"And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil."


In Matthew's version of what we commonly refer to as the Lord's Prayer, these verses contain the 6th and 7th petitions.
 
Some have misunderstood the 6th petition as suggesting that Jesus was asking God to not lead us into temptation. But before the Lord's Prayer was even recorded in its written form, we can refer to the Book of James, 1:13-14, which scholars regard as being one of the first written around 50AD, in which James says, "Let no one say, 'I am being tempted by God', for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one."
 
In Paul's Epistle to the Romans, written around 57-58AD, Paul writes about the inner conflict we face when he says, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.... Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
 
And then in Matthew's Gospel, written in 70AD, or so, Jesus is recorded as saying, "And lead us not into temptation." Most Christians interpret Jesus as meaning for us to not let other people, or things, or our own desires lead us into temptation or trial of the Spirit. The Lenten Season gives us the opportunity for renewal by being more intentional about not letting anything lead us away from God.
 
In the 7th and final petition, Jesus is asking God to deliver us from evil. Some scholars believe that this passage parallels Psalm 119:133b in which the Psalmist says, "Never let iniquity have dominion over me." Jesus was a master of the Hebrew Scriptures and frequently quoted them in his sayings. For example, the Christian Summary of the Law that Jesus constructed in the 22nd chapter of Matthew quoted from the Jewish Shema in Deuteronomy as well as a verse from the Code found in Leviticus.
 
I had a fraternity brother with whom I liked to have deep discussions during college (and still do), who claims that there is not really evil in the world, it is simply "an absence of good", which is a doctrine attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo. That may sound reasonable when explaining why small children hit each other when they don't get to play with the toy they want, but I've never found it satisfactory when I look back through history and see the many examples of evil at work in the world, people like Hitler, Stalin and Mao in the last century alone.
 
Perhaps a better way of thinking about it is that evil is an absence of God, creating a spiritual vacuum into which negative actions and intentions are drawn. I believe that Jesus intentionally linked this 7th petition to the 6th by the conjunction, 'but', in the Lord's Prayer, in order to teach us that by not letting anyone, anything or even our own desires tempt us from following God's path, we are delivered from the evil of living a life without God.
 
So during this Lenten Season, let us follow both our patron Paul's advice in his letter to the Romans when he said, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect", and our Lord's prayer to not allow ourselves to be led into temptation and to be delivered from the evil of God's absence in our lives. 

Submitted by
Mr. Timothy Kilpatrick

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