One night a little over a hundred years ago, a woman—she was a Christ-follower—this woman couldn’t sleep. It was well past her usual bedtime, but she couldn’t rest—because some unexplainable reason she felt overwhelmed with fear.
At that same precise moment, her husband, Colonel Archibald Gracie, was about 400 miles to the east crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner. He was on his way home from England where he had been doing research on the war of 1812.
When Mrs. Gracie couldn’t push the frightening thoughts away, she obeyed the teaching of Scripture. She got on her knees beside the bed and took her anxiety to God.
If you haven’t already guessed—her husband was on the safest ship that had ever been built, the Titanic. At the same moment, she began to experience this feeling of fear that kept her from sleep—it struck an iceberg and began to sink. As you know, panic broke out as people realized there weren’t enough lifeboats for everyone on board. Knowing that, Colonel Gracie had given up all hopes of surviving himself, and was doing his best to get women and children into the boats. His only wish was that he could get some kind of message to his wife. This was of course impossible in the panic that filled the decks—so as the ship began to slip into the water, he simply said good-bye to her in his heart.
Meanwhile, back in America, Mrs. Gracie was still on her knees praying. After two hours, she still didn’t have any peace, so she continued to pray until about 5 in the morning. It was then that a certain peace possessed her, and she crawled into bed and fell asleep.
Let’s go back to the Titanic. As his wife began to pray, Colonel Gracie was plunged into the icy water and then sucked into the giant whirlpool that had formed when the massive vessel sank. He kicked and swam against the downward pull as best he could, and suddenly he broke through the surface and found himself near an overturned lifeboat. Along with several others, he climbed aboard and waited two hours—until 5 in the morning—when he was picked up by another boat and carried to safety.
That is the precise moment when Mrs. Gracie felt a peace rush over her soul and was able to sleep. Isn’t that an amazing story?!
You know, of all the prayers we pray, the most frequent and most fervent is the prayer for protection—for the safety and well-being of ourselves or the ones we love.
- When we know our children are travelling we pray for their safe arrival.
- When we know a loved one is undergoing surgery—we pray for their healing.
- When we know a group from our church is in a prison ministering like the Kairos team is right now, we pray for their empowerment—but also for their safety.
And—stories like that of Colonel Gracie and his wife encourage us to keep on praying these kinds of prayers. I mean, it’s obvious that God was at work on the night of April 14, 1912. He was inviting Mrs. Gracie to participate, through prayer, in the rescue of her husband.
Of course, we know that at the same time there were others on board that ship who were praying for God to save them—but 1503 of those passengers didn’t survive. Even Col. Gracie only lived another eight months. He was the first of those rescued to die. Why was it so important for him to survive that disaster? Fifty-six children perished that night. Why weren’t they saved? These are questions we cannot answer on this side of eternity. As Paul put it in 1st Corinthians 13, “Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”
But until that day dawns—Jesus has taught us how to pray in times when we or our loved ones need protection. I’m referring to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, verse 13. Listen as I read them—but back up with me to verse 9.
9 – “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name,
10 – Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
11 – Give us today our daily bread.
12 – Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 – And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. AMEN.’”
Okay—let’s see what we can learn about how we should pray when we face times of danger. My outline comes from Brian Wilkerson’s commentary on this verse where he encourages us to break it down into three phrases. Here’s the first.
(1) “Lead us!”
Now—of course, as Jesus taught that day, He was well aware of the kind of world in which His disciples then and NOW would live. He knew we would have to deal with terrifying things, life-threatening things. After all, ours is a fallen world, where the forces of nature sometimes run amuck. We deal with earthquakes and hurricane seasons and forest fires—not to mention diseases. This is definitely NOT a safe world!
Another thing that contributes to the dangers we face in this world are the sinners that live in it—human beings who do foolish things—wicked things—to one another. And—one of the causes of the evil things humans do to one another stems from the fact that this is HAUNTED world—a place where our struggle is not just with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers—
—powers led by an evil, demonic being—whose name is Satan—and Satan’s constant goal is to thwart God’s purposes by TEMPTING us to do things that not only hurt us—but lead us to work against God’s purposes.
