“The Model Prayer: Spiritual Protection” (Matthew 6:13 sermon)

Many Americans cheered several years ago, when a Texas mother fought off three masked men who invaded the home where she and her little son lived. Using a pistol she had in her bedroom, she shot one intruder in the stomach and ran the other two off.  Most Americans applaud — and rightly so — those who do whatever they have to do to protect their family.

But we also need to understand that there is a greater responsibility than just protecting our family 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. That is why we must learn to pray prayers of spiritual protection which call down the power of God to protect and to work in the lives of those we love.

This morning we come to the last of the 6 major requests of the Model Prayer. We have seen that the Model Prayer is not a “script” that we are to endlessly repeat word-for-word, but it is an outline of the things God wants us to talk with Him about when we pray.  We’ve seen that we are to begin our prayers with praise, then pray for God’s Kingdom’s work, then surrender our lives to His will; and then lift up our own requests, and requests for those we love, before we spend time confessing our own sin and granting forgiveness to others.  The final request of the prayer is found in :13 and reads:

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

I.  PRAYING FOR SPIRITUAL PROTECTION

“And do not lead us into temptation …”

The Bible word for “temptation” here is the same one (peirasmos) that is used in Matthew 4 to tell us 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, and 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, and bear our sins on the cross. God purposefully led Him into 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 put ourselves in the way of temptation. We are weak. We should never be overconfident about our spiritual state. Never say: “That sin will never happen to me” — that kind of pride and overconfidence is the road to spiritual failure. Instead we need to continually admit our weakness and dependence upon the Lord. So Jesus taught us to pray: “Lead us NOT into temptation.” This is important for us. If Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”, that must mean that there are temptations we can avoid 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, when Jesus and His disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus told His disciples there: “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” The Greek words “into temptation” there are exactly the same as the ones He used here in the Model Prayer. 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 every one of them would fail, and would fall away. Peter would 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 the Bible says they did NOT watch & pray. Instead, every time Jesus came back to check on them, He found them asleep again. So as a consequence, they DID all fall into sin and they all fell away when the crucial moments came. 

Sun Tzu was an ancient Chinese general, whose book The Art of War has become legendary. In it he wrote: “Victorious warriors win first — and then go to war.” In other words, do what it takes to win a battle BEFORE it begins. That is what Jesus’ disciples here, did NOT do. They did NOT “watch and pray” like Jesus said; they did protect themselves spiritually in prayer beforehand. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the battle for the disciples was NOT lost that night, when the soldiers came and they scattered; the battle was already lost when they didn’t PRAY beforehand!  Peter’s downfall didn’t just happen the moment he denied that he knew Jesus before the servant girl — his downfall really came when he didn’t PRAY beforehand. He did NOT “watch and pray not to enter into temptation” like Jesus told him to.

Now the question is: will WE pray beforehand? Will we take some time every day, before we go into the battles of the day, to “watch and pray, that we may not enter into temptation”? Will we “win the battle beforehand,” or will we LOSE the battle before we ever step into it, because we didn’t start the day praying for spiritual protection?

I wonder how many times the angels watch from heaven, while we, like the disciples, sleep through what should have been our morning prayer time, where we should have gotten spiritual strength and protection for the day; where we were supposed to have prayed not to be led into temptation, but we missed it instead. And how many times have the angels just had to shake their heads and say: “They are going to fall later today.” 

— They know we are going to give into that temptation that’s coming.

— They know we are going to end up going where we shouldn’t go; 

— They know we are going to do what we shouldn’t do — 

The angels KNOW it is going to happen — because we did NOT win the battle before we came to it; we did NOT do what Jesus told us to do: we did NOT pray to avoid temptation! The angels can see right then that the battle for that day was already lost. They know our battle was NOT lost when the temptation to sin came, later that afternoon or that evening — the battle was already lost when we didn’t win it beforehand in the morning by praying for spiritual protection like Jesus taught us!  

We have seen several times that the SEQUENCE of these requests of The Model Prayer is meaningful: we are to begin with praise; then we are to pray for God’s Kingdom’s requests and His will, ahead of our own needs. And the sequence leading into this final request is significant too. The 5th request was for forgiveness: “forgive us our debts.”  So, having just confessed our sins to the Lord, Jesus says we should now pray that we would not come into temptation to sin again. 

