Lead Us Not into Temptation

In the Our Father, we pray, “And lead us not into temptation.” This sounds a little odd, because why would God lead us into temptation?



Upon first hearing, this petition of the Our Father does sound like we are asking God not to lead us into temptation. (The Our Father is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.) In this sense, the petition sounds like God would purposely place us in temptation and set us up for a fall to sin. The literal translation of the Greek text is indeed, as we recite, “and lead us not into temptation.”

Consequently, we must understand this petition in its context. The preceding petition asks our heavenly Father to forgive us our sins as we forgive others — a very positive petition imploring an outpouring of God's healing grace. The petition in question must also be viewed positively: it asks the Father not to lead us into temptation, but not in the sense of God putting us into temptation.

St. James reminds us, “No one who is tempted is free to say, 'I am being tempted by God.' Surely God, who is beyond the grasp of evil, tempts no one” (Jas 1:13). Our Lord would never set us up for a fall to sin.

Rather, as the Catechism indicates, the petition means more “do not allow us to enter into temptation” or “do not let us yield to temptation” (No. 2846). Jean Carmignac, the great Qumran scholar, after a very thorough study, suggested that the petition is best rendered, “Father … see that we do not enter into temptation” or “that we do not give in to temptation.” Therefore, we understand the petition in the sense of God giving us the grace to recognize and resist temptation. We must realize that our human efforts are not sufficient to face all the temptations surrounding our daily lives. We need divine assistance to lead a holy life.

Moreover, the petition invokes a grace to persevere along the path of holiness. St. Paul admitted the constant need for God's grace. He wrote, “…Let anyone who thinks he is standing upright watch out lest he fall! No test has been sent you that does not come to all men. Besides, God keeps His promise. He will not let you be tested beyond your strength. Along with the test, He will give you a way out of it so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:12-13).

Reflecting on his own faith journey at the end of his life, St. Paul wrote in his second Letter to St. Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7). St. Paul realized the test of this life, but also the grace of God which allowed him to meet it head on and persevere.

Similarly, St. John of Avila (d. 1569) in a sermon delivered on the first Sunday of Lent reminded the faithful:

God is strong enough to free you from everything and can do you more good than all the devils can do you harm. All that God decrees is that you confide in Him, that you draw near Him, that you trust Him and distrust yourself, and so be helped; and with this help you will defeat whatever hell brings against you. Never lose hold of this firm hope…even if the demons are legion and all kinds of severe temptations harass you. Lean upon Him, because if the Lord is not your support and your strength, then you will fall.

Highlighting this understanding of this petition, the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent in its exposition of the Our Father stated:

We do not ask to be totally exempt from temptation, for human life is one continuous temptation (cf. Jb 7:1). What, then, do we pray for in this petition? We pray that the divine assistance may not forsake us, lest having been deceived, or worse, we should yield to temptation; and that the grace of God may be at hand to succor us when our strength fails, to refresh and invigorate us in our trials.

The idea of persevering also moves us to ponder the final time. Some Scripture scholars suggest that this petition does not necessarily refer to our daily temptations to sin, but perhaps the great eschatological test when we may be tempted away from the Lord. Here we would face the one great future trial with a terrible onslaught by the devil (cf. 2 Thes 2:1-8).

Matthew's version of the Our Father adds “but deliver us from evil” — evil not being some amorphous force but a personified evil, the devil. The devil is the tempter, the Satan, who tries to obstruct the Lord's plan of salvation and tempt us from the path of holiness. Recall that at the Last Supper, Jesus prayed to His Father, “I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the evil one.” However, we need not live in fear for, by the grace of God, we will persevere.

Therefore, as we continue our Lenten preparation, we must undergo a thorough self-examination, recognize our temptations and weaknesses, and repent of sin and receive sacramental absolution. We must implore the Lord to pour forth His grace to give us a firm resolution of heart to follow Him, to keep us vigilant against temptation and evil, and to persevere until the end.

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders's work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

Fr. William Saunders

By

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders's work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).

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  • Guest

    Lead, and I will follow. Lead me not, and I will follow you there as well. When we are lead into this temptaion, we take with us the might of Christ if we so desire. Grant me the grace to ward off the temptation to sin.

