The Sermon on the Mount

Part 15: Kingdom and Prayer: Deliverance

Matthew 6:13

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil. [1]

At the end of the sixteenth century, after the Protestant Reformation in Europe and the wars that followed it, an anonymous Christian wrote these lines about temptation:

In all the strife of mortal life/ Our feet shall stand securely;/ Temptation’s hour shall lose its power,/ For thou shalt guard us surely./ O God, renew, with heavenly dew,/ Our body, soul, and spirit,/ Until we stand at thy right hand,/ Through Jesus’ saving merit.[2]

The hymn summarizes a great deal of the truths that scriptures teach about temptation. That makes those anonymous lines a good commentary on these two verses about prayer in Matthew 6:13.

This final petition of the Lord’s prayer assumes that the children of God know their weakness and vulnerability, and so seek the protection of God from evil. But the details of this final request need closer study. Does the request not to be led into temptation assume that God may lead us there? What does it mean to be led into temptation? What is involved in being delivered from evil, or from the evil one?


Our key to opening up this petition can be found in Jesus’ personal experience recorded in Matthew 4:1-11. It is a story with several interesting features, not the least of which is that the narrative must have come from the lips of Jesus himself. No one was with him during this 40-day-long period of fasting and temptation other than Satan, the tempter.

The intensity of that exhausting conflict was something he must have shared later with his disciples. If that is the most likely case, the summary statement with which Matthew’s account begins should be understood as Jesus’ own interpretation of what happened: he was led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil (c.f. Luke 4:1-2). The devil did the tempting, but Jesus was led there by the Holy Spirit.[3]


We should understand that there are distinct types of temptation mentioned in the Bible, and this petition for deliverance refers only to one type. The word “temptation” has two meanings. It can refer either to a direct temptation to do evil, or to a trial, an ordeal, a testing of faith (what St Author of Hebrews refers to as “discipline,” or more accurately, “training”).

We read in James 1:2-3:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. [4]

The word translated “trials” in the passage from James is also the word translated “temptation” used by Jesus in this final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. James is referring to the kind of spiritual training that comes from God. This is the kind of training that came to Abraham when God told him to sacrifice his son, or that comes to us in persecution, sickness, discouragement, or abuse by family or friends. God strengthens our faith through adverse circumstances and experiences. James tells us to rejoice in such training, counting it an honor to suffer.

In James 1:13, he speaks of another kind of tempting. It is one not at all from God. He says of this temptation, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” He is writing about a temptation to sin. So, he adds in verse 14, “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

Finally, in James 4:7, he writes about the assaults we receive from the devil. There he says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Obviously, in James 4:7, the writer speaking about temptation that comes directly from the devil. That is the temptation against which Jesus commands us to pray.

  1. Kent Hughes sums up what we learn from the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer this way:

The six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are structured like a ladder. The top three rungs are in Heaven, having to do with God’s Fatherhood — his name. The next rung down concerns God’s kingdom, the third his will. The next three rungs descend to earth as we pray for daily bread, forgiveness, and finally protection from evil. On the ladder of the Lord’s Prayer we descend from the contemplation of who God is — our Father — to who we are — sinful children. Proper prayer includes praying for spiritual protection.[5]


“We read elsewhere that the temptation that comes from the flesh is to be resisted by fleeing from it; Paul writes, ‘Flee the evil desires of youth’ (2 Tim. 2:22) and ‘Flee from sexual immorality’ (1 Cor. 6:18). We are to resist the temptation that comes to us from the world by allowing God to transform us by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove his perfect will for us (Rom. 12:1–2). But when it comes to the devil, Scripture says, ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’”[6]

How do we submit to God and resist the devil? How can we possibly resist the wisdom and superior cunning of the enemy? We need to answer these questions because we know that Satan is stronger than we are. We know that we are unable to resist him with the power of our own flesh. So, we need to know how to seek deliverance by means of Christ who defeated Satan and will one day imprison him forever.

We have already come to learn through studying this prayer that prayer itself is submission to God. It is the recognition that we are not orphans left to live on the mean streets by our own power and our own wits. We must spend time speaking with God through prayer. It is no accident that this final petition against temptation and for deliverance comes last in this ideal prayer. It comes after we have already prayed, “Hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done.

How do we resist? We resist by means of the Holy Spirit’s power at work in us through God’s Word, the Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ said to his disciples, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3), meaning that purity of life can be ours to the degree that we feed upon the Bible, study it, and trust it. The psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). Paul wrote specifically of our spiritual warfare saying, “Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).[7]

You may have read John Bunyan’s allegory of the Christian life, Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan describes a terrible battle between the devil (called Apollyon) and Christian. Christian is attacked and knocked down by Apollyon with such force that Christian loses the sword from his hand. As Apollyon is about to deal a death blow, Christian finds his sword and begins quoting scripture to the devil. Apollyon spread his great Dragons wings and flew away, “that Christian for a season saw him no more.”

In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul draws on Old Testament imagery of a holy war, one that God himself would miraculously fight on behalf of the Israelites who were simply to armor up and stand on the battlefield to wait upon the power of the Lord:

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.[8]

Jesus’ temptation recorded in Matthew chapter 4 gives us an example of how we can resist. There are differences between Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and the common temptations we face every day. Saint Author of Hebrews says, in 4:15, that Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” We face temptations by being surrounded with a sinful world, having our own sinful nature, and sometimes by the direct attack of the devil.

