Matthew 6:13

Last year more than 27 billion chapters of the Bible were read on the YouVersion Bible app. Since the Bible is comprised of less than 1,200 chapters in total, 27 billion chapters read is great to hear!

People listened to more than 4 billion Bible chapters read to them from the YouVersion Bible app. That’s a great feature: while you drive or work out or clean, just press the arrow onscreen in the Bible app when you have it open to a passage, and it will read the Scriptures aloud to you. For listening, I recommend the New Living Translation because it reads the way we speak today. Check it out and see what you think.

We are looking at several of the most bookmarked, highlighted and shared verses of all. Each week we read one viral verse. We take a shot at what people tend to think it means. Then we dig into the passage it comes from, to discover the riches of what it actually means, so that we can apply it and be blessed. 

This week’s viral verse comes straight from Jesus and is a prayer. Matthew 6:13 is one of the most shared Bible verses, one that has gone viral. Here’s what it says:

“And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13

It’s a prayer about temptation. Isn’t it telling that a verse on temptation is among the most shared verses from the Bible?

Because everyone knows what it’s like to be tempted. Everyone faces temptation. Everyone. We know what it feels like to be lured in by temptation. But then after giving in to temptation comes regret. Guilt. Awareness that you were duped, that that bait had a hook in it. So we wish and we pray to do better, to succeed against temptation. 

The best way to discover the richness of this prayer is to hear the whole prayer in which it is found. So let’s do that. Open your Bible or Bible app to Matthew chapter 6. Jesus is giving the longest sermon of his recorded in the gospels. It covers chapters 5 through 7 and covers all kinds of things we wonder about and wrestle with. As we reach Matthew 6:5, Jesus teaches about prayer, saying…

“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.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’”

Matthew 6:9-13

There’s the whole prayer that today’s viral verse comes from—The Lord’s Prayer, or in some church traditions it’s called “the Our Father.” 

Jesus gave this sample prayer to teach us how to pray, how to talk with God. 

You can fast from food for quite a while and survive. You can go just a few days without water. But you can only survive a matter of minutes without breathing. And what breathing is to physical life, praying is to your spiritual life and health. 

What breathing is to physical life, praying is to your spiritual life and health.

We need to talk with God about the things that weigh on us. And so knowing this, Jesus gives us a model prayer, an example of how to pray.

I want you to notice, as you look at this prayer, that there are a whole lot of man-made traditions that Jesus never mentions. 

  • Jesus makes no mention of what time you should pray. Pray whenever you want. There are rhythms that many Christians throughout history have found helpful, like morning, midday and evening taking even a few minutes to talk with God. That’s called the Daily Office. Strange name, helpful rhythm. But there’s no wrong time to pray.
  • Jesus doesn’t say there’s a correct posture for prayer. Whether you want to talk to God standing up, sitting down, kneeling or bowing down, and with your hands raised or clasped together, whichever, God loves to hear from you. That’s what matters most. So use whatever posture helps you.
  • One more thing: Jesus doesn’t even say you have to pray out loud. You can read a prayer like this. You can pray in the silence of your mind, or you can talk out loud. So I don’t know what you’ve heard in the past. But don’t let anyone else’s traditions or expectations hold you back from talking with God.

Don’t let anyone else’s expectations hold you back from talking with God.

What mattered to Jesus was teaching us to pray. And in this prayer, we discover the kinds of things God is pleased to answer. Have you ever thought of the Lord’s Prayer this way? These are the kinds of things that God is pleased to answer. That’s what we’re given in the Lord’s Prayer. 

Jesus teaches us the kinds of things God is pleased to answer. 
That’s what the Lord’s Prayer reveals!

So let’s walk through this model prayer, a phrase at a time, to savor what each part of the prayer is about. Doing that will take us right up to today’s viral verse, so that we can pray it with understanding. Ready? Here we go. Listen for what God wants to say to you today. 

Jesus begins by teaching us to pray, “Our Father in heaven.” That’s a declaration of faith in who we’re talking to. You have a Father in heaven who loves you. And he has the strength to act on your behalf. 