     

    Jesus, you are the most perfect Guide; lead, and I will follow, by the grace of God.  

     

    In Christ,

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    But, David -

    - do we have necessity of begging God to not be the very One Who leads us into temptations?
    And, as He is the steadfastly loving God we adore –
    - just WHY would He lead us into temptation,
    that we now need to beg Him to cease and desist from doing so?

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In the Suffering of Christ, and in His hope of His Resurrection,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    Pristinus:

    I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about the line “lead us not into temptation.” On the one hand God does not “lead” (I don’t think He does anyway) us but “allows” us to face temptation. On the other hand I’ve not liked most of the alternatives I’ve heard either, for essentially the same reasons you outline (since I’m using both hands, perhaps that makes me “ambidextrous” instead of “ambivalent.”)

    I always liked “put us not to the test” or some variation of that. This is “fatherly” as I test my kids all of the time. They may ask me not to and I may decide that they aren’t ready for something yet, but I’ll still reserve the right to give them “trials” to help them grow.

    In Christ,

    Michael

    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”

    “The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” – GK Chesterton

  • Guest

    if we are to be like Him, we must face temptation and through His grace, be delivered, by choice, from said temptation…..

    "Lead us not…" says to me that I do not trust myself to face temptation so MY choice would be to skip it altogether….

     but now we are back to BEING LIKE HIM…..how are we to be like Him if we never face temptation?….

     so we beg, still knowing, that we MUST face temptation and thus "deliver us from evil" as we know only He can……

     

    is this circular?  I'm not sure I make any sense in this but it sorta makes sense in my little pea brain………

     

    Happy Thanksgiving, Warren.

     

    Jesus, I trust in You! 

  • Guest

    Warren,

    Everything in the fullness of the Word is the best way I can describe my understanding.

    Good teacher, tell us how we are to pray. Do not go out in public, but in the privacy of your room speak unto God, and this is what you shall say.

    These words alone were unheard of, that we might beckon unto God and call Him, Father.

    The first request leads to a second, but deliver us from [every] evil. So, to understand "lead us not", may be to say, spare us the trials and tribulations of this world, but do not, in your mercy, forget to deliver us from this evil that we have brought upon ourselves. Everything happens for a reason whether we understand it or not. God places people, places and events in our life for our benefit although we do not always see this clearly. Jesus instructs us to ask the Father not to lead us where we may fail in our resolve, but if we do, deliver us from the evil we have brought upon by our weakness.

    In the hail to our Queen, similar words are invoked. …to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us…that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!

  • Guest

    The Latin Pater Noster uses the word inducas which we translate as “lead.” But inducas can also mean “bring” or “introduce.” If the Biblical text is inspired, as we believe it to be, then we can’t really change the word inducas to mean “abandon” or any of the above attempted re-phrasings of the text. “Lead” in the sense of “introduce” then may yield the proper sense of the phrase.

    We pray that God not introduce us to temptation but that, should He, He give us the grace to persevere (deliver us from evil).

    Interestingly, the NAB’s version of Matthew 6 on the USCCB’s site uses the phrasing “do not subject us to the final test” in place of “lead us not into temptation”, and “evil one” in place of “evil.” As the official English text of the Bible, is this translation preserved from error?

    In Christ,

    Michael

    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”

    “The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” – GK Chesterton

  • Guest

    "And lead us not into temptation" we have just prayed to our Father and King who's name is Holy, that under His Kingship that His will be done, by us as loving children here on earth, perfectly as in Heaven "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:48) and to give us both our physical and spiritual 'Bread' and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. These lines show our proper dependence in all things as children of a loving Father but yet only as we cooperate, with free will in our Fathers plan.

    Then we say, 'and lead us not into temptation'. Was not the first temptation to supplant God's plan with our own that we might 'become like God'?(Gen 3) The tempter accused God of lying saying eat of the forbidden fruit 'you shall not die', but now the fruit we are commanded to eat, our Bread of life "is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."(Jn 6:33)

    As the Our Father is a prayer with the proper subject throughout being God so might not the verse be read 'and (God will) lead us not into temptation' in repudiation of the lie of the evil one? And further might we read it as, 'but (God will) deliver us from evil' to enforce that Adam should have trusted in God and we should be as trusting as chidren. Of course it requires that we remain in a state of grace, no removal of personal responsibility here. The prayer is that of the 'those who do the will of the father' the brothers, sisters and mothers (Mt 12:50) of the new Adam(1Cor14:45), the new people of God (Rev 21).

