Monday in Holy Week
“And lead us not into temptation.”
What exactly are we asking in this petition? Is our heavenly Father the sort who would lead us into temptation? Perish the thought! The Apostle James writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted,
‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). With these verses in mind, Luther begins his explanation of the Sixth Petition in the Small Catechism, “God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us …”
And yet Jesus could easily have taught us to pray, “Protect us from temptation.” Why say, “And do not lead us into temptation”?
The psalms are helpful in understanding this. In the psalms, the saints constantly beg the Lord not to do things that they know He would never do: “Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts; do not forget the life of your poor forever” (Psalm 74:19). “Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation”
(Psalm 27:9). “Do not lead me astray from your commandments” (Psalm 119:10).
The saints pray these things because even though we know who our God is, these things seem to happen. In view of our sins we must also acknowledge we deserve to be forgotten, forsaken, and led into temptation.
Yet in praying these things we come to realize that no matter how things seem, God would never treat us this way. Our Father in heaven would not take up his dear children in His arms, carry them into temptation, and dump them there! In the Sixth Petition Jesus teaches us to laugh at such a ridiculous image, and in so doing he strengthens our faith. He turns our attention away from how things seem toward who God is. Our God is a bulwark, a fortress, a refuge. Thus we do find ourselves praying in this petition that God would guard and keep us. And we pray it in faith, knowing the truth about our Father: what he would do, and what he would never do.
O Lord, who for our great good gave us Your holy Law, do not lead us astray from Your commandments. Amen.