There’s a whole genre of viral videos called “Epic Dad saves,” that capture the split second when a Dad saves his kid from harm. We care enough about our kids to rescue them at risk of our own safety. How much more do you think your Father in heaven cares for you? Really let this sink in, feel it. Believe it. God is your Father in heaven. So call on him!

Next comes some strange language. Jesus says, “Pray this: ‘hallowed by your name.’” Other versions read, “May your holy name be honored; may your name be treated as holy.” “Hallowed be your name” is a way of saying, “God, may you be honored as holy.” Holy means different, set apart, uncommon. So when you pray, Jesus teaches, remember that you’re coming to your Father in heaven. He loves you and he loves to hear from you. And the very next thing to remember is that our Father is holy. He’s very different from us. And so we come before him with respect and reverence. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

Next we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”

Instead of coming to God demanding what we want, “My kingdom come and my will be done,” Jesus says believe that God’s will is best for us. He’s our Father in heaven. Trust him with the outcome. Pray believing that God is good, and so his will for you is good. 

If that sounds trite, Jesus’ personal example of praying this will show you how important it is to pray for God’s will to be done. 

Look with me at Matthew 26 and verse 39. Jesus is on the verge of being arrested. He will soon be crucified. Knowing this, here’s what he does. Matthew remembers:

Going a little farther, [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

Matthew 26:39-42

Here’s what we need to catch: In his time of greatest need, Jesus trusted that God the Father’s will is best. God heard that prayer. God answered that prayer: Luke tells us God sent an angel from heaven to strengthen Jesus. And ultimately Jesus was rewarded for his obedient faith. You can pray that God’s will be done, and be confident that God will answer your prayer. 

In his time of deepest need, Jesus trusted God the Father’s will.
We can do the same.

Next we pray, “Give us today our daily bread.”
Jesus was speaking to first-century farmers and fishermen who had no freezers for 5-pound packs of frozen chicken breasts. Everything they needed daily, they had to find just about daily, beginning with bread, which because of no preservatives had to be made from scratch every other day or so.

Jesus says when you pray, do so recognizing, “Father, you know what I need today. I’m asking you to provide it.” Praying for daily bread for you might be, “Father, give me what I need as a parent today.”

Maybe it’s, “Father, give me what I need at work today.” 

“Give me what I need to honor you as a student today.”

When you were a kid and you needed school clothes or sports equipment or to go to the movies, you could ask your Dad and he would gladly give to you. Much more so here. What you need today, God is glad to provide today. 

We saw this in last week’s Scriptures how for forty years, God provided daily bread for the Israelites as they journeyed toward the Promised Land. That’s where we are today. We’re on our way toward what God has promised. And as we go, God is glad to provide what we need. So ask!

Next from verse 13 comes…
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

This is about being honest as you pray. It’s about taking a look in the mirror, and admitting when you’ve done wrong—and we all have. 

When you pray like this, you’re praying as Jesus taught: honest and self-searching, forgiving as God has forgiven you.

I’ll look in the mirror & admit when I’ve done wrong.
I will forgive as God has forgiven me.

And when someone has hurt you deeply or repeatedly, you might need to pray along these lines every day for a long time. That’s okay. Do it! “Father, I choose to forgive this person, even as you have forgiven me. Help my feelings to catch up to my praying.” Then give yourself time and patience, even as God is so patient with us.

Finally, there is the last line, and this is the verse that has gone viral:
“And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”

This is about being spiritually street smart. Growing up near NYC, my parents taught how to be street smart, how to spot a con or a potential crime so that you don’t become part of it. 

Jesus teaches us to pray about being spiritually street smart. Don’t be ignorant of the spiritual enemy at work in the world, who does his best to steal, kill, and destroy your faith in God. The world has fallen into sin, away from God, into a thousand manifestations of brokenness. Don’t be naïve. Pray to be spiritually street smart. 

Don’t be naïve. Pray to be spiritually street smart.