Well, because we are fallen—because nature itself is out of control—subject to the bondage of decay that came with sin—because we have a powerful spiritual adversary—-there a million ways to get hurt in this world—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And we know that—so we all worry. We wonder:
- What if the cancer comes back?
- What if our kids get involved with drugs?
- What if my parents get a divorce?
- What if I lose my job?
- What if the hurricane hits our home?
Well, knowing we would face these kinds of “fallen world problems,” Jesus teaches us to pray this first phrase. He tells us to pray, “Our Father Who is in Heaven—our Abba—Lead us.”
Now—this word for “LEAD” here is an interesting word. It’s not the usual word for “lead,” which means “to direct.” No, the Greek word used here means “to bring” or “to carry.” So—it implies a very personal involvement and assistance. It’s not the kind of LEADING where a general directs his troops from the safety of a distant hilltop—some concrete headquarters way behind enemy lines. No—the LEADING Jesus was referring to is more like a shepherd walking alongside the flock as they make their way through a dark valley–filled with predators and other dangers.
And please note something else. This part of the Soar-er’s prayer is not “keep us” from temptation and evil. That would be impossible. I mean, as fallen people living in a fallen world, we’re going to encounter trouble and hardship. That’s why the prayer is “Lead us”— “Carry us—bring us through;” “Show us the way as You walk beside us. DELIVER us from the evil we face.”
One of my favorite war movies is We Were Soldiers, based on the book by the same title. It’s the story of the Battle of La Drang, which began on November 14, 1965 and was the first major battle between U.S. and North Vietnamese forces. The central character is the commander of the American troops, Col. Hal Moore—played by Mel Gibson. The reason this movie comes to mind is because Col. Moore had this kind of “lead us” philosophy. He led WITH his men. He fought beside them. He carried them through. His was always the first boot on the battlefield—and the last off it when the battle was over. Even when it looked like the U.S. forces would be overwhelmed and his officials ordered him to leave the battle—he refused and stayed to fight with his men.
To me this story is an illustration of the way our Lord leads us as we face the struggles of life—as we fight our battles with temptation and evil. He leads WITH us. I mean, Jesus—is a very present help—in time of trouble. He never leaves us or forsakes us! At times it feels like He does indeed CARRY us—as He empowers us to face danger when we don’t have the strength to do so.
I’m reminded of some old song lyrics that go like this, “If He carried the weight of the world on His shoulders—I know my brother that He will carry you.” How many of you can look back on a time of danger—a crisis—and you realize there is no way you got through that on your own. Jesus carried you through. That’s the kind of leader Jesus is. He keeps His promise to “be with us always” and effective prayer involves claiming this promise—asking him to “LEAD US.”
That helps us get through the danger—no matter what the outcome.
What’s the second phrase? Lead us where?
(2) “not into temptation.”
Now, as David Jeremiah points out in his book on prayer, this three-word part of the Lord’s Prayer has caused a lot of “head-scratching.” The reason for this is because—whereas we understand that it is God’s nature to feed us—to give us our daily bread—and we know our Abba loves us and longs to forgive us our debts or sins or trespasses—well, we don’t understand these three words. We think, of James 1:13 which says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.’”
At first glance, this part of Jesus’ prayer template seems to contradict texts like this one from James’ little epistle. I mean, why would we have to ask God NOT to do something that His Word already says He does NOT do? Well the answer to our “head-scratching confusion” is found in another little Greek lesson—so listen up. The word that we often translate as “temptation” in this verse is the Greek word, “peirasmus.” And, “peirasmus” can be translated in two ways. It can mean “a test or trial” —or it can mean, “enticement or temptation.” The proper translation depends on the CONTEXT in which the word is used.
We find both meanings in chapter one of the book of James. In verse 2 “peirasmus” is translated, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various TRIALS.” Since we know we’d never rejoice when we succumb to temptation—we know that in this verse “peirasmus” refers to the trials and tribulations of life on a fallen world. But in verse 13 the same Greek word is translated a different way. There it reads, “Let no one say when he is TEMPTED, ‘I am tempted by God’” This time it is obvious that it refers to an enticement to do evil. So—CONTEXT determines how to translate this Greek word and we have the same thing in English—as I’m sure this year’s ESL students will soon notice—if they haven’t already. You see, in English we have tons of words that mean more than one thing—and like Greek, many times the only way to determine their meaning is to look at the context.
