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"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

I once read a translation of this passage from The Lord's Prayer, which went something like, "Deliver us from the hour of trial", and another one that said, "Do not put us to the test."  I have tried for years to pray it that way; but I have always felt that there was something wrong with such a prayer, and I would find myself saying it kind of half-heartedly.  My flesh, of course, wanted to believe that was the right way to pray.  I would naturally like to escape any of the difficult tests which cause so many others to fall by the wayside spiritually.  And I cannot help but observe that I HAVE been sheltered from many of the discomforts of the world.  So I somewhat ashamedly prayed that I would be allowed continued exemption from the trials and tests of life.

But is that what God really wants us to be praying for?  for an easy life?  for escape from any of the difficult times which may challenge our faith?

There is so much in scripture (and in human experience) which seems to contradict this approach:  "All that will live godly lives in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."  (2 Timothy 3:12) "Do not think it is strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you."  (1 Peter 4:12) "Count it all joy when you fall into different temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith teaches patience."  (James 1:2-3)

But, of course, if you go back to the word "temptation" as used in the original King James, it doesn't sound quite right either:  "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."  Like would God really lead us into temptation if we did not say the prayer?  James the Apostle said, "Let no one say when they are tempted that it has come from God, because God does not tempt anyone.  We are tempted when we are led astray by our own lusts."  (James 1:13-14)

Perhaps the problem is not so much with the word "temptation" as with the word "lead" or more specifically, with where we are asking God to lead (or not to lead) us.  If we were to pray for God to lead us away from temptations, then we would be putting our will in line with the will of One who will not tempt anyone to do what is wrong.  There seems to be nothing theologically wrong with that kind of a prayer.

It does not seem to be a distortion of the original meaning ("Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.) to pray, "Lead us away from temptation," for, by so doing, he will automatically "deliver us from evil".  Obviously, by praying in this way (i.e. "Lead us away from temptation", we make it clear that our will is in conformity with his will (which is that we should not give in to temptation or to do evil.)  So much of prayer is like this, i.e. getting it clear that we really do want what God wants for us.

All of this is consistent with both the original passage and with the rest of scripture (which teaches that trials of various sorts are inescapable and even quite good for us spiritually, and which, at the same time, teaches that God would never "lead" us into temptation, as in encourage us to give in to temptation).

Maybe I have missed something in the original Greek, but it strikes me that it was some wishful thinking on the part of a few translators that caused people to translate The Lord's Prayer in such a way as to give the impression that God is encouraging us to pray for a soft life, and escape from all trials and tribulations...  kind of an extension of the pre-tribulation rapture teaching, and a convenient backdrop for the health and wealth teaching.

I'm sorry if this interpretation of that part of The Lord's Prayer (i.e. "Lead us away from temptation," with the understanding that we will be tempted and that we must walk away from it) is not as consoling as the more widely accepted interpretation ("Don't let us be tempted in the first place.").  But if it is correct, I should think that it will cause us to grow more spiritually, and to have a greater confidence that we really are praying as Jesus instructed us to pray... in which case, we have a much greater chance of actually being delivered from evil... including the evil of a convenient doctrine which panders to our wish for an easy life.

In the last few days I have been finding it much more spiritually satisfying to be praying The Lord's Prayer along the line of asking God to help me find the way to walk away from temptation when it occurs.  I do thank God that my life has been as comfortable as it has; but I have no pretensions now about him not having the right to test me with a few trials and tribulations along the way.  I just pray that I will be strong when those times come, and that I will resist the temptation to give in, and thus escape (or find deliverance) from evil.

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