(Preached at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, May 27, 2015)
Much of America cheered some months ago when a Texas mother fought off three masked home invaders who came into the house where she and her little son were. With a pistol she had in her bedroom, she shot one intruder in the stomach and ran the other two off. Americans applaud — rightly so — those who do whatever they need to do to protect their family.
But as important as that is, there is a greater responsibility you have towards your family than protecting them physically, and that is protecting them spiritually. The greatest enemy your family has cannot be shot with a gun, or physically barred from your home. The greatest enemy your family has is spiritual, and must opposed by spiritual weapons/means. II Corinthians 10:3-5 says “although we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, and the weapons of our warfare are not according the flesh, but are Divinely powerful …”. That is why we must learn to PRAY — and call down the power of God to protect and to work in the lives of those we love.
Tonight we continue our study on the Model Prayer, and we come to the last of the 6 major requests of the Model, Praying For Spiritual Protection. We have seen that the Model Prayer is not a “script” that we are to endlessly repeat, but is an outline of the categories of things the Lord wants us to talk about with Him when we pray. We’ve seen that we are to begin with praise, then pray for God’s Kingdom’s work next, then surrender our lives to His will — then lift up our requests, and requests for those we love, before we spend time in confession of sin and forgiveness of others. The final request, which we are studying tonight, is found in :13 and reads:
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
I. PROTECTION FROM TEMPTATION
“And do not lead us into temptation …”The Bible word for “temptation” here is the same one (peirasmos) that was used in Matthew to relate how Jesus was led up to the wilderness to be “tempted” by the devil. So this prayer is, “Lord, lead us NOT into a place where we will be tempted by the enemy, so that we might fall into sin.” Jesus HAD to be “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” so that He could be a faithful high priest for us, bear our sins on the cross, and intercede for us in heaven. God purposefully led Him to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, so that He could prove Who He was, overcome those temptations, and become our Savior.
But you & I are not Jesus; we should never SEEK to be tempted. We are weak. We should never be overconfident regarding our spiritual state. Never say: “Oh, that will never happen to me” — that kind of pride and overconfidence is the road to spiritual failure. We need to admit our weakness and dependence upon the Lord. So our prayer should be “Lead us NOT into temptation.” This is significant. If Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”, that must mean that there are temptations which can be avoided if we pray in advance not to come into them.
We understand this a little better from a passage a little later on, in Matthew 26:41, when Jesus and His disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus told His disciples: “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” The Greek words for “into temptation” are exactly the same as the ones Jesus used here in the Model Prayer, so we can be fairly certain that He was talking about the same kind of thing: praying that we will avoid temptations to sin.
And notice the context there: Jesus and the disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was praying His last prayers before He would be arrested and crucified. His disciples were about to be tested — and they would all fail, and fall away. Peter would famously deny three times that he even knew Jesus. But before any of this happened, Jesus told them, “KEEP WATCHING AND PRAYING SO THAT YOU MAY NOT ENTER INTO TEMPTATION.” But they didn’t watch & pray. Every time Jesus came back to check on them, He found them asleep again. They didn’t watch & pray not to be led into temptation, and significantly, they DID subsequently ALL fall into sin and fell away when the crucial moments came. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the spiritual battle of their downfall was NOT lost when the soldiers came and they scattered; the battle was lost when they didn’t pray! Peter’s downfall in denying Jesus didn’t just happen when he denied he knew Him before the servant girl — his downfall really came when he didn’t pray! He did NOT do what Jesus told him to do: “watch and pray not to enter into temptation.”
I wonder how many times the angels in heaven, look down upon us on earth, and see how we, like the disciples, sleep through what should be our morning prayer times where were supposed to get spiritual strength for the day; where we were supposed to pray not to be led into temptation, but we miss it instead. And they just shake their heads and say: “They are going to fall later today.” They know we are going to give into that temptation. We are going to go where we should not go; we are going to say what we should not say; we are going to do what we should not do — because we did NOT do what we were told to do in the morning: we did NOT pray to avoid temptation! The angels can see right then that the battle for that day was lost — NOT when the sin happened that afternoon or that evening — but in the morning when we didn’t pray for spiritual protection like Jesus told us!
