Games to Play and Pray

praying-hands-7

Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

[For Yours is the kingdom
and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.]
Matthew 6:9-13

lentMy mind is wandering back to childhood games. My Reader, do you remember “Follow the Leader”? Everyone wanted to be the leader but it was also fun to be part of the train of people who went where the leader went and did whatever the leader did. Did you ever play “Freeze Tag”? Tag was always a simple game of running while trying not to get caught by the person who was “it”. “Freeze Tag” was a special version where a person had to remain in a frozen position after being tagged until someone else would touch that person to unfreeze him/her. These memories go back many years, so why am I thinking about them today? Before the conclusion of this blog, we will make a correlation as we continue to explore the meaning of the highlighted request of the Lord’s Prayer printed above.

And do not lead us into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:13a

This verse reveals the third personal request that Jesus encouraged His disciples to verbalize when He taught them how to pray. Once again I will refer to one of the Old Testament names for God. (see post What Is In a Name? on February 17) Jehovah-raah is translated The LORD is My Shepherd.” When I ask the Lord to lead me and deliver me, I think about a shepherd’s rod and staff. A shepherd uses his rod primarily to guide his sheep in the direction he desires. In contrast, a shepherd uses his staff to rescue his sheep that have strayed into a place of danger. Since scripture says that we are all like sheep, I believe that the Lord functions as our shepherd when He fulfills our petition of asking Him to not lead us into temptation and to deliver us from evil.

Let us take the shepherd’s rod and staff with us as we begin our in-depth exploration of Matthew 6:13a.

And do not lead us into temptation,
In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” How does the Lord, my Shepherd, call me to follow Him? He uses His rod! Before I continue with this thought, I want to think about how a shepherd uses his rod with his flock of sheep. The shepherd’s rod is a piece of wood fashioned into a short, thick club. This weapon is like an extension of the shepherd’s right arm. He can extend, or even throw, his rod towards his sheep to keep them on the right path. If the rod hits a sheep, it gets the sheep’s attention so that it will follow the shepherd. The rod is a symbol of the strength, power, and authority of the shepherd over the situations of his sheep. Now to apply this to myself. I am a sheep led by the Good Shepherd and the rod is scripture. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” And Isaiah 30 21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” So, if I pray asking God to lead me, then I need to heed His rod and follow the guidance within His written Word. Sometimes it may mean that I need to be hit over the head with the wisdom of God!


I notice that the prayerful words of Jesus ask specifically that the Lord not lead me into temptation. Just because I ask the Lord not to lead me into temptation does not mean that I will never be tempted. I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And 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 endure it.” This scripture verse assures me that the Lord hears my prayer and not only does He not lead me into temptation but He also provides me with a way out when I allow temptations overtake me. I think I see the Lord’s staff as well as His rod being applied to my life. So, let’s continue.

but deliver us from evil.
There is a need for me to be delivered from evil because temptations will come to me even though the Lord as my Shepherd is leading me. How does God deliver me? He uses His staff, the Holy Spirit. Once again, I do not want to get ahead of myself, so let’s take a closer look at the shepherd’s staff. It is a unique instrument used only for the care and management of sheep. In contrast to the rod, the staff is usually a long, slender stick with a crook or hook on one end. The staff is a symbol of the concern and compassion a shepherd has for his sheep. The staff’s hook rescues a sheep that has wandered away from the path and gotten caught in brambles and bushes. The shepherd is able to gently pull the sheep from the thicket and return it to the rest of the flock. To apply this image to myself, I am reminded of Isaiah 53:6, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray.” As a stray sheep, I must be delivered from evil. How can I be delivered or rescued? Ezekiel 34:11-12 tells me, “For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. Ezekiel 34:15-16 goes on to say, “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick.These Old Testament scriptures are fulfilled by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. In John 14:16, Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.” The Holy Spirit is my personal helper!
Wait a minute, this verse in Matthew 6:13 says that I am to pray to be delivered from evil.  I was not thrilled when I thought about temptations, but evil has me even more concerned! Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I must pray for deliverance! I like the assurance of Colossians 1:13 ESV,He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” This is the work of the Holy Spirit!

My Reader, before I conclude I must refer back to the childhood games I first mentioned. During the coming week, let us play “Follow the Leader” and allow the Lord lead us not into temptation. And may we take part in a game of “Freeze Tag” allowing the Lord to unFREEze us when we get caught in temptation and become frozen in bondage. He is able to deliver us from evil.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Note: I have used A shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Timothy Keller as a resource.

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