Are you ever puzzled, perhaps even bothered to ask Father, “Lead us not into temptation”? After all, isn’t that something God has promised to never do; tempt us? We are heartened and encouraged to know that God “leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). So why do we pray that He lead us not into temptation?
We are helped here by knowing that the Greek word peirasmos, translated “temptation”, has a double meaning of “temptation” and “trial”. Peirasmos is a neutral word used in Scripture for both divine testing (Luke 22:28; Acts 20:19; 1 Peter 1:6), as well as temptation to evil (Luke 4:13; 22:40; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Timothy 6:9). For example, the letter of James uses peirasmos for the trials that God allows for our spiritual growth: “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials (peirasmos) of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). Then, just a few verses later, James uses the verb form of peirasmos for temptation to evil: “No one, when tempted (peirazomai) should say, ‘I am being tempted (peirazomai) by God’; for God cannot be tempted (peirazomai) by evil and he himself tempts (peirazomai) no one” (James 1:13-14). James uses the one Greek word with two different meanings, knowing that his readers will understand the difference.
A single mother who loses her job and agonizes over how to provide for her children experiences peirasmos. It can be a trial that God uses for her growth, or it can be used by Satan as temptation to fear, bitterness, and turning from God. The peirasmos that God intends for our good can be hijacked by Satan to destroy. A ‘peirasmos trial’ turns to ‘peirasmos temptation’ when we do not respond in faith. Thankfully, our Father promises that “No testing (peirasmos) has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tested (peirazomai) beyond your strength, but with the testing (peirasmos) he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). It is striking that Jesus teaches this prayer shortly after His own time of being “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (peirazomai) by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). The Holy Spirit did the leading, but the Devil did the tempting.
Scripture teaches that life’s trials are necessary for our growth and are to be expected as a normal part of life this side of heaven. We dare not ask God to spare us the trials of Abraham, David, Mary or Peter, but we do ask that our trials not become temptations to sin. Humbly aware of our weakness, we ask Father to keep us from sin today. Watch over us and guard us!
PRAY THE LORD’S PRAYER (MORNING-NOON-NIGHT)