Lead Me Not

Lead me not

Into that place where I have to learn

The hard way.

Where the arrows fly thick and fast

And I am brought so quickly to my knees

Pleading for Your deliverance.

Brand the lesson deep

Within my naÔve heart.

Write upon my very lips the plea

That I not fall into temptation.

May it fall freely, spilling out in ever aware exclamations

Of my desperate dependency on You.

Have you ever questioned why Jesus wants us to pray saying, "Lead us not into temptation"? I wondered about it for a long time before one day telling my husband about my thoughts. When my husband has a question he goes on quest for an answer! Consequently this was the topic of many conversations with many people for several weeks. Eventually it occurred to me that God wouldnít have this on my mind and in our conversation so much without a good reason. I also realized that a good reason probably wasnít so weíd have "the answer." So I asked Him what was up.

I had begun putting together some of the writings I am sharing here at that time. For some reason it was a turbulent time for me emotionally. It seemed as if I were by turn being pulled down and then being set "high upon a rock." I was getting dizzy.

I asked a dear friend to pray for me and then I set aside time to wait on the Lord. Nothing seemed to be happening.

I thought about "Lead us not into temptation." I thought about the passage my friend had shared with me: "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation"(Matthew 26:41). I made a list of the temptations I needed to watch for. I contemplated the temptations the evil one used on Jesus. Mine seemed so different. But, then, as I pondered longer, I came to the realization that those two lists had things in common after all.

"Tell these stones to become bread"(Matthew 4:3).

Isnít this like trying to use something else to nourish my spirit, something of an altogether different nature, something I try to make into God like the idol-makers used stone and wood? I had some temptations that fit into that category.

"Throw yourself downÖ"(Matthew 4:6).

I stopped there, realizing "throwing myself down" was exactly what I was doing when I believed condemnation. Maybe by believing, by in thought acting on these three words, I am indeed putting God to the test as Jesus said not to do (Matthew 4:7). It is an act of unbelief--of not believing Godís words of grace and truth about myself. It is like saying to God, "Prove it. Prove to me by using more than just Your words, for I donít believe what You say."

"All this (the kingdoms of the world and their splendor) I will give you if you worship me"(Matthew 4:8-9).

I asked myself why I would even submit to any of the temptations on my list, for none of them were even tempting. I consider an ice cream sundae tempting. Maybe lying to gain favor could be tempting. But who wants to feel condemned or that they are unable to hear Godís voice? Why would I feel tempted to do or believe something not at all tempting? Something about them must be tied up with the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. It occurred to me that the temptation of them is to be drawn away from God, the same as the temptation of the world and its splendor.

Finally the pieces began fitting together and I wrote in my journal:

I feel like every other day or so Youíve led me into temptation seeking to teach me this lesson! Am I now getting it, Lord? You are just trying to bring me to realize that I am vulnerable to specific temptations. I could learn that intellectually but until I learn it experientially it will have no impact on my behavior. So we go into demonstration-mode. You lead me into the wilderness, right smack into enemy territory. I get arrows shot at me from all directions. I get battered and bruised (but You keep me from totally falling). You lead me out and wait to see if I learned the lesson or whether Iím just extremely grateful to You for getting me out of there. Iím extremely grateful but I havenít learned the lesson. So in we go again. More arrows. More being kicked around. More temptations. More pleading to be delivered. You lead me out and wait to see if Iíve learned what I desperately need to know for the rest of my life.

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

"Oh! You want me to watch and pray so that I will not fall into temptation! Why didnít You say so?"

"I did say so, but you did not grasp the urgency of My words. You did not take them to heart. You did not watch and pray. You had to learn the hard way."

"Oh, Lord, lead me not into temptation again! Deliver me from the evil one. May I always watch and pray as You have taught me to do--taught me the hard way that I required. Forgive me for assuming I was so able to resist temptation. Forgive me for thinking I knew what temptations were! I had never stopped to consider how the evil one specifically tempts me. Had I done that I would have seen I am much more practiced in falling into temptation than in resisting it. Stand me up or bow me down, Lord, with a plea on my lips that I not fall into temptation today.