The Bible teaches us that God will never lead us into temptation. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas 1:13-15).
If God does not lead us into temptation, then what does Jesus intend when He encourages us to pray in this manner? Because we live in a broken, sin-filled world, temptation will come to all believers. Though God does not tempt us, He promises to use the trials and temptations we face in this life to shape our character (Rom 8:28,29). He will even reward those who remain faithful to God in the face of temptation (Jas 1:2-4; 12-14).
Jesus does teach us to pray for help and strength to resist temptation when it comes, to not “enter into temptation” (Matt 26:41; Luke 22:40,46). Each time we overcome temptation, we are strengthened to resist temptation in the future. We can pray that we will not fall when temptation strikes, and that we will “be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph 3:16) in order to resist temptation.
Our times of prayer and Bible study strengthen us. They also sensitize us to more easily recognize the circumstances that might lead us astray. When we are familiar with the truth of God’s Word, we can counter the devil’s lies and temptations (Matt 4:3-10).
GRACE TO HELP
It is important to remember that being tempted is not a sin – it becomes sin only when we give in to the temptation and participate in sinful thoughts or behaviors. If we resist the temptation, we will not be drawn into sin.
If we have given in to temptation and sinned, we must quickly come to God in repentant prayer. Yet it is at those times when we might feel too ashamed to come to God in prayer. Satan may whisper to our hearts that we are too defiled or unworthy to approach God’s throne.
But God’s throne is one of grace: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). It is when we have failed the Lord that we are most in need of His mercy. It is upon His footstool of forgiveness that we must cast ourselves. He is the One Who has spoken, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) – which means coming to God in prayer even when we have sinned.
God is our Strength and Defender against the wiles of the devil and his evil attacks. Jesus has already stripped all authority from the devil (Col 2:15). When we submit our lives to God and resist the devil, the devil must flee from us (Jas 4:7).