To tempt means to entice someone to do or acquire something they find attractive even when they know that attraction is grounded in evil. According to James, God cannot be tempted and He does not tempt.
Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (Jam 1:13-15)
Yet the Lord’s Prayer states: lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:4; Mat 6:13). Why would we pray to God that He refrain from doing something which He will never do? Let us take a step back to set the stage.
The influence of sin in our lives is pervasive. It hovers over us and reaches for us every moment of every day. Our sin nature wants to open the door to sin and make it a companion. Corrupt angels and humans, with the eager assistance of our own sin natures, comprise the origin of evil residing in the human soul. That most powerful angel called Satan is the mastermind of all temptation; he is both tempter and accuser. As tempter, Satan seeks to alienate man from God; as accuser he seeks to alienate God from man.
Satan is the accusing witness and chief prosecutor for each individual in the human race. When he fills this role he does so in the presence of God and His angels (Job 1:6, 2:7; Zech 3:1-5; Rev 12:10). Satan is accusing us 24/7. Jesus Christ is interceding on our behalf (Heb 7:25) for each accusation. This great confrontation is taking place in the chambers of Heaven.
At the instant of our salvation, we are redeemed or bought-back or set free from the bondage of sin. Salvation also causes us to be regenerated or born again from the death grip of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness. We can, thereby, stand beside Jesus as He battles to purge evil from His creation. However, salvation may set us free from the bondage of sin but it does not set us free from the influence of sin itself. Satan knows that our concupiscence, bad judgement, inconsistent will and weariness can ensnare us in the vice-grip of evil even after salvation. But for the first time in our lives, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, say “no” to Satan and to our own sin nature. We can be set free from the bondage of sin but not, in this life, from its influence.
When we pray lead us not into temptation, we are saying to God: lead us down a different path; lead us not into temptation but lead us into holiness; grant to us a knowledge of Your will and an awareness of Your presence so that we may, by the power of the Holy Spirit, move in the direction of holiness rather than the direction desired by Satan and by our own sin nature.