Pope Francis recently approved changes to the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, specifically the petition regarding temptation. The traditional rendering is as follows: “lead us not into temptation.” Pope Francis’ update: “do not let us fall into temptation.” The reported rationale for this change was more theological than textual, meaning that the modification of the phrasing was not based on the witnesses of the most reliable Greek New Testament texts (as far as I can tell). Pope Francis told the Italian media in 2017 that the traditional translation is not good “because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.” Francis continued, “I am the one who falls. It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.” True, brother Francis, we are the ones who fall through our bad choices. However, you and I have a very different interpretation of “lead us not into temptation.”
In my opinion, “lead us not into temptation” does not imply that God actively induces temptations of various sorts, as if God were testing us. It’s fallacious to articulate that the negative form of the prayer (do not) automatically means that God does the opposite of leading us into temptation. For example, when a parent says to a child “please do not touch the hot stove” it does not indicate that the child has touched, or is touching, the stove. Rather, it is both a request and warning that the child not touch the hot stove in the future. The same reasoning applies to the interpretation of the prayer. It’s a request that God not lead us into temptation in the future. It cannot indicate that he has or is currently leading us to be tempted.
Furthermore, the first half of the petition cannot be read and understood apart from the second half which reads, “but deliver us from evil.” The accent is on God’s active work of deliverance. Therefore, the prayer is really a request for God to continue what God has already been doing, and that is saving us from evil and the evil one. In Christ, we know for certain that God has answered our prayer. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection constitute our deliverance and eternal salvation. Thanks be to God.
(Rev. Will Wilson is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore. Contact him at email@example.com)