And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Luke 11:4
It started with a request: “Lord, teach us to pray.” And the end is much like the beginning. In the rich tapestry that is our prayer lives where we learn to communicate with our Father we become like children: we learn the language of listening and total vulnerability and dependence.
In essence, to pray is really the greatest game of follow the Leader.
Lead us not into temptation.
When we played “Follow the Leader” when we were children, we all wanted to lead. It’s exhilarating, to say and do something and have an entire group of people follow suit. That kind of power and influence is addicting. Perceived control of any kind is so seductive!
Nothing has changed. We still want to lead. Life is scary and full of unpredictability. The longer you’re on this planet, the more you come to realize how little control you really have. So we take every opportunity to be “leader” when it presents itself.
But let’s be honest… we’re not very good at it. In our little kingdoms where we each rule supreme, we cry “freedom!” to do whatever we want… and end up over indulging in the things we want or over-restrictive. Moderation is a nice in theory, but it’s rarely achieved, and never for very long…
In our relationships, “leading” often looks like a dance of power plays in this world; insecure people doggedly playing relationship chess in order to maintain and gain more power or security or (insert whatever your heart yearns for here). We try to do the same with God: bargaining, the silent treatment, treating God as if He were some sort of personal genie or cosmic killjoy.
Jesus shows us a different way. Our hearts have to learn to follow. Prayer is God-led. And so He ends with, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
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“None is righteous, no, not one, no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12
“The good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice….O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:19,24
There is an intense inner struggle that dwells deep within the heart of each of us, beginning from the time we learn the word “NO”. We wrestle with our consciences, and with the Holy Spirit over whether to do the right things or the easy things (because, they’re rarely the same).
Enter God, stage left, wrapped in flesh.
Since we’re terrible at even leading ourselves to do what’s good for us, He paved the way by coming and leading by example and breaking the chains that hold us to our sin. But this prison-break comes with an exchange (it’s a good one, though!)
We are loosed from our sin and hand over our proverbial crowns- the “right” to be rulers over our own lives- in exchange for new leadership and a King who rules and reigns with perfect justice and perfect grace. He is a Leader who guides us beside still waters and restores our souls. Who walks with us in the valleys so we can learn and grow and thrive.
And this is what we ask for when we enter that sacred space of prayer. When we actually enter the throne room (as opposed to making demands of the ceiling), we lay aside our crowns and humble ourselves and ask to be led. To receive instruction and comfort and correction and deliverance.
It’s a vulnerable place to be in. Essentially, it’s spiritual nakedness. But, there’s really no hiding from God anyway. We might as well come on our own and throw ourselves into the beauty of that intimacy that comes with being fully known and embraced and loved. Can you think of anything that you actually want more in this world?
But in truth, God wants to be known by us, too.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
Our Father leads the way by imploring each of us, “Come find me.” He woos each of us, drawing us in with tender mercies and chords of kindness, like a lover. And the whole time we believed we were out searching for Him, as if He was lost or hiding, He initiates this whole relationship and delivers us safely into His hands. It all begins and ends with Him.
Prayer, it seems in the end, is less of a formal affair in which we can happily mark a check off of our “to do” list of righteous Christian duties, and entirely an engagement of the heart, mind, and will in which we abandon ourselves into the deepest, most vulnerable intimacy with the Holiest of Beings and receive – well – everything our hearts truly long for.