Lead Us Not Into Temptation...?

I'm wondering if anyone else has ever been puzzled by this phrase in the Lord's Prayer:

And lead us not into temptation...
I always have a mental hiccup whenever I or my church says this line. The request, for some reason, seems slightly odd and incongruous. Has anyone else felt the same way?

I think the problem I'm having has to do with what seems to be the background assumption of the request. The prayer is for God to not lead us into temptation. So what is the converse, the flow of events that is assumed to happen if we don't offer this prayer? That God would lead us into temptation?

Just about every request in the Lord's Prayer has a background assumption that seems to make sense. If we don't pray God's will won't be done on earth, we won't get our daily bread, our sins won't be forgiven, and we won't be delivered from evil. Or something along those lines.

But what does it mean that God will lead us into temptation if we don't request that God not do this?

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10 thoughts on “Lead Us Not Into Temptation...?”

  1. I can relate to the mental hiccup. The thing I tend to come back to is the Romans 1 description of God's wrath in terms of "giving us over" to our sinful desires, depraved mind, etc. So for God to "lead us into temptation" would be to let us have at it - perhaps the worst form of God's wrath. Why we should have to pray for him NOT to do this is puzzling, perhaps, but no more puzzling than the very fact that we are asked to pray at all. Just a guess.

  2. Considering the apocalyptic context of Jesus' ministry, perhaps this reflects the old Jewish idea that God would manipulate events by hardening people's hearts, leading them to sin, and then punishing them. Coupled with "deliver us from evil", it suggests that the prayer wants to survive the coming tribulations of the eschaton, but not be on the side of the oppressor when Jesus returns to judge everyone.

  3. Furthermore, isn't temptation (and hopefully, the overcoming of temptation) an important part of our spiritual growth?

    "Let us not succumb to temptation" would make a lot more sense.

  4. It's interesting to me that the only person that the Bible records actually being led into temptation is Jesus himself, when he was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted. And the phrase more literally reads "led us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

    I think it says something about how difficult that was for Jesus.

  5. I think the felt problem here is that this particular act (leading a person into temptation) would be a "sin of commision", whereas the others (like allowing a person to starve to death) are merely "sins of omission".

    And for some reason we're willing to give the God of traditional theism a pass on sins of omission, even though for an all-powerful God, there shouldn't be any difference.

  6. Peirasmos- Gk- is translated test and temptation in the NT.
    Testing proves and improves.
    The motivation of the enemy is to turn every test into a temptation.
    I pray this part of the prayer this way, "When I come to the test, and I know that I have to, do not allow the enemy to have his way. Rescue me from his desire and lead me to yours."

  7. When we pray, "Thy will be done," we're mostly just bracing ourselves to accept the consequences of discipleship, telling God, "We are ready to follow you more completely." When we pray "lead us not into temptation," we acknowledging the consequences on one or more aspects of sin in our lives and saying, "Enough is enough. We are tired of failing these tests. We vow to do your will so that there is no need for any other tests, but we need your help to pass this current trial. Deliver us from the evil one."

  8. I'm glad to see that somebody is actually willing to deal with the strange and confusing passages in scripture and not resort to rhetorical gymnastics to satisfy our comfy theology. Even if this passage can be massaged, what of 2 Thessalonians 2:11, "For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie."

    Does God force people to believe, and if so does he force some to believe wrongly?

  9. I have heard that the phrase can also be translated "and save us from the time of trial'. But I'm not exactly a Greek scholar. Any thoughts?

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