“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)
As Jesus delivers the last line of His model prayer, it’s as if He already has in mind the cost of following Him. He knows the battle. He foresees the results. He began this sermon “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” It’s going to happen. There is evil in the world, there are evil people who do evil things. But behind it all there is an evil one. This evil one would seek to tempt us, lead us astray, and see evil done against us. Since He can’t get at God directly, the evil one will get at His heart by getting at the creatures God so loves.
James helps my understanding of God’s role in temptation even better:
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)
The good news is, between the One we’re praying to and this evil one we contend with, it’s not an even match, not by an eternally long shot. When we pray that God help us steer clear of temptation and deliver us from the evil one, we can count on an immeasurable and unmatched source at our aid waiting to rescue. He is waiting always to take us from a place of death to a place of life in Him.
Take heart, dear soul, your deliverer has come!