It was necessary for Jesus to be tempted directly by the devil. Jesus did not have a sinful nature as we do, so he could not be tempted by his own will. He could not create idols to worship. Neither could he be tempted by the surrounding world directly because the sins of the world are pride, arrogance, a desire for dominance, and a resolute stance against the will of God. Jesus had no point of contact within himself for such temptations.

If Jesus was to be tempted at all, the temptations had to come through a direct encounter with the devil, just as Adam and Eve had to receive their temptations from the devil. Before their fall, Adam and Eve did not have a sinful nature nor live surrounded by a sinful world. This is why Paul referred to Jesus as the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:35). He overcame the direct temptations of the devil that the First Adam failed to overcome.

Yet, at the same time, we see in Satan’s temptation of Christ: a physical, fleshly temptation; a temptation to gain the world’s esteem in the world’s way; and a spiritual temptation to oppose God, his Dear Heavenly Father. The temptation to turn stones to bread was a temptation of Jesus’ physical hunger, his flesh. The temptation to throw himself from the top of the temple was a temptation to gain the world’s fame in the world’s way. The temptation to worship the devil was the temptation to oppose the will of the Godhead. Those were the same temptations offered by the great serpent-dragon to Adam and Eve.

Although the temptations that came to Christ originated directly from the devil, they were still temptations to the sins of the flesh, the world, and the devil. Jesus was tempted in all the ways that we are. Of course, because Jesus’ temptations came directly from the great serpent-dragon, they were far more subtle and stronger than our day-to-day temptations.

So let’s revisit the question. How did Jesus resist temptations? Did he draw on his divine nature? Did he have more power to resist temptation than we have? Yes, he had more power to resist but there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that Jesus ever resisted temptation by using his divine nature. He resisted temptation as a man. He had to do it in his human nature precisely because he was acting as our perfect federal head, the Last Adam.

Why is that important? It’s important to bear that in mind because Jesus did not come to earth primarily to be our moral example. His primary mission was to be our perfect sacrificial lamb, our substitute for our sins. Because of his perfect resistance of direct temptations, he offers his righteousness, his perfect life, freely to all who will trust into his good works and his sacrificial death. As John preaches to his little congregation in Ephesians:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. [9]

In his wilderness experience, Jesus had just spent 40 days in prayer and fasting, submitting to, and communicating with, the Father. Second, he responded to the devil’s temptation not with observation, but by revelation. He responded with the divine Word of God. When tempted to put his physical hunger above his spiritual needs, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Next, the great serpent-dragon took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Jerusalem Temple, challenging him to jump off and let God catch him. In this way Jesus would perform a great public miracle in the holy city in view of all the temple officials and religious authorities and gain an immediate religious following. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Satan’s final temptation was to offer Jesus the world’s glory if only Christ would give the devil the worship he had craved since his own downfall. This was a spiritual temptation to idolize something all human beings crave – the approval of others. Jesus replied, “10 …Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Deut. 6:13). [10] Three times, Jesus quoted God’s Law to the ultimate lawless one. As John wrote, “sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn. 3:4).

Jesus overcame temptation in the same way we are all to overcome it, by means of a prayerful submission to the will of the Father and by the knowledge of the Bible. Even Jesus the man had to learn the Word of God and submit to it in trust.

Christ’s wilderness temptation was simply a forerunner of the great test to which the devil put Jesus later when he returned at “an opportune time” (Lk. 4:13), that moment in which Jesus himself declared, “darkness reigns” (Lk. 22:53). Like his baptism in the Jordan river foreshadowed his baptism in blood on the cross, so his testing in the wilderness was the forerunner of the terrible test he would face in Gethsemane and on Calvary.[11]

We are to pray that we will be delivered from the evil one now and will be kept from the test of his full onslaught against our lives. We pray we will either be protected from such terrible testing, or should we be faced with it in the Providence of God, that we will be protected in it with the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20).


We could paraphrase this final petition of the Lord’s prayer to say, “Keep us from wandering into paths where we will be tempted by the devil; But if he comes, keep us out of his clutches. Even as we pray this, we pray knowing that “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).[12]

Scripture describes both our spiritual training and our temptations with great vividness. It reminds us that we are exposed to the influence of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We can deal with the flesh by God’s grace, or with the world and its idols, and even with the devil in the strength of Christ. But the ultimate test confronts us when all three conspired together.[13]

Who can stand when indwelling sin is incited by the temptation of the world and its people or is stirred up by the work of Satan spurring us on to sin while hiding the dire consequences of it. Since Adam fell, we have all lived in the “evil day” as Paul calls it in Ephesians 6:13. All believers need “the full armor of God.” This evil day is itself a shadow of the last great battle of the Kingdom of God, the ultimate, eschatological evil day, from which we pray to be spared.

Jesus urges us to pray to be delivered. The fact that he does so assures us that our father is both willing and able to deliver us. We know, with Paul, that “the Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever” (2 Timothy 4:18).

We are weak and utterly incapable of drawing on our own resources to stand against the world, the flesh, and the devil. But God is strong. The Christian who does not know their weakness can, therefore, neither pray this prayer nor experience God’s strength. The Christian who knows his weakness but is praying in submission to the will of our Dear Heavenly Father, will be enfolded by the Lord’s strength. No wonder the ancient church, then, added its own doxology to the Lord’s prayer:

For yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:13.

[2] James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 201.

[3] Ferguson, 131.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jas 1:2–4.

[5] Hughes, R. Kent. The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Preaching the Word). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[6] Boice, 202–203.

[7] Id.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 6:13–18.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 2:1–6.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 4:10.

[11] Ferguson, 131.

[12] Boice, 205.

[13] Ferguson, 132.