Why does Jesus teach us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”?

W. Robert Godfrey & 2 others
2 Min Read

GODFREY: I am struck by the fact that in Matthew’s gospel, the Lord’s Prayer follows rather quickly after chapter 4, where we read that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the evil one.

I remember when I was converted as a high school student and first found myself worshiping amongst the Dutch Reformed, we always prayed the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” We can debate the translation, and it can go either way, but I think our Lord is reminding us that He withstood temptation for us and overcame the evil one. We pray that He will continue to preserve us so we don’t face temptation as He faced it and that we would be delivered from the evil one to live for Christ. I think that’s at least part of what’s going on in the Lord’s Prayer.

REEDER: I love the translation, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” I actually think it’s a better translation because that’s exactly where this is aiming: we are reminded of Christ having endured temptation for us, and therefore, we are delivered through His faithfulness in all of life under the assault of the evil one.

On the other hand, the notion of testing itself is not evil. On the contrary, God uses testing. Further, God can sovereignly take that which the world, the flesh, and the devil would use to ensnare us, and the Lord can use it instead to disciple us and develop us. But we are to flee temptation. I’ll make two comments.

First, Christians make a big mistake in this area by saying that we resist temptation and flee Satan. I think the Bible would have us do the opposite. The Bible does not want us to flee Satan; the Bible wants us to resist Satan, and he will flee from us. But that which is designed to ensnare us into sin, we are to flee that temptation and pursue the environment of holiness and the means of grace that build us up.

Second, having said that, when God brings tests, they are not designed to ensnare us. Rather, they are designed to edify us. A test from the divine hand does three things. It’s kind of like my algebra teacher in the eighth grade. I was convinced she gave me tests to flunk me. I have always told people: “You never have to worry about prayer in school. As long as you’ve got algebra tests, you’ll have prayer in school, I can promise you.” But a test in the hand of the Almighty is there to show us what we know, to show us what we don’t know, and to show us what we need to know. That is from the hand of the Lord. But we flee that which is designed by the world, the flesh, and the devil to bring us down.

PARSONS: I think it is confusing for everyone when we hear that translation. Part of the issue with the way it’s translated into English and the way we understand that portion of the Lord’s Prayer is that it’s a bit of a Hebraism. It’s a way of speaking. It’s a manner of getting a point across to say: “When we are tempted, Lord, lead us away from it. Get us out of it. Help us to flee it.” I know that sounds like the opposite of what it is saying, but that is the way the Hebrews thought and spoke. We see Hebraisms throughout the Gospels, and I think that’s what it’s getting at.

This is a transcript of W. Robert Godfrey’s, Harry Reeder’s, and Burk Parsons’ answers given during our 2023 National Conference, and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.