The next-to-last phrase in the Lord’s prayer is a petition for protection from Satan: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Is such a prayer necessary? Would God ever lead us into temptation? James 1:13 says, “When people are tempted they should not say, ‘God is tempting me.’ Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone.” If God does not tempt us, then why pray, “Lead us not into temptation”? These words trouble the most sophisticated theologian.
But they don’t trouble a child. And this is a prayer for the child-like heart. This is a prayer for those who look upon God as their Abba. This is a prayer for those who have already talked to their Father about provision for today (“Give us our daily bread.”) and pardon for yesterday (“Forgive us our debts.”). Now the child needs assurance about protection for tomorrow.
The phrase is best understood with a simple illustration. Imagine a father and son walking down an icy street. The father cautions the boy to be careful, but the boy is too excited to slow down. He hits the first patch of ice. Up go the feet and down plops the bottom. Dad comes along and helps him to his feet. The boy apologizes for disregarding the warning and then, tightly holding his father’s big hand, he asks, “Keep me from the slippery spots. Don’t let me fall again.”
The Father is so willing to comply. “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand” (Ps. 37:23–24 TLB). Such is the heart of this petition. It’s a tender request of a child to a father. The last few slips have taught us–the walk is too treacherous to make alone. So we place our small hand in his large one and say, “Please, Abba, keep me from evil.”
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