Humble Prayer Looks Entirely to God’s Mercy
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
This morning we will continue to study Westminster Larger Catechism Question 195, which asks, “What do we pray for in the sixth petition?” The third part of the answer states: “In the sixth petition (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,) acknowledging… that we, even after the pardon of our sins, by reason of our corruption, weakness, and want of watchfulness, are not only subject to be tempted, and forward to expose ourselves unto temptations, but also of ourselves unable and unwilling to resist them, to recover out of them, and to improve them; and worthy to be left under the power of them… .” Last time we saw how a triad of enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil; is constantly trying to tempt us to sin. Today we consider how even as born again Christians there is nothing in us that would move God to lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.
If there is one thing more valuable that the Westminster Standards consistently do than to give all the glory to God and none of it to man then I do not know what it could be. This section of the Catechism’s answer as to why we ask God to lead us not into temptation but to deliver us from evil is a wonderful illustration of this point. Here we have the final section of the Catechism’s instruction addressing the mindset or the motivation of the person who is praying for God’s deliverance from temptation and all evil. The next section of the answer goes on to address what we are actually praying for – the object of the prayer. Today, however, we get the third and final part of what should be in our minds and hearts when we pray. To recapitulate: first we are to acknowledge God’s goodness and sovereignty in ordering all things, including times of temptation, according to His glory and our good. Second, we must concede that the triad of enemies against us: the world, the flesh, and the devil, is each one constantly and fully bent on our giving into temptation, and so much more powerful than us that apart from God’s gracious help it would easily do it. The third and final thing we must believe and know to rightly pray this part of The Lord’s Prayer is that all of our hope for God to answer this request must be placed in the mercy and grace of God that has been purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ.
What this means is that I must truly and humbly look at myself and estimate what I have to offer to God, so that I can correctly answer the question, “Why should God lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil?” Notice how the Catechism completely takes away any hope in ourselves. Yes, as converted people, God has pardoned us from our sins, but we are so corrupt, so weak, so lacking in diligence to watch out for temptation that we too often easily succumb whenever it comes. As the Catechism says it: we are not only subject to being tempted, but we even at times seek it out and foolishly put ourselves in the places where we know it will come! Even though we have no power in ourselves to (successfully) resist them when they come, or to recover out of them. This means that even after temptation has brought us to sin, we do not rightly mourn for what we have done, so that we would be driven back to the right path. In other words even our repentance is not as it should be. Even our repentance must be “forgiven” by the grace of God through the blood of Christ. Nor do we properly learn from our failures. This is what the Catechism means by our not rightly “improving” temptation when it comes and causes us to in some way fall. In fact, if we are truly honest, if we are going to accurately assess our condition; even as we are asking God to lead us not into temptation but to deliver us from evil, we must know and affirm in our hearts that it would be good and right for God to leave us to temptation and to give us over to evil. That even as we are right now: Christians, converted, believing in Christ, repenting from sin, doing good works; that if God were to give us what we deserve, according to our righteousness, He would immediately and fully give us over to temptation and to evil!
Does this sound harsh or difficult? It should! It is what it means to “die to self” and to trust fully in another. The good news is that the more I have this mindset of utter hopelessness in myself for any reason for God to hear my prayer, the more fully and rightly can I now be looking to and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for all my hope that God will do it. Pray with me, “Lord, it is because of Jesus alone I ask you to lead me not into temptation but to deliver me from evil.”