Let’s use the word, “bag” as an example. A hunter might say, “I BAGGED the squirrel that was up in that tree! He fell to the ground and I put him in a BAG. I sure hope my wife Gertrude isn’t upset with me—the old BAG! Why—I can see the puffy red BAGS under her eyes already. Uh-oh—here she comes. I suppose it’s too late to hide the squirrel because the cat’s already out of the BAG.” Do you see what I mean? In that paragraph, I used the same word: “bag” five times and each time it meant a different thing because each time it’s used in a different context.
Well, that’s the way it is with this Greek word: “peirasmus.” But—please understand—these two translations: “trials” and “enticements” are closely related—because usually when you face a TRIAL or ORDEAL you are almost always TEMPTED to do the wrong thing. For example—and be honest here—every April when you endure the trial of getting your taxes done—if you realize that you were going to have a tough time scraping together enough money to pay Uncle Sam his due, have you ever been TEMPTED to cheat a bit on your itemized deductions? You don’t need to raise your hands—but do you see what I mean? When we face trials and tribulations—when we go through times of TESTING, we are tempted to do the wrong thing if we believe doing the wrong thing will get us through the test.
Well, the truth is—however old we are, whenever we go through a trial or an ordeal—our response will either be pass or fail. We’ll either respond in a way that makes our Abba proud—or we’ll succumb to the temptation to sin and in so doing please our adversary. We’ll respond in ways that further God’s kingdom—or in ways that make the devil rejoice.
In any case, with this understanding of the different meanings of this Greek word we can safely say that in this context one thing Jesus is NOT saying in this part of His model prayer—is that God would ever lead us to sin. Our Holy Abba would NEVER do that. No—in this verse Jesus is teaching us that part of prayer is asking God to help us respond to the trials of life in ways that further His kingdom. It’s a reminder that we need to say, “Abba, I’m too weak on my own. I need Your help when I encounter trials—or I’m sure to yield to sinful shortcuts. Abba, please protect me from the temptations I encounter in my life so I don’t blow it. Empower me to respond in ways that display Your glory.”
That night on the Titanic we know there were Christian men who yielded to the temptation to save themselves instead of working to help women and children into the boats. Col. Gracie was not one of them. He furthered God’s kingdom by working to make sure the vulnerable were saved. He worked until the last minute putting OTHERS into the boats.
This is one time I like The Message paraphrase because it words verse 13 like this: “Keep us safe from ourselves and the devil.” And you can be sure that the devil wants us to respond to trials in sinful ways. He’s hoping we’ll be weak. He’s hoping we’ll slip up when we go through the “TITANIC” difficulties of life.
Well, God promises to help us deal with this form of temptation. As Psalm 37:23-24 says, “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.” (TLB) So, as a student heads out the door in the morning, she might pray, “Lord, lead me today. When I’m taking that math test, help me not to peek at my neighbor’s paper but to do my own work. And when kids start gossiping about other kids, help me to speak up for them, or to walk away.” A business traveler might pray, “Lord, when I’m away from home, keep my mind focused on my work and my family, so I’m not distracted or tempted to do something foolish.” A widow might pray, “me away from self-pity and isolation, and direct me to new activities and relationships.”
You know, I have found that calling on Jesus is one of the most helpful ways to deal with temptation. If I simply speak Jesus’ name—out loud or in my head—I find incredible strength to walk away—because in the end, sin isn’t so much about violating a rule as it is about violating a relationship. It’s difficult to start a conversation with the Lord, to speak to Him by name, and then deliberately turn away from Him. In any case, this part of the prayer reminds us to turn to God when we do encounter temptation, and ask Him for the strength to resist. So— “Lead Me—not into temptation…” What’s the next phrase?
(3) “but deliver us from evil.”
I want you to note a couple things about this phrase.