We have seen several times that the SEQUENCE of the requests of The Model Prayer is meaningful: we are to begin with praise; we are to pray for God’s Kingdom’s requests and His will ahead of our own needs and requests, etc. And the sequence leading into this final request is significant. The 5th request was for forgiveness: “And forgive us our debts.” Having just confessed our sin to the Lord, now He says we should pray that we would not come into temptation to sin again:
— you’ve just prayed for forgiveness for looking at something you shouldn’t have; now pray that you wouldn’t put yourself in the position to see that again: not to have that magazine around; not to have access to that website; not to have those kinds of books or movies or materials around.
— you’ve just asked for forgiveness for abusing that substance: now pray that you might not come back into temptation, that you would make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts; that you wouldn’t go back to the place where you know that temptation will be found.
— you’ve just asked for forgiveness for being influenced by those people who drag you down spiritually; now pray that you might look in another direction for fellowship, that you might not be led into temptation by those bad associations.
It is just like the old expression says: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We are not to be content merely to keep on praying prayers of forgiveness for the same sins; we are also to pray prayers of prevention to KEEP us from sin.
I think the idea is, if we spent more time on the 6th request of the Model Prayer, we might not need to spend as much time on the 5th request! If we spend more time praying not to be led into temptation, we might spend less time praying for forgiveness. We need to learn to pray every morning for ourselves in regard to our own spiritual walk: “Lead us not into temptation” just as Jesus taught us.
II. And again, NOTICE THE CORPORATE NATURE OF THIS REQUEST:
It is not merely “lead ME” not into temptation, but “Lead US not into temptation.” That is significant, and should be instructive to us as we pray. We are not merely to pray prayers of spiritual protection for ourselves, but also for others in our Christian community: for our spouse; for our children; for our pastor and staff; for others in our church, and for our church body as a whole. Prayers of spiritual protection for each of these should be a regular part of our personal intercession.
As in every area of the Christian life, Jesus is our great example here. He prayed regularly for His followers, and one of the things He prayed was that God would protect them spiritually. We see this best perhaps in John 17. John 17 is what some Bible students like to call “The Lord’s Prayer.” They say that the prayer here in Matthew isn’t really “The LORD’s prayer” as much as it is a “Model Prayer” for US, which is true. They assert that the “LORD’s prayer”; Jesus’ personal prayer, is found in John 17, in the prayer He prayed just before He left to go to the cross. Some call it His “High Priestly Prayer.” Whatever you call it, it is the most marvelous prayer in all the Bible. In it we learn so much about the Lord, and about His purposes for us, as well as about the way that we can imitate Him in prayer:
— First, it is amazing that, just before He goes to the cross, Jesus is even thinking about His disciples! He is about to go undergo the most torturesome death ever on the cross for our sins; His own body revolts against the thought, and He sweats drops of blood. And yet He thinks of US and prays for His people? From near the very beginning of the prayer, He is thinking of, and praying for, His followers. It is amazing love for us which causes Him to remember us, and pray for us like that.
— Second, as we see Him pray in this chapter, we see that among the most important things He does is pray for the spiritual protection of His disciples. We see indications that He HAS been praying for that protection, and that He is continuing to do so:
That He HAS been praying for His disciples’ spiritual protection may be seen in :12, where He says, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me, and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” Here Jesus says that as long as His disciples were with Him, He was “keeping” them and “guarding” them so that they would not perish. The word “keep” here means “to keep a tight hold on, to guard”. It is used in Matthew 27 & 28, and Acts 16, of how the prisoners were “kept” or guarded. The word “guarded” here is similar, often referring to a military guard, or occasionally of a shepherd keeping an eye on his sheep. So Jesus said He “guarded” His disciples, keeping them in His name.
It is instructive to us that Jesus uses this same word “kept” just a couple of verses down in John 17:15, where He prays: “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to KEEP them from the evil one.” THIS IS VERY SIMILAR TO THE LANGUAGE WE FIND HERE IN THE MODEL PRAYER, and gives us a clue to what it means: that we are to “guard” or “keep” in prayer those whom we love, just like Jesus said here that He “kept” His disciples.
We don’t know all of the mysteries involved in spiritual warfare, but we do know from the passage in John 17 that Jesus “guarded” and “kept” His disciples from the evil one, in prayer, in His name. And He uses the same language when He tells US to keep OUR loved ones in prayer, when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” He is commanding us to guard and keep those whom He has entrusted into our care, from the schemes of the enemy, through intercessory, guarding prayer.
