In the final verse of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). After teaching us to pray for forgiveness, Jesus immediately reminds us to rely on God for victory over temptation and sin.
It’s important to note that God never directly tempts us. The book of James plainly states, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13). He actually doesn’t even need to tempt us, as temptations come from within ourselves; our own desires we already have.
However, the regret, guilt, shame, and condemnation you feel when you’re tempted isn’t coming from the Holy Spirit. Now, there might be a prompting from the Holy Spirit to remind you, “Hey, don’t do this. Don’t walk in this.” But shame and guilt are some of the tools the enemy uses when we feel tempted.
So there’s the temptation, and then there’s the giving into the temptation. There’s the walking in, the sin, in the flesh. Temptation is not sin. Giving into temptation is where the sin comes in. The sin is when we choose to indulge, when we choose to say yes to that thing we should be saying no to.
Jesus Himself was no stranger to temptation, yet remained sinless (Hebrews 4:15). He has been tempted as we are, but did not sin. We can have confidence that He sympathizes with our struggle against sin and stands ready to come to our aid when tempted. Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s prayer to ask God to lead us not into temptation, but to deliver us from that temptation.
Two revelations about temptation can empower our fight against the temptation to sin. First, the knowledge that our flesh itself makes us vulnerable. Our natural desires often entice us into sin. Second, the enemy schemes against us. Satan actively works to deceive and ensnare us. Realizing these things should compel us toward prayer, and we can also be wise and avoid situations where we know we will be tempted.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober minded, be watchful. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.
When you put yourself in the wrong place at the right time, when you allow yourself to walk down the street that leads to nothing good, when you put yourself right in front of the thing that you know is bad for you, this is where the devil is seeking to devour someone. He’s ready to pounce. In these situations, we are not walking sober mindedly. We’re not being watchful. We’re acting as if we don’t have an adversary and we’re pretending like we’re strong in our own flesh, when we are not.
Crying out to God for deliverance and protection acknowledges our helpless state. We confess we cannot overcome temptation on our own strength. Our only hope is found in His mighty power at work within us. Through prayer, we gain discernment to avoid traps and wisdom to stand firm.
And God provides a way of escape with every temptation.
As we walk closely with Christ through prayer, our desires will align more with His perfect will. Sin loses its grip as we focus our eyes on heavenly treasures rather than earthly ones. Distracting temptations fade in the light of His glorious presence. He alone is able to keep us from stumbling and present us blameless before God (Jude 1:24). Through a life of prayer, we can walk as overcomers.
God has dealt with the leading up to, he’s dealt with the doing, and he’s dealt with the aftermath, the shame and the guilt and the condemnation. He’s dealt with every aspect of sin in our life, and as we practice humbling ourselves before the Lord, he transforms us.