The Glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (in the U.S. Second Edition) defines temptation as “[a]n attraction, either from outside oneself or from within, to act contrary to right reason and the commandments of God…”
We must be vigilant against temptation, as Jesus told His apostles during His agony in the garden: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Frequently we struggle with habitual sins, sins we can’t seem to leave behind, as well as addictions to sins such as pornography and immoderate drinking. Take heart: The Lord will help you grow in virtue and become a saint! We need to both pray and work to avoid temptation, such as by avoiding the near occasions of sin (what easily leads us into sin). (And in the case of addictions, we also need additional help psychologically and spiritually.)
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
“Man is never wholly free from temptation… but with patience and true humility we become stronger than any enemy. The patience and humility required to defeat the enemy come by following Christ every day and from learning to build our life not outside of him or as if he did not exist, but in him and with him, because he is the source of true life.
“In contrast to this is the temptation to remove God, to order our lives and the world on our own, relying solely on our own abilities. This is why in Jesus God speaks to man in an unexpected way, with a unique and concrete closeness, full of love, because God has now become incarnate and enters the world of man to take sin upon himself, to overcome evil and bring man back into the world of God” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).
In the Our Father, we pray “And lead us not into temptation.” What does this mean? “This petition goes to the root of the preceding one [‘And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’], for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to ‘lead’ us into temptation.
“It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both ‘do not allow us to enter into temptation’ and ‘do not let us yield to temptation’ (Origen)”
“‘God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one’ (James 1:13); on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2846).
“‘Lead us not into temptation’ implies a decision of the heart: ‘For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…. No one can serve two masters’ (Matthew 6:21, 24). ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:25). In this assent to the Holy Spirit, the Father gives us strength…” (Catechism, paragraph 2848).
The prayer below was written by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Let us pray with confidence to our Lord Jesus Christ for the help we need to avoid temptation and grow in virtue.
Prayer against Temptation (Prayer to Overcome Bad Habits)
Behold me, O my God, at Thy feet! I do not deserve mercy, but O my Redeemer, the blood which Thou hast shed for me encourages me and obliges me to hope for it. How often have I offended Thee, repented, and yet have I again fallen into the same sin!
O my God, I wish to amend; and in order to be faithful to Thee, I will place all my confidence in Thee. I will, whenever I am tempted, instantly have recourse to Thee.
Before, I have trusted in my own promises and resolutions, and have neglected to recommend myself to Thee in my temptations. This has been the cause of my repeated failures. From this day forward, be Thou, O Lord, my strength; and thus shall I be able to do all things, for “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Amen.