1. "Lead us" - The fact that God doesn't abandon us in the hour of temptation. When He promised to be with us to the end of time, He stays with us even in the very moment of temptation. Unless He is there with us, He cannot lead. The prayer doesn't say "Send us not into temptation." But, it says, "Lead us not into temptation" because, even in the hour of temptation, the Lord is there with us to deliver us from falling. Now, this doesn't mean that it is God who tempts man - no, not at all; because the Bible tells us that He doesn't tempt anyone (James 1:13). But, He allows us to be tempted in order that we might be strong.. but, only that we may be strong. He doesn't want us to fall into the hands of evil in any case. So, He is there to make the way of escape that we may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
2. "us" - Temptation is common to all men. We do not fall into uncommon temptation. So, we must be aware that God's saints go through trials and temptations; and we need to pray for them as well.
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man" (1 Cor.10:13)
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." (1Pet. 5:8-9)
"praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18)
3. "not" - It is a powerful negative, and the only one in the Prayer taught by our Lord. It unravels the saint's desire to stay away from evil, because of the fear of the Lord and His love for Him. It is a prayer that God wants to answer, because He sees here that we hate evil so much that we hate to come near it, or even pass by it; far be it to fall into its hands. There are many who do not see temptation as temptation at all, because they do not see evil as evil. The drunkard, for instance, doesn't see the wine shop as a temptation to drink; he only cherishes it as an opportunity to drink. He doesn't have the struggle until he is delivered from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God's Dear Son. This prayer in negative is the other side of the coin of the fact that "those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Gal.5:24) The moment we grab His hand stretched towards us in the mire of sin that we are in, His strong hands grab hold of us and pull us out of any imaginable vileness that we have been in.
"There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still" - Betsie Ten Boom
4. "into" - or into the hands of temptation; so that God abandons us into the hands of the enemy. No, we don't want that. Even if we have to go through temptation we do not want to fall into the hands of temptation. And, His promise is with us:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you." (Isa 43:1-2)
In some cases, divine abandonment does occur; especially, where there has been willful rebellion. So, God rejected Saul in the Old Testament because he rebelled against God's grace over his life. Similarly, in the New Testament, we find Paul talking about God abandoning the gentiles who suppress the truth of God by unrighteousness.
"because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened...Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts...who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever...For this reason God gave them up to vile passions." (Rom. 1:21-26)
However, to those who can pray with earnestness "Lead us not into temptation", He is more than willing that no temptation will overtake us "except such as is common to man"; and, He is there to keep us as the Word promises us, because we belong to Him:
"We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. (1Jn 5:18-19)
"the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations..." (2Pet. 2:9)
5. "temptation" - This is the main thing that the Christian dreads. Jesus said, "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!" (Matt. 18:7, ESV). He also instructed us: "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:13, ESV). His antidote, again, is simple: "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation." (Matt.26:41). If we are not watching and if we are not praying, we will naturally enter into temptation. But, when we watch and pray, let us also watch in the way that we can pray "Lead us not into temptation."
John GillMatthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation,.... Such a petition as this is often to be observed in the prayers of the Jews (a),
אל תביאני, "do not lead me" neither into sin, nor into transgression and iniquity, ולא לידי נסיון, "nor into temptation", or "into the hands of temptation";''
that is, into the power of it, so as to be overcome by it, and sink under it; in which sense the phrase is to be understood here. We are not here taught to pray against temptations at all, or in any sense, for they are sometimes needful and useful; but that they may not have the power over us, and destroy us. There are various sorts of temptations. There are the temptations of God; who may be said to tempt, not by infusing anything that is sinful, or by soliciting to it; but by enjoining things hard and disagreeable to nature, as in the case of Abraham; by afflicting, either in body or estate, of which Job is an instance; by permitting and letting loose the reins to Satan, and a man's own corruptions; by withdrawing his presence, and withholding the communications of his grace; and sometimes by suffering false prophets to arise among his people: his ends in them are on his own account, the display of his power; grace, wisdom, and faithfulness; on account of his Son, that his saints might be like him, and he might have an opportunity of exercising his power and pity: and on his people's account, that they might be humbled; their faith and patience tried; might see their weakness, and need of Christ, and be excited to prayer and watchfulness. There are also the temptations of Satan; which lie in soliciting to evil, suggesting hard and blasphemous thoughts of God, and filling with doubts and fears; which are cunningly formed by him, and are very afflictive. There are moreover the temptations of the world, which arise from poverty and riches, from the men of the world, the lusts of it, and from both its frowns and flatteries: add to all this, that there are temptations arising from a man's own heart. Now, in this petition, the children of God pray, that they may be kept from every occasion and object of sinning; from those sins they are most inclined to; that God would not leave them to Satan, and their own corrupt hearts; nor suffer them to sink under the weight of temptations of any sort; but that, in the issue, they might have a way to escape, and be victorious over all.
William Gurnall"Darts have a wounding killing nature, especially when well headed and shot out of a strong bow by one that is able to draw it. Such are Satan’s temptations — headed with desperate malice, and drawn by a strength no less than angelical; and this against so poor a weak creature as man, that it were impossible, had not God provided good armour for our soul, to outstand Satan’s power and get safe to heaven. Christ would have us sensible of their force and danger, by that petition in his prayer which the best of saints on this side heaven have need to use — ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ Christ was then but newly out of the list, where he had tasted Satan’s tempting skill and strength; which, though beneath his wisdom and power to defeat, yet well he knew it was able to worst the strongest of saints. There was never any besides Christ that Satan did not foil more or less. It was Christ’s prerogative to be tempted, but not lead into temptation. Job, one of the chief worthies in God’s army of saints, who, from God’s mouth, is a nonesuch, yet was galled by these arrows shot from Satan’s bow, and put to great disorder. God was fain to pluck him out of the devil’s grip, or else he would have been quite worried by that lion."
"Christ teacheth us to pray against suffering under the notion of temptation: ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.’ That is, let us not be led into sin when we fall into suffering, let us not fall into thy hands and Satan’s together."
"God useth the temptations of Satan to one sin, as a preventive against another; so Paul’s thorn in the flesh to prevent his pride. God sends Satan to assault Paul on that side where he is strong, that in the meantime he may fortify him where he is weak. Thus Satan is befooled, as sometimes we see an army sitting down before a town, where it wastes its strength to no purpose, and in the meantime gives the enemy an advantage to recruit; and all this by the counsel of some Hushai, that is a secret friend to the contrary side. God, who is the saint’s true friend, sits in the devil’s council, and overrules proceedings there to the saint’s advantage. He suffers the devil to annoy the Christian with temptations to blasphemy, atheism, and with these, together with the troubles of spirit they produce, the soul is driven to duty, is humbled in the sense of these horrid apparitions in its imagination, and secured from abundance of formality and pride, which otherwise God saw invading him. As in a family, some business falls out, which keeps the master up later than ordinary, and by this the thief, who that night intended to rob him, is disappointed. Had not such a soul had his spirit of prayer and diligence kept awake by those afflicting temptations, it is likely that Satan might have come as a seducer, and taken him napping in security."