The last thing Jesus says to His disciples just before the jealous religious leaders come with an army of soldiers to drag Him away is, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Of all His parables and years of teaching, the most important instruction He leaves them with is to pray this prayer.
In fact, it’s so important that it’s a part of the most well-known prayer of all: The Lord’s Prayer. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” It’s a prayer of vigilance. A prayer for discernment. Ultimately, a prayer for protection.
But why? If we’re His disciples, we’re saved. God loves us. Heaven is promised. So, what’s the problem? Our flesh! As long as we live in these mortal bodies, we will be tempted.
Typically, it’s not blatant sin that trips us up. It’s our tendency to compromise on our convictions; allowing our earthly desires and emotions to supersede God’s Word.
We have an enemy that wants to destroy our walk with God. Seldom do his attacks come in the form of a hateful mob that wants nothing more than to kill us. His tactics are usually more subtle. Solomon says, “It’s the little foxes that spoil the vine.” Simple things that just keep us busy can cause us to lose our zeal for the things of God. This leaves the door of our hearts open for bitterness, jealousy, or offense to take hold.
We know we’ve stepped into the danger zone when we start relying on our emotions, instead of trusting in God’s Word. When we feel disappointed, sad, or angry because things haven’t gone our way. When we believe the lie that God doesn’t really care about us because, if He did, things would be different.
These are cunning temptations that can lead us into sin. James warns us this way: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” James 1:14-16
In Luke 22, within a very short period of time, Jesus tells His disciples twice to, “Pray that you enter not into temptation.” The first came as they reached their customary place of repose—the Mount of Olives.
When things are going well, do we heed God’s warnings? Are we sensitive to recognize the temptations at hand? Do we notice the urgency in His voice?
His instructions landed on deaf ears. The disciples all fell asleep. Jesus, on the other hand, knew what was coming. He dropped to His knees and cried out in desperation, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
At that moment, Jesus was tempted to run. To skip the cross. To forgo saving the world in order to save Himself from the agony that would kill His earthly body and, more importantly, separate Him from His Father. None of us can relate to how excruciating that was when Jesus cried out from the cross with a loud voice, saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
His prayer in Gethsemane was so intense He sweat great drops of blood. He needed to be reminded of the purpose for His coming—the joy that was set before Him. Ironically, that joy was re-establishing a relationship with us… the very people who crucified Him.
Do we earnestly pray when temptation comes? Do we seek refuge and safety in Jesus? Or are we more apt to justify our actions and make excuses for our weaknesses?
I’m forever grateful that Jesus didn’t cave. I want to follow His example. Though He was God, the man Christ Jesus daily spent time in prayer, so it’s not surprising that in His darkest hour He set His heart to pray. He not only beat the temptation, He conquered death so that you and I might as well.
It’s time for us to rise from our slumber and pray that we don’t fall into temptation. Jesus has the power to deliver us from evil. The power to keep us from sin. The power to enable us to overcome our own fleshly desires and live.