Don’t Let Us Yield to Temptation
[A]nd forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.
The last request in Jesus’ model prayer in Luke 11 reads in the New Living Translation: “And don’t let us yield to temptation” (11:4). This translation solves a tricky problem presented by the original language of the verse. Rendering the Greek more literally, we get, “And do not lead us into temptation/testing.”
Of course the traditional language of the Lord’s Prayer (drawn from Matthew 6:13) makes “Lead us not into temptation” sound right. But many Bible scholars have pointed out that this seems to imply that God might tempt us. In Scripture, God doesn’t tempt. Satan does. Thus we read in James 1:13: “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, ‘God is tempting me.’ God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.” So, what sense does it make to ask God not to lead us into temptation?
A potential solution to this problem comes from the meaning of the word translated as temptation. In Greek, peirasmos can mean both “temptation (to sin)” and “testing” or “trial.” God does sometimes test his people (for example, Exodus 16:4). God puts us in challenging situations in order that we might be strengthened and focused more singly upon him. So, if we are to pray “Don’t lead us into testing,” this does not put God in the position of the tempter. Yet, if testing is from God, then what sense does it make to ask God not to test us?
I cannot solve this exegetical problem here. But I can point out one salient truth that is embedded in the simple request, “Do not lead us into temptation/testing.” No matter how you translate the word peirasmos, this request assumes that you and I cannot live rightly on our own. We cannot will ourselves into righteousness. We cannot withstand temptation or endure testing through our own strength. In fact, we need God. We need God’s help, strength, and guidance. We need God’s mercy and grace. We need God’s presence through the Spirit if we are to live in a way that honors him and that bears fruit for his kingdom.
Thus, when I pray, “Don’t let us yield to temptation” or, more literally, “Don’t lead us into temptation,” what I’m saying is, “I need you, God! Help me! I can’t do it alone. I need your help throughout the day if I’m going to live rightly and avoid sin. So keep me away from temptation, Lord, and help me not to yield to it. And don’t let me be tested beyond my ability, with your help, to withstand. In all things, I need you, God!”
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you understand that request “Lead us not into peirasmos”? Have there been times in your life when you have been aware of God’s keeping you from temptation that you couldn’t handle? How does God help you to avoid sin?
I need thee ev’ry hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like thine, can peace afford.
I need thee, O I need thee; ev’ry hour I need thee!
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.
I need thee ev’ry hour, stay thou near by;
Temptations lose their pow’r, when thou art nigh.
I need thee ev’ry hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.
I need thee ev’ry hour, Most Holy One;
O make me thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.
“I Need Thee Every Hour” by Annie S. Hawks (public domain).