I don’t think that Jesus was one to use extra words. He probably didn’t suffer from the lack of a filter, like some of us sometimes do. And the people who wrote down the words that he did say didn’t get the chance to write down all of them. The book of John tells us that. If all the things that Jesus did and said were written down, it would have taken up all the books in the world. He did and said a LOT. But not with extra words. He knew when to start talking and where to stop talking. You see, even though he was 100-percent human, we can’t forget that he was (and is) 100-percent God. So he didn’t make mistakes.
He especially didn’t seem to use lots of words to answer questions. From what the Bible tells us, He often responded to questions with a question, perhaps hoping that the participants and hearers of such conversations would be able to answer the question for themselves so it would mean more. He also answered some questions with stories that had a point to them. Listeners sometimes figured it out, but they sometimes were left in confusion. We’re never told exactly why he did these things, but we from what we read in the Bible, this is how it went down sometimes.
So when we get to a place in the Bible where we see someone ask him a question and he gives an answer directly, it makes me take notice. One of these such times is when his friends ask him how to pray. These friends should have known the answer to this. They probably were good Jewish boys who knew lots of prayers. Yet something inspired them to ask the question. Or perhaps they noticed something that was different about the way Jesus prayed from the way that they were taught to pray. Whatever their motivation, they asked. And Jesus answered.
Jesus answered with probably some of the most famous words in the Bible, the words that make up what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer.” It was short, simple and to the point. It didn’t waste words. Many of us have that memorized, even if we don’t realize it until we’re at a wedding or funeral and we don’t need to look down at the program to recite it along with the rest of the crowd. We learned it when we were children, and it’s still stuck in our brains.
Inside that prayer are five words that I don’t even think I acknowledged for probably the first 20something years of my life, even though I had recited them probably hundreds – if not thousands – of times:
…lead me not into temptation…
Lead me. Not. Into temptation. First of all. God doesn’t lead anyone into temptation. When we’re tempted, it’s not Him. It’s just not. It’s important to remember the reality of the world in which we live where the devil is a pesky one trying to ruin our lives. Literally.
Temptation is not new. It has been attempting to get the best of us since people were created. Adam & Eve…duh. So it’s not like dealing with this and these things that taunt us to wander from what we know is right and true and best for us is a big shocker to anyone. Jesus knew that, too. He knew that we’d be tempted and that we should spend time asking God to help us with that.
This past Monday, I prayed for something specifically. I asked God to take something out of my life because I could see into the future how it could unfold down the line if it stayed right there in front of my face. I know my weaknesses. It was like chocolate; I couldn’t resist it. Given the opportunity, I would cave.
But here’s the honest truth: I didn’t want to not cave. It was fun temptation. (Go ahead, try to figure out what it was. It’s actually quite silly and not a big deal at all…and its silliness is what’s preventing me from getting into the details, not the gravity of the situation.) Later in the day, ya know, about a minute and a half after I closed my journal and Bible, before my morning coffee was finished, I started to think through the rest of my day and wondered what would happen with this situation, hoping for the “fun,” not the “good for me” outcome. I did. I honestly did.
Through out the next day or so, I had forgotten about the prayer and the situation…until I realized that it never happened. Circumstances should have been in favor of the not-so-great-tempting outcome. That would have made sense based on all the information that I had. Now, I’m not going to dare explain or speak directly for the mind of God because who am I to know that, but I can’t help but smile and laugh a little reflecting on how God answered this prayer in a way that not all of me wanted. But he did. Because it was best for me. And maybe – just maybe – I should pray this more often. Especially when I don’t want to.