Trials and Temptations

They have changed the Lord’s Prayer! Many Christians can say the Lord’s Prayer from memory. But every now and then it is changed. The most recent change is in the line “... lead us not into temptation.”

But changes in the prayer go back 2000 years. Compare Matthew 6.9-13 with Luke 11.2-4.

Some changes were made in the modern translations. For example the ending “For thine is the kingdom ..” is omitted in some modern translations and placed in square brackets by others. Only the NKJV retains it in the text. The reason is that the King James version was based on a set of manuscripts that contained later additions to the text (such as this one) which are not found in older and more reliable manuscripts, most of which have been discovered since King James’ day.

However it is the question of God not leading us into temptation that has puzzled many.

The alternative translations include: “...save is from the time of trial”(APBA); “do not put us to the test” (REB); “Do not bring us to hard testing” (GNB); “do not bring us to the time of trial” (NRSV); “Save us from the time of trial” (ELLC English Language Liturgical Consultation).

The difference here depends on how to translate the Greek word peirasmos. Both noun and verb are used a lot in the New Testament (more than 50 times). The word covers a range of meanings.  See link below.

Often it refers to trials. For example Luke 22.28 “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” Or John 6.6 “He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” Or John 8.6 “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.”

It has some unusual meanings (Acts 9.26; 2 Cor 13.5). Its other main use is “temptation”.

To understand this it is worth comparing the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6.13) with the exact same phrase in Matt 26.41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” What temptations were about to face the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane? It is this scene that helps us understand the connection between testing and temptation. The test is to remain faithful to the Lord in the face of the coming arrest. The temptation is to respond to the test by running away.

The New Testament was written in a time of trouble and trial. The pressures and threats they faced tested their loyalty and trust in the Lord. The tests all came with a temptation – to deny the Lord.

One passage that comes closest to a traditional idea of temptation is in 1 Cor 10. It concerns idolatry and sexual sin. But the pressure to live that way came from their world as well as their background. Should the key word here be translated “tempt” or “test”? Especially in verse 9.

Clearly there is an overlap between the two meanings. Testing brings with it a temptation to disobey the Lord. Where the context concerns opposition, pressure, persecution, we should hear the idea of “testing” in the word.

And we who face many pressures as Jesus’ followers can pray this prayer with confidence. Jesus, who faced many trails, urges us to pray to our Father in heaven that he will not lead us into the place where we are tested and tempted to turn away from him. And even when we are, we can trust that “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” (1 Cor 10.13).


Here is a list of the verses where the word is used in the New Testament