“Lead us not into temptation” The Lord’s Prayer, line 9
In the traditional version of The Lord’s Prayer, line 9 of the traditional setting reads, “Lead us not into temptation…” What exactly does that mean?
The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer the Lord Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Our traditional Lord’s Prayer is based on the Matthew 6:9-13 scripture which reads in the NIV Bible,
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’”
The more familiar wording we find in the BCP is a combination of the Elizabethan period and dates to Tyndale's New Testament translation of 1526. The doxology at the end also dates to that period as an ‘add-on,’ most likely based on King David’s exultation of God in 1st Chronicles (29:4-19), which says, “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory and the victory and the majesty ... thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.” This added ending was most likely a prayer practice and liturgical use decision which is in common use all over the world. With regards to our question for the day, line 9 of the modern translation of The Lord’s Prayer found in the BCP reads, “save us from the time of trial” and this translation will help us understand Jesus’ intention in teaching.
First, we know that God does not tempt us or lead us to sin: James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” On the contrary; in 1 Peter we are told that God’s plan is that we be holy and righteous in God’s self,
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (13-16)
Here, Peter is referencing several passages from scripture found in the Book of Leviticus:
19:2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
20:7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.
20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
21:8 You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.
In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13), Jesus teaches the disciples to ask God to lead them away from the pitfalls and difficulties that they will stumble into. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (verse 13) teaches us that avoiding temptation should be one of the primary concerns of the Christian life.
We pray to not be led into temptation because we cannot overcome temptation on our own—we know this. Left to our own devices, we will find ourselves in the place of temptation. So, Jesus tells us that to avoid this trial we need to pray before we get there. Basically, we are saying, “Father, left alone I will lead myself to a bad place—don’t let me do this! YOU take charge and lead me away instead and protect me from the evil one who entices me in my travels.”
Praying for God to “lead us not into temptation” means God can guide our steps in such a way that we avoid the people and places that can tempt us. We ask our Father to take providential charge of us to keep us out of situations where the evil one can tempt us.
Peace in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†