Recently I spent some time with an elderly person who was dying. He mentioned that he was having weird nightmares at night. This made me think that at such a time the onslaught of temptation might be very strong. And I pondered would I or others be able to withstand this at such an hour. No doubt we prepare ourselves for this critical time, when we make the petition, 'And lead us not into temptation’ in the Our Father.
Temptation is always there.
God has placed us in a world where as individuals we are free. We can choose to go his way for us or not. This means that we may decide that we ourselves are our own masters and that we can do as we like. Then all desires that entice or attract us to go along this path are welcome. We can say then that we are tempted in this direction. However, the matter is not always a question of a calm decision.
The situation may be more pressing than that. It can happen that terrible forces inwardly disturb us, whatever their origin or cause, almost driving us into sin. Temptation may display a remarkable degree of creativity, as new images assail us with appealing force. Old temptations or occasions of sin may press too for further attention. The tension from suppressed desires and the apparent attraction of a life that we are not leading may turn the possibility of sin into an urgent danger, provoking almost overwhelming temptation. The petition we make in this prayer asks that God consider how weak we are, and that he particularly help us in such a dim muddled area. Moreover, we request that the pressure may not be too great for us.
Never an Isolated Moment
Temptation that assails us is rarely an isolated moment. Today’s one is connected with our past life. Former failures and errors have not gone completely away from us, and may provide settings and imagery for more concentrated and powerful attacks on us. Therefore, a plea to be saved from temptation is always one to be able to handle our past properly. We know that God can rectify all erring situations. He follows sinners down their twisted paths, and is ready to help them at the least signal. In addition, even if they get lost in a twisted labyrinth, he can still find a clear route forward or a way out for them. He can give each of us a sane outlook on what is gone, however complicated it may have been, so that we see clearly where grace was helping us and where we neglected it with dire consequences. He can give us the wisdom and light to view our past with loving eyes, and to be very grateful for the protecting hand of the Almighty that was assisting us. We ask now that God will so clarify our former existence, giving us a clear sense of what was right and erring in it, so that it becomes a guide and provides an assurance that we are correct and upright. It can become a boost for us rather than a obstacle or a reservoir of regrets.
I wonder are many disturbed by the fact that God knows the outcome of our lives. A person might say at the end, 'Why bother much, since all is decided!' However, being disturbed by this issue would indicate an erring approach. We have always to trust in the gracious and loving kindness of God. He does not will the death of sinners, but that they be converted and live (Ez 18.23). He wants all to be saved (1 Tim 2.4).
Christ raised on the cross shows how concerned he is about our salvation. We need to receive his grace, and live with the beauty it brings us. We are required to keep confidence in his well-wishing, generous freedom. We want the bliss of heaven, which the Lord is willing to give us. Now we have to be willing to follow the call of his love. Our request not to succumb to temptation is a plea to be helped to live in the light of that same.
Asking for Grace
When those praying make this petition to be assisted against temptation, they are asking for a special help or grace — only the Almighty can give us the strength for this. That is always a free gift from him. Its attraction and beauty is that it is given gratuitously by the Almighty's generous bounty. It brings about the blessedness of the Christian state. The thinking of the Christian has to concentrate on the power of God's love. The correct approach is to see everything coming from God's kindness, including death as it is now, and be ready to surrender to him with trust and calm. It is wise to be at ease with the freedom of his love and bountiful goodness. It should be most satisfying to have such confidence at the hour of death. Even if all the security we presently have has to be abandoned, the serenity of love can take over. A confidence hopefully is experienced then beyond all reason, and a hope beyond probability.