The Bible says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). What is this amazing little passage saying? It is saying that God’s love for us in Jesus Christ is “the prime mover.” God loves sinners through Jesus Christ, His eternal, almighty Son, who was conceived and born human. He sent Jesus to deliver all sinners from sin, death, and the devil through His life, death, and resurrection. When the Holy Spirit brings us sinners to faith in Jesus through the Word of God, we come to know God’s love for us. This is a heart-changer. We now love and trust Him, whom we previously hated and distrusted. One proof of our new love for Jesus is prayer. We pray to our heavenly Father who saved us through Jesus Christ. For this reason, Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father who art in heaven.”
Through faith in Jesus, we pray to our heavenly Father, or to put it more plainly, we speak to Him of our concerns of life in this world, trusting that the Father can, will, and does help us. We speak to Him because He first spoke to us through His Son, the very Word of God. Jesus taught us how to pray and for what to pray, giving form and direction to our prayer life and defining for us what we should expect when we pray; for instance, how our heavenly Father will answer and help us.
Bearing this in mind, let’s touch on two petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, namely the Sixth and Seventh Petitions. In these, Jesus teaches us how to pray regarding temptation and evil.
The Sixth Petition reads: “Lead us not into temptation,” and the Seventh Petition: “Deliver us from evil.” The well-known words of Dr. Martin Luther in his Small Catechism define the meaning of these petitions:
Regarding the Sixth Petition: “God surely tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world and our flesh may not deceive us or lead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins; and though we are tempted by them, we pray that we may overcome and win the victory.”
Regarding the Seventh Petition: “In conclusion, we pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil that threatens the body and soul, property and reputation, and finally when our last hour comes, grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven.”
These explanations of Luther contain many truths too numerous to mention in the space of a short article. Concerning temptations, our sinful hearts and minds—still very active within us—have a different set of expectations regarding our prayers, such as: “If I ask God, He will remove from my life any type of temptation or evil, because, after all, God wants me to be happy, just as I want to be happy also.” However, the Lord’s Prayer does not give us such expectations; nor does Dr. Luther.
When we pray, we must remain watchful, then, and pray for watchfulness. Our sinful nature is always tempting us from within to misuse prayer. Martin Luther reminds us to pray and to trust that God actively protects us from temptation and from evil, both inside and outside of us. At the same time, this does not mean a total shelter from either. God allows us to wrestle with these enemies by Word and prayer. In God’s Word we learn that all stand victorious in Jesus, who “manfully” defeated these enemies in our place when He, “God–man,” rose from the grave. In prayer we throw ourselves at our Father’s feet and say, “Help me wrestle. Give me victory!” He says, “I have and I will, through Jesus. Trust me.”
Reverend Matthew Crick
Faith Lutheran Church