The prayer, part 6

Watch and pray

Today on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about payback, Date Night and a motorcycle, plus a little bit of Marky and Mable.

It’s time to dig into the last verse of The Lord’s Prayer.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:13, New Heart English Bible

Our temptations can be similar to those of our friends or they can be totally different. Some people struggle more with physical temptations, like food, sex, what we drink, pharmaceuticals, adrenaline-rushes. Others are tempted by their desire for power, attention, money, beauty, control, etc. On the flip side, some people’s temptations are all about hiding, escaping, avoiding. Sometimes, our temptations are fueled by payback. “I’ll show you.”

Having mentally ill parents gave my husband Brandon and me a lot of interesting experiences in psychological and spiritual warfare, even though we didn’t have a clue what was going on at the time.

Most battles don’t involve tanks or bombs. They involve strategies. Words. Silence. Tactics. Games. Score-keeping. Training. Skills. Payback.

I understand the payback scenario. The temptations that swirl around in The I’ll-Show-You Realm.

Since I didn’t feel loved by my parents—and their number one requirement was that I not embarrass them—it gave me great pleasure to do the opposite of what they wanted. The word rebellious certainly described me in my college and young adult years. But here’s the thing that I finally understood decades later. The motivator behind my rebellion was payback.

Date night
Sure, I made A’s in college, but I spent my weekends bar-hopping, dancing and drinking. Toying with guys. Competing with my friends in The Guy Department. Getting the ones they wanted. One night, I had three dates—with three different guys. Why? Because I could. I thought it would be fun.

It wasn’t.

The look on Date #1’s face when he dropped me off at home and saw Date #2 parked out front was not good. That reminds me of The Date That Wasn’t. Yes, indeed. I was a mess and a half.

Control and payback
In the young adult years, we transitioned from hanging out at bars to drinking with our church friends at their apartments. Was that an improvement from the boy-crazy, bar-hopping college days? Yes; a little. One of my long-term boyfriends in my 20s had been divorced twice and had a son. He drove a fast sports car. We also rode around on his motorcycle. We met at church and went to rock concerts, like ZZ Top. My dad was particularly unhappy about him. At the dinner table one evening, my dad, the narcissist, said: “Thou shalt not get divorced.” I glared at him, reminding him loud and clear—without saying a word—“You’re not the boss of me.”

Remember, I grew up in The We-Don’t-Talk-About-It Family, so we didn’t have a healthy, meaningful conversation. Ever. None of the people in the house knew how to have one of those. There was control. There was politeness. There was silence. There was meaningless chit-chat. And there was payback. That reminds me of a famous book title: Crime and Punishment. Yep. That was us.

I did what I wanted and I thought that made me free. But in reality, I was a slave. A slave to desires I didn’t understand. I didn’t have the foggiest idea what was going on in my head. I really didn’t. Hurting my parents felt good. It really did. The payback gave me a big payoff. But I had no idea how much I was hurting myself in the process. I did not know what I was doing.

The game and the unknown
From age 18 to 24, I was playing a dangerous, painful game. And I lost every time.

Then one day, I stopped playing that game. I walked into my first marriage, thinking it would be great.

It wasn’t.

My first husband, Greg, was ruled by his temptations—his desires—for sex, alcohol, pornography and other women. Near the end of The Nine Years of Misery, the Lord saved me. And several months later, God called me out of that mess—and into the unknown.

One more and the lies
Is something—or someone—enticing or alluring you? Pulling you down? Pulling you…. One more time. One more bite. One more purchase. One more game. One more look. One more deal. One more drink. One more scroll. One more hour. One more __________.

And here are some of the lies. “Everybody’s doing it.” “It’s not a big deal.” “No one will know.” “I deserve it.” “I’m not hurting anybody.” “It doesn’t matter.” “This is just who I am.” And the list goes on.

But we need the truth. We really do.

Let’s go to God’s word.

Finding truth
What can we learn about temptation from God’s word? I found 26 Bible verses containing the word tempt and its variations (tempter, temptation…). And all of them were in the New Testament.

The first verse where we see tempt is a biggie. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1, NHEB).”

Can the Holy Spirit lead us into temptation? Obviously, yes. It happened to Jesus; and if it couldn’t happen to us, Jesus wouldn’t have taught us to pray in The Lord’s Prayer—which we pray to God—“And lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13a, NHEB).”

The challenge
This concept can challenge us to some extent. Why would God lead us into a situation where we’ll be tempted to sin? Think of it as a test. When we’re challenged, when we’re stretched, when we’re tested, we can grow stronger in our faith.

This passage written by Jesus’ brother James provides clarity.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
James 1:12-14, ESV

These phrases—steadfast under trial and stood the test—show us why God can sometimes lead us into difficult scenarios that will include temptation. When we’re being tried and tested, do we ask God for help? Do we remember what he’s taught us and what he’s done in our lives? Do we speak and stand on his word? Read this verse about the refiner’s fire and testing.

