Well, we concluded the last blog by asking the question: If such testing can be for our good for us, why would Jesus have us pray to escape it? Let me give a practical example of what might answer this question.
In order to graduate from medical school and receive a license to practice medicine, I had to take Parts I, II, and III of National Board Examinations as time went and then the Senior Comprehensive Test at the end of the four years. These were excruciatingly difficult tests, to say the least. I knew that I had to take them, and that they were necessary to graduate. For anybody who has taken super important tests, the question really is, are you ever ready for them? Sometimes we feel that if we could put them off forever, we would.
“We are never completely prepared for these tests, are we? I’m not prepared in all areas of the test, I think to myself. I need to strengthen this area. I need to spend more time studying in this and that area of knowledge.” Knowing that I have limitations, if I could put the test off, I would! But because the test has to happen, I eventually just throw up my hands and say, “Oh, well. Let’s go for it. Ready or not.”
I think a similar truth is evident in the Lord’s prayer. Though testing is useful, we nevertheless ask that testings and temptations stay away from us simply because we recognize our limitations, and we don’t presume to be up to the test. In fact, we don’t pray for temptation or adversity, do we? On the contrary, we say emphatically “rescue us”—from such a situation, because we dare not come close to evil. Let’s put it this way. We can be spiritual wimps.
Changing the petition to its opposite gives us an idea of what pride would be implied if we prayed: “Go ahead, Father; put us the test! After all, we know we can pass it.” A humble attitude requires that we pray instead to be rescued. “Lead us not into temptation” is a confession of our weakness.
Confession is one of the fundamental elements of prayer—an admission of our dependence on God, our sinfulness, and our weakness.
Jesus is making a point about the focus of the statement, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Frequently when we pray, we find ourselves at the center of what we say: I failed. I need help. I want to grow…I…I…I. It is not that “I” is inappropriate. But the beauty of the Lord’s Prayer is that it maintains a focus on God. We are never the subject; God alone holds that position. Even in confession, we turn our eyes to Him and say, “You give us bread…You forgive us…You lead us…..You deliver us.”
That kind of prayer provides us with a needed correction. For the most subtle temptation, the most persistent evil, is to put ourselves in God’s rightful place in the center of our hearts.