I want to show you two Bible passages that unlock what this viral verse means and doesn’t mean. 

James 1:13 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…” 

James 1:13

But just two chapters before Jesus teaches us to pray “lead us not into temptation,” Matthew chapter four tells us…

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” 

Matthew 4:1

So what’s the deal? Here it is: God doesn’t tempts anyone, but he does allow us to be tempted. There’s a huge difference between the two. 

So what does Matthew 6:13 mean? When you pray it, what are you actually asking of God? Here it is: I’m praying that when I’m tempted, God will do for me what he did for Jesus: deliver me from falling for it. That’s the meaning of this viral verse.

I’m praying that when I’m tempted (and everyone gets tempted), God will do for me what he did for Jesus: deliver me from falling for it.

Deliver me, Father in heaven, from the evil one. Deliver me from biting that bait that has a hook inside it. Make me spiritually street smart against temptation. When temptation comes, help me to see and take the way out that you provide. That’s the prayer. 

Make me spiritually street smart against temptation. When it comes, help me to see and take the way out that you provide.

Every day you’re going to face temptation. It’s part of being human. We need God’s help. Knowing that, Jesus taught us to ask for it. Don’t be surprised by the power of temptation. Pray to become spiritually street smart.

And when you do get lured in and take the bait, remember that Jesus died for your sin, for that sin. 

After Jesus prayed to God the Father, “Not my will but yours be done,” he then willingly went to the cross. On that cross, Jesus, who faced all the same temptations you do, but never once followed those temptations, yielded his life on the cross for your sin. For my sin.  

And then rising from the dead three days later, Jesus made it clear that temptation and sin and hell do not get the final word. 

Romans 6:23 says…

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

Romans 8:1 adds to that, declaring…

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”

Romans 8:1

And so when you pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” pray it with the confidence of being a child of God. Pray it believing that God is your Father in heaven, who loves to hear from you. Pray this trusting that God understands the power of temptation; he understands our weakness. And knowing this about us, he did something about it. He sent his Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life; forgiveness of sin; peace with God, even as we admit our sins. 

So now we see why Matthew 6:13 went viral—because we all recognize our need for help against temptation. When you pray Matthew 6:13 in the broader setting of the whole The Lord’s Prayer, you get a picture of who God is. You get the idea that God really does care about you. He wants the best for you. And he understands the power of temptation. 

When you understand that background, and that we have a spiritual enemy, you see that Matthew 6:13 takes on a bit more urgency. More depth. More everyday significance. And so we pray with confidence, “Our Father in heaven, lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

“And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13

Communion rehearses how Jesus faced and defeated temptation for us. Communion shows us how much God loves people, how much he loves you, how far God was willing to go to bring you back to himself.

[A note to the reader: at this point in the worship service, we invited listeners to respond personally to what the Lord teaches here. Messages online can bless you, but only by gathering with other believers in worship can you go deeper in things like communion and fellowship. If you’re not connected to a local church, we would love to welcome you any Sunday at yChurch. The notes that follow are what we walked through together on that Sunday morning.]

In a moment we’re going to sing a song inspired by this prayer that Jesus taught. As we do that, I want you to make this a personal decision time for you. If you recognize your need for God’s forgiveness, he is listening right now for you to talk with him, even in the quiet of your mind. 

As you come for Communion, ask for his forgiveness. Let him know you believe that Jesus died and rose for you. And commit yourself anew to following Jesus, for as long as you live. There is literally nothing more important than this, finding peace with God by trusting in Jesus.

So come, friends. Come by the center aisle to take the bread and cup, returning by the side aisles. Hold onto Communion until after the song. I’ll lead in prayer, and then we’ll take Communion together.

If you have an offering to bring, that can go in the basket here on the Communion table. For those of you who call this church your church, thank you for your generosity. 

Let’s stand and sing.

Response song: As It Is In Heaven

Communion prayer: Our Communion prayer this morning is the prayer Jesus taught us. With it projected onscreen, I invite you pray it out loud with me:

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.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.