The Lord’s Prayer – Lead Us Not into Temptation

This evening we are gathering to read through the last two petitions of the Lord’s Prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” 

The first clause of the final petition appears to state that it is God who leads us into temptation (as if God himself were the snake in the Garden).  James tells us that “God tempts no one” (James 1:13) but what of Abraham (Genesis 22) and Job (Job 1-2)? Bailey has a good discussion on this issue.  Below is florilegium (collection of excerpts) concerning this issue from writers ancient and modern. If you have time, please take a look.

In the final clause, we pray “but deliver us from evil.”  In the Greek, the word “evil” is an adjective with an implied subject, and therefore most modern translations use the term “evil one.”  It is in this clause that Jesus speaks most directly about the atonement for he is the one that delivers us from the evil one.  For the first thousand years of Christian thought, we were not seen as sinners in the hands of an angry god that must be satisfied by a penal sacrifice; rather we were seen as being held captive to the Enemy and under the power of Death. The Cross and the Resurrection were a ransom paid to Satan to deliver us from our captivity to sin and a victory of Jesus over Death.  We see this typology first set forth in the story of the Exodus whereby the firstborn are sacrificed to achieve deliverance from captivity and give the Lord victory over Egypt. If you are familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis uses this same ransom/victor understanding. In the book, the traitorous child Edmond belongs to the White Witch (Satan) because of his treachery, but Aslan (Jesus) gives himself over to the White Witch to secure Edmond’s deliverance.  Therefore think about how this concluding clause of the Lord’s Prayer speaks to the conclusion of our salvation which is Freedom and Life.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is ham and collard pot pie. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here. (You don’t need to have read anything to join us.) 

Prayers: Please keep Ed Farmer in your prayers. His mother, Mary Merritt Farmer, passed Friday afternoon.  

Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
   from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.
For you are my hope, O Lord God, 
   my confidence since I was young. 

Psalm 71:4-5

Tertullian (d.240), On Prayer: To complete the prayer he added “Do not lead us into temptation,” that is, do not allow us so to be led by the one that tempts. This is laid down so that we should not only request the forgiveness of wrongdoing but that we should avoid it entirely. Far be it that the Lord should seem to tempt, as though he were either ignorant of the faith or each of us, or sough to dethrone it, for weakness and malice are of the devil.

St. John Cassian (d.435), On the Lord’s Prayer: Next there follows: ‘And subject us not to the trial. In this regard there arises a question of no small importance. For if we pray not to be allowed to be tried, how will the strength of our steadfastness be tested, according to the words: ‘Whoever has not been tried has not been proven?’ And again: ‘Blessed is the man who undergoes trial?’ Therefore, the words ‘Subject us not to the trial’ do not mean: Do not allow us ever to be tried, but rather: Do not allow us to be overcome when we are tried. For Job was tried, but he was not subjected to the trial. For he did not ascribe folly to God, nor did he as a blasphemer, with wicked tongue, accede to the will of the one trying him, to which he was being drawn. Abraham was tried and Joseph was tried, but neither of them was subjected to the trial, for neither of them consented to the one trying them.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Explanation of the Lord’s Prayer (c.1270): But does God lead one to evil, that he should pray: “Lead us not into temptation”? I reply that God is said to lead a person into evil by permitting him to the extent that, because of his many sins, He withdraws His grace from man, and as a result of this withdrawal man does fall into sin. Therefore, we sing in the Psalm: “When my strength shall fail, do not Thou forsake me.” (Ps. 70:9) God, however, directs man by the fervor of charity that he be not led into temptation. For charity even in its smallest degree is able to resist any kind of sin: “Many waters cannot quench charity.” (Songs 8:7) He also guides man by the light of his intellect in which he teaches him what he should do. For as the Philosopher says: “Everyone who sins is ignorant.” (Nicomachean Ethics 3.1) “I will give thee understanding and I will instruct thee.”(Ps. 31:8) It was for this last that David prayed, saying: “Enlighten my eyes that I never sleep in death; lest at any time my enemy say: I have prevailed against him.” (Ps. 12:4) We have this through the gift of understanding. Therefore, when we refuse to consent to temptation, we keep our hearts pure: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.”(Matt 5:8) And it follows from this petition that we are led up to the sight of God, and to it may God lead us all!

Martin Luther, The Small Catechism (1529): God, indeed tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and gain the victory.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bk 3, Ch. 20, § 46) (1536): Here, however, we do not ask to be altogether exempted from temptation, which is very necessary to excite, stimulate, and urge us on, that we may not become too lethargic. It is not without cause that the Lord daily tries his elect, chastising them by disgrace, poverty, tribulation, and other benefits of the cross. But the temptations of God and Satan are very different: Satan tempts, that he may destroy, condemn, confound, throw headlong; God, that by proving his people he may make trial of their sincerity, and by exercising their strength confirm it; and may mortify, tame and cauterize their flesh. Besides Satan attacks them unawares; whereas whatever God sends, he will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13).

John Wesley, Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount: Discourse 6 (Sermon #26) (c.1771): Then it is, when he is thus drawn away and enticed, as a fish caught with bait, that he properly enters into temptation. Then temptation covers him as a cloud. It overspreads his whole soul. Then how hardly shall he escape out of the snare! Therefore, we beseech God “not to lead us into temptation,” that is, (seeing God tempts no man (1 James 1:12)) not to suffer us to be led into it but to deliver us from this evil.

Catechism of St. Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow, The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church (1823):

On the Sixth Petition.

428. What is meant in the Lord’s Prayer by temptation? Any conjuncture of circumstances in which there is imminent danger of losing the faith, or falling into great sin.

429. Whence come such temptations? From our flesh, from the world, or other people, and from the devil.

430. What do we ask in these words of the prayer, Lead us not into temptation? First, that God suffers us not to be led into temptation; secondly, that if it be needful for us to be tried and purified through temptation, he gives us not up wholly to temptation, nor suffer us to fall. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (excerpt attached), (2007): When we pray it, we are saying to God: “I know that I need trials so that my nature can be purified. When you decide to send me these trials, when you give evil some room to maneuver, as you did with Job, then please remember that my strength goes only so far. Don’t overestimate my capacity. Don’t set too wide the boundaries within which I may be tempted, and be close to me with your protecting hand when it becomes too much for me.” It was in this sense that Saint Cyprian interpreted the sixth petition. He says that when we pray, “And lead us not into temptation,” we are expressing our awareness “that the enemy can do nothing against us unless God has allowed it beforehand, so that our fear, our devotion, and our worship may be directed to God— because the evil one is not permitted to do anything unless he is given authorization.”

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