First, as I reminded you earlier, it doesn’t say, “KEEP us from evil,” but “DELIVER us from evil.” I mean, this is not a prayer for immunity from trouble or danger or spiritual attack. The Lord never promises that if we pray enough, bad things won’t happen. We have no assurance from Heaven that prayer will stop boats from sinking or hurricanes from blowing. Jesus told us we would face trouble and hardship. And the word “deliver” ASSUMES that. It assumes we are going to have difficult times that we need delivering from.
For example, the people of Israel were delivered from Egypt, but only after 400 years of slavery, and a frightening passage through the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army on their tail. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were delivered from the fiery furnace, but only after being imprisoned and then thrown into the flames. Deliverance isn’t an exemption FROM trials; it’s an intervention IN THE MIDST OF trials.
Second—note that it says, “Deliver us from EVIL,” not “Deliver us from HARM.” I mean, this isn’t so much about PHYSICAL safety as it is about SPIRITUAL safety. The word “EVIL” refers to those dark forces in the world and in the sin in our souls that threatens to tear us away from God and to thwart His good purpose for our lives. That’s why some versions translate it, “Deliver us from the Evil One.” The Bible describes “the evil one” —Satan—as “a thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy”—as one “who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.” So, this isn’t a prayer that bad things will never HAPPEN to us. It’s a prayer that bad things will never GET to us—that hard times will not turn us away from God or derail the good work HE has begun in us. Jesus himself offered this prayer while praying for His disciples before going to the cross. In John 17:15, He prayed, “My prayer is not that you take them out of this [fallen] world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus knew full well that His disciples would suffer on account of Him—that they would be harassed, thrown in jail, even put to death. He knew that the forces of evil would come against them to silence their witness and shipwreck their faith. So, He prayed that in those difficult moments their faith would not fail—that they would be able to stand.
That’s how we pray for ourselves and our loved ones in times of spiritual danger. When you drop your daughter off at the university with scenes of Animal House dancing in your head, you pray, “Lord, keep her from people and influences that will lead her away from You. Guide her to a church, provide her with Christian fellowship. Don’t let her be confused by intellectual attacks on her faith, but let them drive her deeper into your Word for answers.” When we know of a couple whose marriage is in trouble, we pray, “Lord, don’t let the enemy drive a wedge between them. Keep them from doing something foolish or rash to relieve their pain. Help them to turn toward you and toward each other. Provide them with good counsel and friends who will walk beside them.” When tragedy strikes a family, we pray, “Lord, meet them in their grief. Help them not to pull away from you in anger, but rather to bring their pain and anger to You. Let this experience draw them closer to You, and grant them comfort and courage to face each day.” That’s deliverance from evil. It is not immunity from the hard things of life, but divine intervention that preserves and even strengthens our faith.
Let me put it like this: Deliverance from evil is in essence turning the tables on Satan—and this is something God is ALWAYS willing and more than able to do. Our Abba has the wisdom and power to take the trials and tribulations that come to us in life—the tough times that Satan loves to use as his tools—our completely sovereign God takes these ordeals and Satan’s foolish plans and uses them for His purposes. If you doubt this, then look at the Bible. It’s full of examples!
Think of Joseph. We are studying his life in my Wednesday night group. Joseph’s older brothers sold him into slavery but by continually responding to this trial in a Godly way, Joseph eventually became the Prime Minister of the Egyptian empire. Then one day, his brothers traveled to Egypt looking for food. This was the perfect opportunity for Joseph to punish his brothers. And we would understand his doing so. After all, they did him wrong—he could have repaid in kind. I’m sure Satan whispered that debt rule we learned about last week in his ears: “They owe you Joseph—make them pay!” But with God’s help Joseph weathered this temptation and said to his siblings: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20) He had his brothers return to fetch their father and the rest of the family and in this way God’s chosen people were saved from starvation. So, with God leading him—helping him—Joseph faced this temptation in a way that furthered God’s kingdom. He was delivered from the evil one!
Moses is another example. I’m sure Satan was pleased when Moses committed murder and then fled—leaving the people he was supposed to deliver from Egyptian bondage. But God used this trial to humble Moses. He used his wilderness years to train him. Forty years later a mature Moses who had learned to listen to God stood before Pharaoh. Then with four decades of desert survival experience under his belt Moses led the newly-freed Hebrew people through the desert to the promised land.
