Sometimes we come across something that I call “purposeful ambiguity” in the Bible. I believe I experienced it in my Bible reading this morning…
The Bible says, “Jesus came out and went, as was His custom to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. And when He came to the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed…
Jesus, in that prayer session, experienced an intense testing of His resolve to fulfill His Father’s redemptive purpose and personally become our “sin sacrifice” through His death on the cross! But He submitted to the Father’s redemptive will and prayed, “Father, if you are willing remove this cup from me – Nevertheless, not my will, but Your’s be done!”
Then the Bible goes on to say, “When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and He said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation!” (From Luke 22:39 -46 ESV)
The question that came to my mind today is what exactly did Jesus mean when twice He told his disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation!”? Did He mean that their prayer would shield and protect them from temptation? Or did He mean that their practice of prayer would strengthen them to resist and overcome temptation when it came their way?
I personally believe, this is a case of “purposeful ambiguity” in the Bible. The answer to the questions I’ve posed is probably both are possible – both are true – both were in His mind!
In fact, my personal experience is that prayer does both things…
I’ve prayed “lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil!” (from the “Lord’s Prayer” – Matthew 6:13) and had the Lord actually shield me from temptation and He kept it from coming my way! (In fact, an honest admission goes here – There have been a few times I actually entertained and wished a temptation would come my way and it didn’t! The Lord actually shielded and protected me! Know what I mean?)
But on the other hand, I know that prayer strengthens, buttresses, and hardens our resolve and Spiritual strength to resist temptation! When it comes, if our soul has been strengthened and nourished with prayer, we are better equipped to resist temptation and the Tempter (Satan)!
So what’s my recommendation (and I believe also the Lord’s)… “PRAY that you may not enter into temptation!” I’m going to do it! I’m going to do it daily! I’m going to trust God to both shield me from temptation and strengthen me to resist it when it comes! I’m going to use Him as my example (not the disciples)! I believe He will do it for me!