— So every day at this point in your prayers, we should ask God to “lead us not into temptation.” Ask Him to protect you and keep you from sin. You know where your weak areas are — and I guarantee you the devil knows where your weak areas are!  And again, it’s no accident that this 6th request comes after the 5th. You’ve just confessed your sins — now pray that you would not come back into those same sins again today. 

— You 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 your house. Lead me not back into that temptation.

— You just asked forgiveness for losing your temper and saying something you shouldn’t have; now ask God to help you guard your tongue the next time! “Help me not to respond that way today!”

— 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.  

See, we are not to be content to remain where we are, just confessing the same old sins day after day. We are to ask God to help us CHANGE; to stop sinning in these areas.  And this is the time in our daily prayer where we can do that. 

It is just like the old expression: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The more we ask God today in this 6th petition not to lead us into temptation, the less time we may have to spend tomorrow on the 5th petiton, confessing our sins!  We need to learn to pray every morning, before we go into the battles of the day: “Lead us not into temptation” just like Jesus taught us. 

II.  NOTICE THE CORPORATE NATURE OF THIS REQUEST:

We’ve seen that we are not to pray selfishly; it is not just “give ME this day MY daily bread,” but “give US” — we are to pray for others too. And it’s the same here with this 6th request: it’s not merely “lead ME” not into temptation, but “Lead US not into temptation. Deliver US from evil.“ That is significant. We are not merely to pray prayers of spiritual protection for ourselves, but also for others: for our spouse; for our children;  for our pastor and staff; for others in our church, and for our church body as a whole. We need to pray prayers of spiritual protection for each of these regularly in our daily prayers.  

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, which is what many Bible students like to call the real “Lord’s Prayer.”  They say that the prayer here in Matthew is really a “Model Prayer” for US, whereas Jesus’ own personal prayer is found in John 17, in the prayer He prayed just before He went 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 how we can imitate Him in prayer:

— First, as saw before, it is amazing that Jesus is even thinking about His disciples then! He is about to go undergo the most torturesome death in the history of mankind as He bears the wrath of God for our sins in His body on the cross. He’s so agonized by it that He sweats drops of blood.  And yet He thinks of US and prays for US?  That is just amazing love and intercession. 

— Second, as we look at His prayer, we see that He prays for the spiritual protection of His disciples:

— He says in :12, ”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 prisoners were “kept.” 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.  

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 for us: that we are to “guard” or “keep” in prayer those whom WE love, just like Jesus “kept” His disciples in prayer. We don’t know all of the mysteries involved in spiritual warfare, but we do know from John 17 that Jesus “guarded” and “kept” His disciples from the evil one, in prayer, in His name.  And in Matthew 6 Jesus calls us to guard and keep our loved ones from the schemes of the enemy, through our daily prayers.  

Since Jesus prayed this prayer about “guarding” His disciples during His very last 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:

— Many of you men consider “guarding” your household with your gun as something you do with manly pride.  But you need to see that God has given you the same responsibility to guard your home SPIRITUALLY through prayer! You’re the man! Stand guard over your home in prayer!

— Wives and mothers, your responsibility to your family doesn’t end when you’ve fed and clothed them. You need to spend time every day, “keeping” your family in prayer, just like Jesus did His disciples.

— Husbands and wives, one of the biggest responsibilities you have in your marriage is to “guard” your spouse from temptation through 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. What we have here in our church is precious. The devil will not leave that alone; he will try to attack it. And he will look for ANY little wedge or annoyance he can use to do that. So we need to constantly be praying a hedge of spiritual protection around our pastor, and church staff, and our precious church fellowship among our members.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to neglect our duty 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” — “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Don’t wait until there is a crisis in your family or your church to pray. Pray BEFOREHAND — so that we might never come into a crisis in the first place!  “Lead us not INTO temptation”!  Let’s try to “head off” Satan’s temptations beforehand, through prayer. 

