I preached at a church in Minneapolis a couple weeks ago on Matthew 6:13. Which, side note, it’s amazing to see what God is doing in the Midwest right now. I preached the last week before University of Minnesota students were back in town from summer break, and this one-year-old church plant, whose primary focus is reaching students at the U of M, had over 200 people packed into their hotel ballroom. It was unreal!
The church was going through a series on the Sermon on the Mount, and my task was Matthew 6:13, where Jesus, in the midst of instructing the disciples on how to pray, tells them to pray this, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Early on in my sermon prep, I realized that this verse sounds almost identical to what Jesus says to Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I couldn’t get this statement out of my head all week long. Now, two weeks later, I’m still thinking about it.
Why? I’ve got an easy answer for you: Because there might not be another verse in all of Scripture that I can connect with as well as this one.
There are two reasons I say this. First, there’s probably nothing truer about me than this statement right here: “my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.” There are so many things that, deep down, my heart wants, but when it comes down to it, I lose the battle for those things to my flesh. It reminds me of the wrestling match Paul has with himself in Romans 7:15-24 (go read it). Second, I am way too much like the disciples in Matthew 26. Instead of staying awake and praying like Jesus says to in both Matthew 26:41 and Matthew 6:13, I way too often doze off to the dire situation that I’m in.
As I have continued to think about what Jesus says in these verses, I’ve come up with three reasons it is imperative that we learn to pray like this.
First, our flesh is so weak! We give ourselves way too much credit. We need to stop overestimating ourselves. When we overestimate our ability, we get ourselves into some really bad situations. Our flesh is weak! I know all of you reading this can relate to what I’m saying. Your heart wants holiness, purity, and obedience to the Lord so bad, but when it comes down to it, your flesh is just too weak to pull any of that off. For way too many of you, this is the story of your life. You’re caught in a brutal cycle of sin. You fall into it. You hate it. You recommit yourself to never do it again. You’re confident in that commitment. A few days later, you’re right back in that sin. We’ve got to stop overestimating ourselves and learn to pray like this because our flesh is so weak.
Second, Satan is so fierce! First Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” In the same way, we need to stop overestimating ourselves, we need to stop underestimatingSatan. If it is you, by yourself, against Satan, Satan wins every time! You cannot defeat Satan. You cannot defeat sin. Lions don’t fight fair and neither does sin. Lions hide and wait for their prey, and then they pounce when their prey least expects it. We might stand a chance against sin if it announced it was coming or gave us a fair warning, but it doesn’t. Satan is fierce! Think about the number of godly men and women we have seen totally wrecked by Satan lately. We must learn to pray like this because Satan is so fierce.
Lastly, only God can rescue us! When we realize how weak our flesh is and how fierce Satan is, we naturally realize how badly we need to be rescued…and only God can rescue us. This is why Jesus says what He says in Matthew 26:41 and Matthew 6:13. The gospel doesn’t just save us to a future, distant hope, but rather the gospel saves us and gives us hope today! In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus didn’t just come to give us eternal life, He came to give us abundant life right now! In Christ, and only in Christ, can we have victory over sin.
So, here’s the challenge: Let’s be people who recognize how weak our flesh is, how fierce Satan is, and how badly we need God to rescue us. And then, let’s pray this like crazy, “God, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil!”
Austin Wadlow and his wife, Lesley, and son, Judah, live in Iowa where he serves as the Teaching Pastor and Salt Company Director at Keystone Church in Ankeny, IA. They will be planting a Salt Network church in East Lansing, MI at Michigan State University in Fall 2019. You can connect with Austin via Twitter: @austinwadlow