I imagine Satan was tickled-pink when Paul was put into a Roman prison thinking it would finally silence his powerful pulpit. Well it did silence his PUBLIC preaching—but it unleashed his PRIVATE pen! The letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians were all written in a jail cell. Can you imagine how frustrated ole Satan has been over the millennia as he’s seen all the ways those letters have been used to further God’s purposes?
Peter is another example. Satan sought to discredit Jesus by provoking Peter to deny Him. But that plan backfired as well. Rather than be an example of how far a fellow can fall, Peter became an example of how far God’s grace extends. God used a forgiven and restored Peter to preach on Pentecost and thousands came to faith in Christ. I can almost hear Satan screaming, “No! Not again!”
But that’s the way it always is. Over and over again God has answered prayers that were modeled after verse 13 by enabling His children to withstand the trials and tribulations of life—delivering them from the evil one—short-circuiting the adversary’s plans, and instead furthering the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lucado refers to this part of the prayer and writes, “Like a confused basketball player—every time Satan scores a basket, the other team gets the points. Over and over again the Bible makes it clear Who really runs the earth. Satan may strut and prance but it’s God Who calls the shots.”
When we learn to pray this portion of the Lord’s prayer, we are saying God’s sovereignty extends even over Satan’s plans. We’re saying we believe 1st John 4:4—that, “God’s Spirit Who is in you, is greater than the devil who is in the world.”
On one September morning a little over 16 years ago, a Christian woman named Lisa Jefferson was working her usual shift as a supervisor at the Verizon Airfone Call Center—when a distraught operator handed her a headset and told her that she was talking to a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93. The passenger said, “I’m Todd Beamer from Cranbury, New Jersey. Three people have hijacked the plane. Two have taken over the cockpit and are flying the plane.”
As she was speaking to Todd, Lisa learned what was happening at the World Trade Center. She began to pray, even as she listened to the frightened voice on the other end say, “If I don’t get out of this, will you tell my wife and family that I love them?” She assured him that she would. Then Todd asked her to say the Lord’s Prayer with him. Slowly, phrase by phrase, he and Lisa prayed the prayer together. When they were done, Todd added, “Jesus, help me.” A few moments later, with resolve in his voice, he said to her, “A few of us are going to jump these guys.” Flight 93 soon crashed into a Pennsylvania farmland—instead of into our nation’s capital, where it would have caused even greater destruction.
James 1:12 reads, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Todd Beamer knew how to pray. He had been doing it his whole life. When he found himself facing this trial, he knew what to do. He asked God to lead him—to help him stand. And stand he did. Todd received the crown of life that day—and in the process, even though he perished, he blessed his wife, his children, and untold numbers of Christ followers who have been inspired by his faith and courage. None of us hope to find ourselves or someone we love thrust into a situation like that, but we never know what a day may bring. Whatever may come, we have this prayer, a prayer that invites God to bring us through trials and temptations with our faith intact and his glory increased. Certainly, there are times when God intervenes to save us from harm and rescues us from danger—probably many more times than we are even aware of. It’s right to pray for protection when we board an airplane or merge onto a highway or walk out the front door into a fallen and unpredictable world. But sometimes the road of life takes us headlong into trouble or heartache or grief. That’s why we ask God to lead us—to bring us through in a way that honors him, blesses others, and advances his good purpose for our lives.
In closing, let me ask you a question. Are you going through an ordeal of some sort? It could be a financial struggle, or a health problem. It could be some sort of relational trial—a dispute with a spouse or friend or co-worker. Maybe you’re having a problem at work or in school or are going through a time of grief. If you’re going through a trial right now, would you just lift your hand? Thank you. Well, I hope that after our study you’ve come to see that God can indeed always turn tables on our adversary and use even our response to the trials of life in ways that further His eternal kingdom. This is a prayer He yearns to answer, so let’s take a few moments to ask Him. Let’s all bow our heads and talk to our Abba about the ordeal we are enduring whatever it is and let’s ask Him to help us resist the temptation to sin…and instead respond in ways that He can use to further His kingdom. Let’s all pray silently and in a moment I will close.