And lead us not into temptation

For the past month and a half, I have been mauling over this line of the Lord’s Prayer: and lead us not into temptation. How can God lead us into temptation? We know the bible says

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. James 1:13 NIV

If God cannot tempt us then why do we need to pray that He does not lead us into temptation? The Greek translation of this verse offers some answers (as found in both Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers and Benson Commentary). The word used in the scripture is πειρασμος which includes the two words which are represented in English by “trials,” i.e., sufferings which test or try, and “temptations,” allurements on the side of pleasure which tend to lead us into evil.  This scripture does not refer to temptation (when lust meets opportunity) but rather leans more heavily on trials (the kind that is too difficult for our weakness to endure).

These trials cloaked as persecution, spiritual conflicts,  or the agony of the body or the spirit, may come to us as a test or as a discipline (Ellicott’s). Those who are conscious of their weaknesses are aware of the fact that they might fail in the  face of conflict, and therefore the cry of that conscious weakness is, “Lead us not into such trials,” even as our Lord prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass away from me” (Matthew 26:39).

Remember in just a few passages before in Matthew 4, Jesus had been led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (tried). The temptations/ trials that Jesus faced were directed at those things that easily produce weaknesses in us: physical and emotional cravings, material possessions, and the desire for recognition and power. With the memory those trials in mind and because of his great love for his disciples and by extension for us, Jesus taught us to pray that we are spared those kinds of trials and temptations.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 NIV

The answer to the prayer, and lead us not into temptation comes in three forms:  as an actual exemption from the trials, or in “a way to escape” (1Corinthians 10:13), or in strength to bear it.  God does not abandon us to our fate. He is our ever-present Shepherd who seeks our best interest in every situation. Even in the trials, there is a master plan.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,  whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1: 2-4 NIV

So trust in His plan for your life fully. Listen for His leading attentively. Watch for His ever-present hands that are reaching out for you to save you from those trials, to guide you through them,  or to comfort you as you endure them.  Remember the premise of this prayer: He is our Heavenly Father!

Yours truly.