In the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:13, Jesus instructs us to pray and ask God to "lead us not into temptation." When we read this line of the prayer, we might wonder if it implies that God leads us into temptation. So, what does Jesus really mean by these words?
In the context of the Lord's prayer, temptation implies both schemes of Satan and afflicting circumstances. Because we live in a fallen world, we are going to naturally experience the effects of sin in everyday life. Illness, death, hardship, loss, anxiety, and disappointment are all examples of difficult things that can tempt us to respond in sin. Afflicting circumstances can tempt us to feel hopeless and left in despair. On top of that, Satan is trying 24/7 to entice and lure us into sin. He prowls around like a lion waiting for opportunities to lead us into temptation (1 Peter 5:8). Sin is very destructive. It is a very real threat to our communion with God and the everyday life of a Christian. And temptation is the moment we decide whether we give in to it or not. James 1:14-15 shows what happens when we give in to temptation and sin, "But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death."
We live in a constant state of spiritual warfare, and we need God's help to refrain from falling into temptation. We cannot do it on our own. We desire to do good, but we don't do it (Romans 7:19). It is only through the interceding of the Holy Spirit and the active work of God's Word in our hearts that we fight against temptation and sin. Understanding that temptation in this life will come, and we will not be able to fight against it on our own, Jesus instructs His disciples to pray for protection and provision from the One who does have sufficient strength and power to prevail.
With God's help, trials can be used to refine us and shape us instead of destroying us. James 1:2-4, 12 reminds us to "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything... Blessed are those who persevere under trial because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."
How we respond to trials will determine whether we are tempted or tested. We can face them with an ultimate faith and trust in the Lord, or we can succumb to the pressure and fall into sin. James 1:3 tells us that God can allow times of testing to strengthen our faith. For example, Jesus Himself was tested in the wilderness by Satan and overcame it (Matthew 4:1-11). In this case, God allowed testing, but God was not the instrument of temptation. When Jesus asks the Father to lead us not into temptation, He is begging God not to allow His people to be overcome by their evil desires and lead into sin. God desires to make us holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). He commands us to pursue righteousness and flee from sin. However, He doesn't command this without making a way. God promises that He always provides a way for us to endure trials (1 Corinthians 10:13). By asking the Father, "Lead us not into temptation," we are submitting to God's ultimate deliverance and pleading with God to spare us from the temptations and spiritual attacks of sin in everyday life.