Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lead us not into temptation

There’s a bumper sticker that says,
“ Lead me not into temptation…
            I can find it myself.”

Ain’t that the truth!

I think the guy who wrote that bumper sticker must have been Lutheran – and he must have been paying attention in confirmation class.

Martin Luther writes in the Small Catechism (the explanation for this petition) that God tempts no one.
Luther also tells us that as humans, we are easy prey for temptations:  the devil, the world and our own flesh (meaning our sinful desires) deceive us and mislead us into all sorts of tempting situations.

“Time of trial” is another way of saying “temptation.” 
There are all sorts of trials and temptations we face.  When we pray ‘lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil (or the evil one),” we are asking God to safeguard us, to protect us, to sustain us, to save us in those times.

In asking God to ‘lead us not into temptation, and to deliver us from evil,’  we’re also remembering that this is something we cannot do for ourselves.  This petition reminds us that we totally rely on God.

I’ve often hear people say, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”  I used to say it myself.

But then there was a time in my life when it seemed like one thing after another was going wrong, when life seemed to be crashing down on me.  Have you ever been in a place like that?

And I began to think about that saying - I felt so overwhelmed, there was no way I could handle it on my own.  And I thought, ‘if God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, God must think I can handle a lot more than I think I can!”

I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and I think the answer is in this petition of the Lord’s Prayer:  Lead us not into temptation, lead us not into the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. 

Because it’s not about us handling it with God’s help.  It’s about God handling it for us.

God never gives us more than God can handle for us, never more than God can carry us through.

Yes, there are trials and temptations, there are bad things that happen in life.  I am firmly convinced that there are things that happen that are not part of God’s plan.  I don’t believe that God’s plan includes planes flying into towers, or hurricanes ravishing cities, or crazy individuals opening fire in an elementary school, or babies dying…or any of those horrible things that happen that we say must be part of God’s plan.

Those are part of the evil that’s in this world – the evil that opposes God’s kingdom coming and God’s will being done.  We prayed earlier in the prayer for God to bring God’s kingdom, defeating the powers of evil, sin, death and the devil.  Now we pray again, “God sustain us in those times of trial, strengthen us in times of temptation and protect us from evil.

·       Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for , you God are with me
·       God who has known us from before we are born, promises to go with us, and to deliver us from evil.
·       God goes with us in all our going out and our coming in.

Even in those evil times, when it seems like all is lost.

The Apostle Peter can tell you about those times. He was with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying.  Well, he was supposed to be praying…but he fell asleep.

Jesus prays in the garden, asking God if there was any other way, he prays, “Thy will be done.”

Then Jesus goes and finds his disciples sleeping.  He wakes them and tells them – especially Peter – that they need to pray that they don’t ‘come into the time of trial.’

And if anyone ever needed to pray, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil, it was Peter.

I don’t know what Peter prayed, or if he even kept awake long enough to pray in the garden that evening with Jesus.  I do know he went from the garden straight into temptation - to deny Jesus in order to save his own skin.  Then his whole world came crashing down around him when his Lord died on a criminal’s cross and evil seemed to have won.

Later, Peter writes:  Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  

He knows what he’s talking about.  He’s been there.

But just before he writes this reminder for us to be alert to the dangers the evil in the world has for us, he writes:  Cast your cares (on God) for he cares for you.

God cares for us. 

Yes there is real evil in the world.  Yes, bad things happen to good people, to Christian people.  Yes, sometimes things happen that are not part of God’s ‘best’ for us, not what our loving Father in Heaven wants for his children. 

So we pray, knowing that God’s kingdom is still coming, and God is still redeeming the world, bringing it in line with God’s will and sending the powers of evil running.

And yes, God can even redeem those times of trial, those times when bad things happen.  God uses those moments to teach us, to challenge us, to encourage us to grow in faith. 

And when we turn to God at those moments of greatest need, we discover that God is with us all along…always.

So we pray, as Jesus taught us, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…

A plea for God’s help
A statement of trust in God’s promise to be with us, to care for us, and to carry us through those times of trial.

So, let us pray… .
1.   As a congregation, we’re going to pray the Lord’s prayer, stopping after “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” 
2.   Next, we’ll take time for each of us to pray silently, lifting up to God those places where we are tempted, where we are facing trial, where evil seems to be winning.  This might be a prayer for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our community or for the world – whatever is on your heart today.
3.   After a few minutes, we’ll close with “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”

“Jesus, Lord, use this time to teach us to pray…

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil …

Time for individual prayer

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

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