PART IV: CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Section Two: The Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father”
Article 3, The Seven Petitions (cont’d)
VI. “And Lead Us Not into Temptation”
§ 2846 This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation” (cf. Matthew 26:41). “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13); on the contrary, He wants to set us free from evil. We ask Him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.
§ 2847 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man (cf. Luke 8:13-15; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:12), and temptation, which leads to sin and death (cf. Jas 1:14-15). We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable (cf. Genesis 3:6), when in reality its fruit is death.
- “God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings…There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from Him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us” (DeOr 29: PG 11, 544CD).
§ 2848 “Lead us not into temptation” implies a decision of the heart: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…No one can serve two masters” (Mt 6:21, 24). “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). In this assent to the Holy Spirit, the Father gives us strength. “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
§ 2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by His prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of His public mission and in the ultimate struggle of His agony (cf. Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44). In this petition to our Heavenly Father, Christ unites us to His battle and His agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with His own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name” (John 17:11; cf. Mark 13:9, 23, 33-37; 14:38; Lk 12:35-40).
The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch (cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8). Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake” (Revelation 16:15).
Tomorrow – “But Deliver Us from Evil”
(Part IV, Section 2, Article 3 – to be continued)
[Editor’s Note: The abbreviations in today’s posting are noted below.]
- “cf.” – “confer [compare or refer to]”
- “DeOr” – Origen, “De Oratione [About Prayer]”
- “PG” – “Patrologia Graeca [Greek Patrology]”, an enormous collection of writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers in the Greek language published by J. P. Migne, (Paris, 1857‑1866 A.D.)