Dear Christ Church Family,
The Lord’s Prayer has several petitions that require some explanation if we are to understand their full meaning. However, because we are so familiar with the words, we can go for a long time without thinking about those fuller meanings. One petition in particular has been brought to my attention by a question I was recently asked, and that question needs an answer. Maybe it’s a question you’ve asked yourself. Here’s that petition’s fuller meaning explained.
Monday, June 15, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
The Lord’s Prayer: Does God “lead us…into temptation”? This petition of our Lord’s Prayer can lead us to wondering, “How can God, who calls us to not surrender to temptation, lead us there in the first place? Is that really what Jesus is suggesting in this petition? That’s a great question. I used to wonder about that part too. I was reminded of this question a few weeks ago after I had written on another petition in the Lord’s Prayer for the Daily Devotional. A reader wrote to me asking, what would God be doing leading us “into” temptation. It would be as though God were deliberately trying to get us into trouble with him. It doesn’t make sense.
So, here’s the explanation that does make it “make sense.” It’s what Jesus is really getting at. This temptation that Jesus is speaking of isn’t about being tempted to sin. It’s about the temptation to lose one’s faith. It’s a prayer to God, as God leads us through life, that God will not lead us into circumstances in life where the tests will be so difficult to face that our spirits, and even our faith, could be crushed. It’s actually an acceptance of God’s leading us wherever God needs us and chooses us to go, but with the caveat that God protect us and spare us from that which could cause us to lose our faith. Another way to think of it is that it is a prayer that God would give us the strength sufficient to meet whatever we might have to go through in this life, such that we will not be tempted to lose heart or faith.
The best example of this kind of request is Jesus’ own request of God on the Mount of Olives, when he prayed, “Father, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” As with Jesus’ prayer, that petition in our Lord’s prayer is for us as we faithfully put ourselves into God’s leading hand for our life’s journey. In it we are saying, “Wherever you may lead me Lord, let me not be tested beyond what I am able to endure, but whatever may come, I will go wherever you lead.”
This is the “temptation” that Jesus is telling us to ask God’s grace to “lead us not into.” The difference in meaning is such that several Bible versions translate this word as “testing” or even the phrase, “a time of testing.”
A great Scripture verse that I have always found helpful in moments of temptation and even in “times of testing” is from Paul’s words in I Corinthians 10:13:
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
Temptation and testing are facts of life. They happen. The good news is, God is faithful! Whatever may come, God’s grace will keep us from surrender.