Since Jesus prayed this prayer about “guarding” His disciples during His final hours on earth, it must have been a TOP priority for Him. So we must consider the “guarding” of our own loved ones in prayer to be one of our greatest priorities here on earth as well:
— Men, you may think of “guarding” your household with your gun as something you do with pride. But you need to see that as the spiritual leader of your home, you have an even greater responsibility to “guard” your family every day spiritually through your prayers. Protect them from the invisible enemy — the evil one!
— Wives and mothers, your responsibility with your family does not end when you feed and clothe them. You need to spend time every day, “keeping” them in prayer, just like Jesus did His disciples.
— Husbands and wives, one of the biggest responsibilities you have in your marriage is to protect your marriage and to “guard” your spouse from temptation in your prayers.
— We have this same responsibility towards our church family as well. II Corinthians 2:11 says we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes; he loves to try to divide and destroy the leaders, and members, and fellowship of the church. So we need to pray a hedge of spiritual protection around our pastor and church staff, and our precious church fellowship. We aren’t ignorant about what Satan wants to do; so let’s “keep” our people and our church in protecting prayer.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to neglect our duties to guard our loved ones in prayer, and wait for a crisis to come, and only THEN really begin to fervently pray. Remember Jesus tells us here to pray: “Lead us not INTO temptation” — just like the old maxim: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Don’t wait until there is a crisis in your family or church to pray. Pray BEFOREHAND — and you might avoid a crisis in the first place! “Lead us not INTO temptation”!
I remember several years ago hearing the tearful testimony of a businessman who had said he was too busy to take time off of work to go places with his daughter, and spend time with her. But after a number of years of neglect due to her father’s absence, his daughter became addicted to drugs as a teenager, and she needed someone to take her to her counseling program. The heartbroken dad took off of work to drive her every several days to the program, but he realized later that he DID have the time after all; he showed that he COULD take off work — the only question was, would he take the time BEFORE she went astray, to keep it from happening, or would he only take it AFTERWARDS, when it was time to pick up the pieces?
We should ask the same question regarding our prayers of spiritual protection for our loved ones. Are we going to take the time NOW to pray spiritual protection for ourselves, for our children, our families, our church — or are going to wait until they get into a crisis to pray?
Remember, the real battle in our lives, in our family, for our church, and our country, is SPIRITUAL. Ephesians 6 says: “Our struggle is not against flesh & blood, but against the ruler, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness; against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Paul is saying there that the battle you face in your home is not against flesh & blood. The battle for your family is not against someone you can wrestle, or shoot. It is a spiritual battle, and you have to fight the spiritual battle in prayer. Like II Cor. 10:3-5 says: “We walk in the flesh, but we do not war according to the flesh.” Our weapons are spiritual, and we put those weapons to use when we pray like Jesus taught us here, and like He modeled for us in John 17.
Jesus Himself prayed: “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name … and I lost none of them.” That was His example, and that should be our commitment as well.
“WHILE I WAS WITH THEM, I WAS KEEPING THEM.” Let that be the motto we write over our spouse, our children, our families, our staff, and our church: “While I was with them, I was keeping them” in prayer. Let us be committed to pray every day just like Jesus taught us: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Let’s put this into practice in our PRAYER TIME tonight:
— Scripture: Psalm 138
— Song: “I Need Thee Every Hour”
— for God’s hand on Sunday’s service
— for each SS teacher as they prepare
— give each of us as church members opportunities to witness this week
— for the work of Ebenezer mission, for the church by the well/witness oppty’s
— for Stefan and upcoming trip: knit us together in kingdom partnership
— direct staff as we plan for summer and fall activities
— wisdom for all our church leadership as we make important decisions
— Supreme Court in upcoming marriage decision
— Hilda Williams, home from hosp; still trying to keep heart regulated.
— for rest and strength for Keith & Amanda on vacation this week …
— comfort for the Wright family, and Anne Brown in loss of their loved ones
— your needs; and others on your heart
— pray a hedge of protection around your own marriage, and those of you children and others you care about. (“What God has joined together, let no man separate.”))
— pray against the evil work of the enemy against your children or others on your heart
— ask God to protect your church staff from temptation and sin which would tarnish His name and work
— ask God to protect the sweet fellowship of this church against Satan who wants to divide it