What does the “phrase lead us not into temptation” mean?

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Jesus taught His followers to pray: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). This part of the Lord’s Prayer is puzzling to some who wonder: does God tempt people?

The word tempt means to test. Being the Creator, God certainly can test His children or “prove” (John 6:6), “assayed” (Acts 16:7), “examine” (2 Cor. 13:5), and “try” them (Heb. 11:17; Rev. 2:2, 10; 3:10). God knows what is in the hearts of men but He tests His children so they can realize their weaknesses and mend their ways by His help.

The Scriptures give us examples that God “tests,” or “proves” His people. This is seen in the experience of Abraham: “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” (Gen. 22:1). And it is also seen in the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness “And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin” (Ex. 20:20).

But God never tempts His children into sin “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13). Therefore, the pain, trials, and problems that the believer encounters sometimes should never be understood as allowed by God for the purpose of alluring him to sin.

God’s aim is like the purifier, who places his metal into the fire with the hope that a purer metal will be the result and not with the purpose of destroying it. So, while God allows people to face trials, He never intents that any one should fall.

The Bible assures the believers that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corin. 10:13).

This doesn’t mean that God will take away all temptation from His children. God’s promise is not that we shall be saved from temptation, but that we shall be saved from falling into it (John 17:15). But those that place themselves in the way of temptation (Prov. 7:9), they can’t claim God’s promise of protection.

Although pain is caused by Satan, who tempts with the purpose of bringing about failure and destruction (Matt. 4:1), God overrules his work for merciful purposes “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Therefore, Matthew 6:13 should be understood as a petition that says, “Do not allow us to enter into temptation.” David the prophet prayed this same prayer saying, “Do not incline my heart to any evil thing” (Ps. 141:4).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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