Bible insights from your friends at La Jolla Lutheran Church

Pray you avoid temptation

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Jesus has a message for his sleepy disciples: Pray that you not fall into temptation.

Monday James 1:12-15 (NRSV)
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.

Sometimes people immediately regret desiring things that are not good for them. But often it is as James describes: a long period between the initial desire and the sin and the final unwelcome outcome. If the loop were shorter, perhaps people would avoid some activities.

What sins do you need to constrain before they grow up and give birth to something you don’t want?

What healthy alternatives will you replace them with?

Tuesday Luke 22:39-40 (NIV)
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."

Sometimes people need the support of others to help them avoid something they struggle with. A running partner can help you avoid the temptation to do nothing; a support group can help you avoid an addiction.

Prayer to avoid temptation may not be enough by itself – you may need to get help from others as well. But how sad if all it took to stay out of trouble was a simple prayer and people refused to do it!

What do you need to pray about, that you “not fall into temptation”?

What support from others do you need?

Wednesday Luke 22:39-46 (NIV)
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

Jesus spent his last free hours on earth pleading with God: he didn’t want to go through the suffering and anguish of the cross. But more than his desire to avoid suffering, he wanted God’s will to be done.

While Jesus struggled with God’s will and his destiny, Jesus gave an assignment to his disciples: Stay awake and pray that you don’t come into temptation. But the disciples were unable to stay awake.

What good things are you not doing because you are too sleepy (or have some other reason to not do them)?

Why do you think it was so important to Jesus that his disciples not fall into temptation?

What do you think Jesus would tell you to pray for?

In Matthew 26:31-46 (a parallel passage to Wednesday’s reading), Jesus told Peter, James and John three times to stay awake and pray that they not fall into temptation. Only a few minutes earlier Jesus had warned Peter that he would deny knowing Jesus. But Peter and the others were unable to stay awake during their three opportunities for prayer; before the dawn arrived, Peter said three times that he didn’t know who Jesus was.

What warnings have you received?

What warnings have you heeded?

What warnings have you neglected?

What warnings do you need start paying attention to?

Friday Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)
"This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, he responded with the above prayer.

How often do you pray the Lord’s Prayer?

Is it part of your daily life? Why or why not?

What comfort do you get from it?

What are have you done this week because of Jesus?

What do you want to do next week because of Jesus?

What do you need help with?