Cornelius Hanko is an emeritus minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Ques. 127. What is the sixth petition?
Ans. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”; that is, since we are so weak in ourselves, that we cannot stand a moment; and besides this, since our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us, do thou therefore preserve and strengthen us by the power of thy Holy Spirit, that we may not be overcome in this spiritual warfare, but constantly and strenuously may resist our foes, till at last we obtain a complete victory.
Heid. Catechism, Lord’s Day 51.
As we pause at the portals of the sanctuary, bowing our knees in prayer, many needs arise within our souls.
God’s glory stands foremost in our minds. Whether expressed in words or implied, our love to Him, from whom all blessings flow, and who creates in us the need to seek His face, impels us to desire His glory above all else.
We also long for the final realization of His kingdom, for therein our God is most highly exalted and we find our highest good.
Therefore His will must be done, round about us, in us and by us, that according to His eternal plan and purpose, we with all His wide and vast creation may praise His glorious Name eternally.
Our daily existence requires that we live out of Father’s hand, so that in humble trust we pray for bread, no more, no less than our daily ration as measured out in sovereign wisdom and mercy, according to our present physical needs.
As our sin and guilt, as well as our evil nature, appear before our consciousness, we plead for forgiveness, even as we give evidence of God’s grace by forgiving one another.
Last, but certainly not least, we hear the voice of God coming to us through His Word, saying, “My child, be thou holy, even as I am holy. Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.
Therefore, joining our voices with the prayers of all the saints, even as our Lord teaches us, we ask: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.
We fear temptations.
It is true, Father, that we have reason to thank Thee also for the temptations that crowd in on our lives, wherever we turn, and in whatever we do. Thy Word informs us that we should count it all joy when suddenly and unexpectedly we are confronted with snares of evil. Although we do not always recognize them as such, they are nevertheless good and perfect gifts which Thou withholdest not from those who fear Thee. It is quite different when we deliberately seek and invite temptations, for then the outcome must be that guilt and shame oppress our souls. But when temptations come upon us unawares, we may be sure that these come to us in Thy wisdom to serve Thy own good purpose in our lives.
Thou, who hast compassion upon us as a father for His children, dost not tempt us in the evil sense of the word. Thou art the holy God who cannot be tempted, nor temptest any one. Thy motive in all Thy dealings is always pure, righteous, true. Even when Thou confrontest us with temptations, Thou dost warn us by Thy Word and Spirit that yielding to temptation is sin. In the hour of temptation the voice of conscience is never completely silenced. Therefore whether we stand or fall, Thy purpose is always to purify us as gold is refined by the refiner’s fire, that our faith fail not, but that we come forth spiritually stronger than before.
On the other hand, our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us. The devil has a large host at his command, who cunningly plan their attacks against us. The more firmly we hold to the truth, and the more sincere we are in a godly walk, the most determined they are to destroy us. The world round about us plays a double role, sometimes luring and attracting us with her treasures and pleasures, and at other times threatening us with her scorn, hatred, and wicked assaults upon our lives. Along with these two, our flesh is our worst enemy, as the foe within the gates who invites temptations, dreads persecutions, and is drawn by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. O wretched man that I am.
This triple power of evil creates tension in our lives. Satan, the world, and our flesh are never motivated with good intentions, even when they come with a pretense of seeking our good. Their motives are always satanic, deceptive, cruel, evil. Even when they offer us that which is appealing to the flesh, they are out to destroy us spiritually, drawing us away from God and the way of salvation. Their tactics are always unscrupulous, unsparing, devilishly cunning. They initiate their attack at the moment when we are off our guard. They search out our weaknesses, our character faults, which are so much a part of us. They make their offer so appealing, so pleasant, seemingly so necessary for our well-being. They even come as false teachers, who cunningly twist the Scriptures to deceive us and to lead us away from the narrow way that leads to life.
We fear ourselves, Father, deeply realizing that we have but a small beginning of the new obedience. We will the good, yet the evil is always present with us, because by nature we are incapable of any good and inclined to all evil. Our nature is still prone to hate Thee and the neighbor.
We can never stand in our own strength to resist the evil. We think of David, a man who was so valiant in battle against the foes round about, and yet so weak when attracted by another man’s wife. Before the temptation had run its course he had made himself guilty of covetousness, adultery, murder, theft, dishonesty, yea, transgression of all the other commandments. What an untold misery he brought upon himself. I am evil, born in sin; Thou desirest truth within.
My own sinful pride could well be my downfall. We think of Peter, who loved his Lord so intensely, that he would readily have faced an army and die fighting to protect Him. And yet when Peter could not fight, when implicit faith was required of him, when he failed to understand that His Master would surrender Himself to the death of the cross, then that faith faltered, and he denied Him whom His soul held as most precious. The warning comes to us: let him who stands beware lest he fall!
It is exactly with that in mind, that we fear temptation, and sincerely beg: Father, never let me depart from Thee so far that it will be necessary for Thee to cast me into the crucible of temptation, to give me over to my sin, to teach me true obedience and self-surrender unto Thee.
Lead us not into temptation!
But deliver us from evil!
Well aware that we are so weak in .ourselves, that we cannot stand, no, not for a moment, and also that our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us, we earnestly pray that Thou wilt furnish us with the spiritual courage and strength to fight the battle of faith even unto our dying breath, and to obtain the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. Give us grace to recognize the enemy, to be aware of all his evil designs against us, his subtle deception and his wicked lies. Give us an ever deeper spiritual insight into Thy Word of truth, to maintain and defend it, willing to die rather than to compromise and to be unfaithful to Thee. We think of the power of faith which made it possible for the three friends of Daniel to defy the command of the king to bow down to his image, choosing rather to be thrown into the fiery furnace than to deny Thy Name. Give us love and zeal for Thy Name and cause here on earth, that we may stand up for the right, and defend it, even when it brings scorn and hatred upon us, even though we must suffer persecution or death.
These are perilous times for Thy church. Men are lovers of self more than lovers of Thee. Many still have a form of godliness, yet they deny Thee who art the power thereof. Thou hast blinded their eyes and created within them a spirit of delusion. Their numbers are growing, their strength increases, even as antichrist lifts his foul head around us. Empower us in our spiritual conflict that we may strenuously and constantly resist our foes and stand steadfast in this evil day.
Give us a rich measure of Thy Word and Spirit. Bestow on us the grace to put on the whole armor that Thou hast prepared for us, that our loins are girt with the girdle of truth, our heart is protected by the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness, our feet are well shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, clinging to the shield of faith with our left hand, and waving the sword of the Spirit, Thy Word, with our right hand, in order that when the smoke of battle fades away and the cry of warfare is silenced, we may stand victorious over all Thy foes and ours. More than conquerors in the Captain of our salvation, who blesses us out of heaven!
Thus we look for the final deliverance in the day of our Lord’s return. We long for the day when we shall awaken in righteousness, to sin no more, but to be holy as Thou art holy, and perfect as Thou, our heavenly Father, art perfect.
Wilt Thou sanctify us, that we may redeem the time, and work out our salvation with fear and trembling, even as Thou workest in us both to will and to do. Teach us to live no longer unto ourselves, but ever more earnestly unto Thee, seeking Thy honor and glory above all else. Give us fitness to live close to Thee, in the consciousness that Thou art ever at our right side to sustain us, provide for us, and to bless us with every spiritual blessing, until the day dawns and all the weary night is spent.
We wait upon Thee, even as watchers who wait for the morning. May we do so in an ever increasing longing, eagerness, and watching.
Teach us, Father, to pray this prayer ever more perfectly. For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever! Amen.