptations not overwhelm us. We all feel temptation but it is another thing to yield to it.  So we pray for God’s aid so that we do not fall. Satan, though, knows where we are weak, and he is a wily foe.  Thus each of us is tempted in different ways that hit us where we are most vulnerable.

So, we must be armed against temptation.  For this, we have the example of our Lord in the wilderness being tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, Hebrews 4:14-16). Even at His physically weakest, He is always ready to fight and fends off Satan with the clear Word of God. So too, we must not become complacent. Because at that moment, we are vulnerable to Satan.  Rather we must be constant in the Word of God which is our sure defense and sword (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Thus we pray in this petition that God would preserve our faith so that we may endure to the end.  After all, all temptations will come to an end in the Day of the Lord’s coming. On that glorious day, Satan and all his forces of darkness will be thrown into the lake of fire to burn forever and we will be freed from all temptations (Revelation 12:7-12).

1. Let us ever walk with Jesus,
Follow His example pure,
Flee the world, which would deceive us
And to sin our souls allure.
Ever in His footsteps treading,
Body here, yet soul above,
Full of faith and hope and love,
Let us do the Father’s bidding.
Faithful Lord, abide with me;
Savior, lead, I follow Thee.

2. Let us suffer here with Jesus,
To His image, e’er conform;
Heaven’s glory soon will please us,
Sunshine follow on the storm.
Though we sow in tears of sorrow,
We shall reap with heavenly joy;
And the fears that now annoy
Shall be laughter on the morrow.
Christ, I suffer here with Thee;
There, oh, share Thy joy with me!

3. Let us also die with Jesus.
His death from the second death,
From our soul’s destruction, frees us,
Quickens us with life’s glad breath.
Let us mortify, while living,
Flesh and blood and die to sin;
And the grave that shuts us in
Shall but prove the gate to heaven.
Jesus, here I die to Thee
There to live eternally.

4. Let us gladly live with Jesus;
Since He’s risen from the dead,
Death and grave must soon release us.
Jesus, Thou art now our Head,
We are truly Thine own members;
Where Thou livest, there live we.
Take and own us constantly,
Faithful Friend, as Thy dear brethren.
Jesus, here I live to Thee,
Also there eternally.

(LSB 685)

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon

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