The word
When he was tempted by the devil, Jesus rightly quoted the word of God. We would be wise to do the same. What if we don’t know what the Bible says about a certain dilemma? Remember this crucial passage.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6, NHEB

Peaceful Readers, guess what comes right after those frequently-quoted verses in Proverbs?

Do not be wise in your own eyes.
Fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
Proverbs 3:7, NHEB

In other words, “Frankie Ann, my dear, don’t think you know everything. Remember who I am. Revere me. (I’m holy and I’ve called you to be holy.)” Then comes the ending—“depart from evil.” Get out of there! Get away from them! Don’t do that!

What is God saying when we put that all together—Proverbs 3:5-7? I think of it this way.

Trust God implicitly. You don’t see or know everything that’s going on here. See God and speak to him no matter where you are or what you’re doing, and he will guide you well. Don’t think too highly of yourself. Lean in to The Almighty One—who sees and knows everything. And walk away from the evil you encounter—evil things and evil people. Now.

An example
In my life, saying no repeatedly to my first husband Greg was a memorable chapter and a great example of departing from evil. And the departing was all about boundaries—saying no, and meaning it. See this post, from The Porch Visit thru The Show.

“Woe” and “watch”
Jesus taught us to ask God not to lead us into temptation. What else did Jesus say about temptation?

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes (Matthew 18:7, ESV)!” Here’s a brief commentary. (Scroll down to What does Matthew 18:7 mean?)

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to his inner circle—Peter, James and John, “Watch and pray, that you do not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41, NHEB).” The disciples wanted to do the right thing, but they didn’t follow through. We can relate to that, can’t we?

To avoid temptation, Jesus told his friends to watch and pray.

A way out
Drink in these crucial truths. “No temptation has taken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13, NHEB).”

God gives us a way out.

Because Jesus understands the pain and trial of temptation, he can help us, compassionately, when we’re being tempted. But here’s the bottom line. Do we ask Jesus for help?

Delivered from evil
When we pray the last verse of The Lord’s Prayer—“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13, NHEB)”—we’re acknowledging essential things.

Teachable and wise
We’re asking God to teach us, to strengthen us and to grow us without extreme trials and testing.

“Make me teachable in the small things so I don’t require teaching in the much harder things.”

We’re also asking God to heighten our discernment so we see very clearly the evil that’s nearby.

“Give me a heart that sees through the lies. Give me a mind that looks and listens, remembers, and puts the puzzle together—The Puzzle of Truth. You’ve provided me a way out. Give me the wisdom and courage to get away from the evil that’s right in front of me.”

The evil nearby
This month has been strange at St. Matt’s, the small church where I work. A strange email. Contacts with the local police department. A safety alert for Vacation Bible School, including a mug shot. A heads-up gladly received by the churches on either side of us. Etcetera.

And then came the strange calls from the mother of Marky Mugshot. I’ll call her Mable. When I saw Mable’s unique last name on my caller ID, the hair stood up on my arms. My eyes, my heartbeat and my body told me to beware. My response to Call #1 was to get off the phone pronto. The next day, my response to Call #2 and Call #3 was to ask questions and take lots of notes. I wanted to know what Mommy Dearest—I mean Mable—had to say about Marky’s arrest. Then, on the third day, I blocked her phone number.

When I met with the security director for our group of churches, we agreed that we didn’t believe some of the Big Facts that Mable asserted about Marky Mugshot. Not one bit. Mable put on a stellar show: Feel Sorry for Me and Feel Especially Sorry for Poor, Sick Marky. But it didn’t work. Not one bit. Unbeknownst to Mable, we’ve encountered creeps and peeps like them before. (For more about pity-siphoning, a common sociopathic tactic, read these sections—Frequent Complaint-Focused Gossiping to Evoke Pity thru Substance Abuse and Hypochondria—in this post.)

Your turn
Now it’s your turn. Are you dealing with one or more people who leave you feeling confused? Anxious? Step back and think about what you know about them. Do you dread seeing their name(s) on your phone or going to events where you’ll be seeing them? Ask God to show you what you need to see and do. Earnestly seek the truth. And then respond accordingly, each step of the way. If you’re dealing with someone who has a personality disorder—a Control Freak Extraordinaire—perhaps, even, an evil person—read the first series and beware.

Watch and pray. Also, remember Proverbs 3:7.

Do not be wise in your own eyes.
Fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
Proverbs 3:7, New Heart English Bible

Coming next: We’ll dig more into being delivered from evil. Join me next time, as we unpack The Armor of God. I am pumped about that, big-time. Until then, thanks for reading and for Choosing Peace.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Hebrews 4:14-16

Song for Healing: “Help Is on the Way” by TobyMac