“Lead us not into temptation”
The Greek text refers to trials – not judicial proceedings, but those things we refer to as “trials and tribulations.”
It is appropriate to ask God to keep us from such trials. I pray for myself and my car every time I set out on the road to my father’s house. I don’t want the challenge of my car breaking down on the road or being involve in an accident. In the same way I pray in a thunderstorm. I don’t want to cope with a flooded basement or tree falling against my house. I don’t want to flee a wildfire. I don’t want the sorrow of a child in trouble. I don’t want even to deal with the uncertainties of getting stopped by the police.
Of course, Jesus isn’t talking about such trials. But neither is he talking about being tempted by a cookie to break your Lenten fast, or tempted to lose your temper, or tempted by the possibility of an affair. He is talking about the trials that come when this world in rebellion presses us to turn from our allegiance to the reign of God. It is when I am pressured to choose what is easy over what is just. When I am ‘tempted’ to close my hand and heart to those in need. When I am held back by fear from coming to the aid of the victimized. When I am swept away by the crowd to cry out for blood.
So back to that cookie – if I am being shamed by coworkers for observing a Lenten practice and, because of that, eat a cookie and laugh it off – then it is a temptation. In the moment when allegiance was called for, I crumbled.
This prayer is about those moments when allegiance is called for, when truth is called for, when kindness is called for, when evil must be named as evil. We are asking God not to let us find ourselves in a situation where we might say “I do not know him” and have to hear the cock crow. That is to say, we are praying that we may be so rooted in God’s word and God’s Spirit that such a challenge may prove to be no challenge at all.
The Prayer for Week 5: “Lead us not into temptation”
To you, O God, all voices rise,
and you hear the cries of the whole human community.
Send forth your Spirit into every heart
to keep us from all hardness of heart. Amen
The Sixth Petition: “And lead us not into temptation.”
What does this mean?
God tempts no one to sin, but we ask in this prayer that God would watch over us and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful self may not deceive us and draw us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins. And we prayer that even though we are so tempted, we may still win the final victory.