Several years ago, a businessman was in tears, sharing how for so many years he had thought he was just “too busy” to take time off work to spend time with his daughter, and go to her school events, and so on. But after years of neglect due to her father’s absence, his daughter became addicted to drugs, and she needed someone to take her to her rehab program.  This heartbroken dad now took off of work to drive her every few days to rehab. He said, you know, the tragic thing is, I DID have time to take off after all! He said, I only wish I had made that time BEFORE she got involved in those drugs, and not after.  

We need to realize that the same thing is true of our prayers for spiritual protection for our loved ones. Are we going to take the time NOW to pray for ourselves, for our children, for our families, our church — or are going to wait until we come into a crisis to pray over the wreck that Satan has made of things?    

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 rulers, 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 says there that the real 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 the way to use those weapons is to pray the way Jesus teaches us here.

So every day, before we finish our prayers, let’s be sure we go to battle for our loved ones: 

— Pray a hedge of protection around your own marriage, and other marriages you care about. Pray: “Lord, what You have joined together, let no man separate.” 

— Every day, pray a prayer of spiritual protection for your children, and grandchildren, and others on your heart. 

— Regularly ask God to protect your church staff from temptation and sin which would tarnish His name and work, and regularly ask God to protect the sweet fellowship of our church against Satan’s schemes to divide us.  

And pray fervently. This is a spiritual battle. Go to BATTLE! Do BATTLE for your marriage in prayer; go to BATTLE for your kids in prayer. FIGHT OFF the enemy in prayer. 

Jesus Himself prayed: “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name … and I lost none of them.” (John 17:12) That was His example, and that should be our commitment too: “WHILE I WAS WITH THEM, I WAS KEEPING THEM.” Let that be the motto for our prayers over our spouse, over 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 fight for them spiritually, through prayer.  

CONCLUSION:

In 1875 Sam Shafer and his bride “Queenie” came from Mississippi to settle on the Leon River in Texas, northwest of us here. J. Frank Dobie relates in his book, Tales of Old-Time Texas, how when she was an old woman, Queenie would tell her grandchildren stories of the early days. She said:  when their first baby was five months old, she and Sam drove up to Fort Worth in their wagon to get supplies. They were on the last leg of the journey home and it was beginning to get dark, when Sam happened to look back and saw what he thought was a man with a white shirt on, galloping towards then. The baby had the colic and started to cry. But as the thing got closer, Same said, “That’s no man. It’s the biggest panther I ever saw.” The panther had heard the baby cry, and could smell it, and he ran up close to the wagon to get it. Sam stood up and cracked his whip, and at first the panther ran a way off. But soon he came creeping back, and Queenie said that panther let out a scream that “froze her blood.” It kept shadowing them, and finally Sam told her: “Queenie, you’d better put the baby in the trunk.” He expected the hungry panther to leap up on the wagon, and try to take that baby any minute. They watched, they guarded; Queenie said “Sam kept up his whip-cracking and yelling the whole way home — till our cabin came in sight” and they finally had their baby safely home. (J. Frank Dobie, Tales of Old-Time Texas, pp. 188-189)

Sam and Queenie knew that day, that there was a roaring animal who wanted to devour their child — so they kept guard, and they were willing to do whatever they had to do, to protect their baby. WE need to have that same sense of urgency today, with our loved ones. Now we can’t “see” our enemy; but he is very real. The Bible tells us there is a “roaring lion” who is out there, and he is seeking whom he may devour. And we can’t fight him away with whips or guns, or run away from him on horses. The only way we can fight him; the only way we can protect our family, is to PRAY; to do “spiritual battle” for those we love. 

THAT is why we have to get up every day to pray. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for those you love. We need to pray as our husbands go off to work. We need to pray every day before our kids go off to school. We need to fight on behalf of our grandchildren, and our church, and our country — we need to fight for them in prayer.  

In Luke 22 Jesus told His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” But when He came back, he found they had been “sleeping from sorrow”, and He told them AGAIN in :46 “GET UP and pray that you may not enter into temptation”!

Jesus’ message to His disciples there is the word of the Lord for many of US today: 

— GET UP!

— GET UP from your sleep in the morning!

— GET UP from your lack of discipline! 

— GET UP from your apathy

— GET UP  from whatever is keeping you from it 

— GET UP and PRAY — that you and your family may not enter into temptation, and may not fall into the claws of the roaring lion who wants to destroy your souls!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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