    And more to the point of the post. I think certain verses are challenging for a purpose. It seems that the some have the idea that the translations purpose is to make it (falsley) "accessible". Jesus spoke in parables requiring the openess of children to believe and trust in his words in ligh of the teaching of those who he would send. Scripture requires prayer and reflection in light of the teaching of his Church, if the phrases are reduced only to the best rendition in english might that lead many to perhaps a simple, monotonic understanding?

    Thanks Warren your post led me to the above reflection.

    Dado

    AMDG

  • Guest

    Dado:

    I like what you’ve written and think it a pious supposition. I believe, like you, that God is Him to Whom the prayer is addressed but I don’t think that the imposition of the simple future tense (will) in conjunction with God is how the sentence is to be read. The prayer seems to express a sense of supplication rather than confidence. If we place God as an (understood) part of the sentences in the prayer we get something like:

    (God) give us this day our daily bread, and (God) forgive us our trespasses….And (God) lead us not into temptation but (God) deliver us from evil.

    I honestly would like to think it reads:

    (God will) give us this day our daily bread, and (God will) forgive us our trespasses….And (God will) lead us not into temptation but (God will) deliver us from evil.

    I just don’t see any evidence of that in the various translations in the English or in the Vulgate, which would have used inducero (I think) to express “God will.”

    All that aside, I am going to look at the prayer differently, now, and try to use it to increase my confidence that His Will is best for my life; that “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” Something of which I seem to require constant reminding.

    Thanks, Dado.

    In Christ,
    Michael

    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”

    “The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” – GK Chesterton

  • Guest

    wljewell, The Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith is assigned the duty to maintain the integrity of all things Catholic. I am certain that you may rest assured the "Our Father" or "Patre Noster" will never change it genuflection for the entirety of the church on earth. A parish in my home state tried to change the Trinitarian Salutation to "In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifyer" then had to re-baptise all the children that were improperly baptized.

    Insofar as my take on the phrase, "lead us not into temptation", I am convinced that God the Father knows full well what is the intention of the prayer. I am satisfied that Our Lord Jesus Christ is Master of all prayers and so would not teach us a worthless prayer.In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen

  • Guest

    How about,

    this prayer:

    Our Father who is in Heaven, May Your name be held Holy,  May Your Kingdom come to earth as it is in Heaven, May Your Will be done in earth as it is in Heaven, Give to us today our Daily Bread, and Forgive us of our debts as we forgive those who are in debt to us, Lead us not to the Test, but save us from evil. Amen.

    I read somewhere that this prayer is for all, a universal prayer.  For instance, the phrase "Give to us Today our Daily Bread" refers to Gods Bounty to feed His children on earth.  Since all humans have souls and the soul is created in Heaven while the embryo is forming in the womb, we are all Gods children regardless if we have accepted the Redemption package.  When anyone recites this prayer to the Father, they pray for all of Gods children throughout the entire earth.

    Also, to be able to say this prayer is a gift from God.  It's the first prayer taught to the first Christians by Christ who prayed it first.

    Peace 

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    What a delightful set of comments. We have the sense, really, that God knows that we must be tested because we will encounter tests without His more forceful (gracious) cooperation.

    He would test us not simply to underline our faith, but to give it backbone for every test. As ‘yoke and burden’, we find that God will test even with temptations, that temptations become something ‘less burdensome’ toward sin.

    And, on a journey, and all of you and any who take a look here – a most blessed Thanksgiving – a secular reminder of our beginning, soon, a new Church year that I would pray be abundant with gifts for your next Thanksgiving.

    Put Christ in your Advent, and He will be ‘born’ – a first-gift! – into your Christmas.

    All hail our loving God, Who gives us His Son, and even mighty tests to show off His prodigies – US. Let us never let Him down, siblings in and of Christ.

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In the Suffering of Christ, and in His hope of His Resurrection,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

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