“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

The Temptation of Christ, 1854“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

James R. Aist


Have you ever wondered why Jesus would include the phrase “lead us not into temptation” in His instruction to His disciples concerning prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13? The New International Version reads “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” It struck me as odd that Jesus would say such a thing. At first glance it appears as though Jesus was implying that God the Father tempts people to sin, because, after all, our prayers are to be directed to the Father (John 16:23-24). But, does God really tempt people to sin; and if He does not, then what could Jesus possibly be referring to here? Let’s have a closer look.

Does God the Father Tempt Us to Sin?

James addresses this question directly and unequivocally: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” (James 1:13-14). This passage makes it clear that Jesus could not have meant to imply that God the Father tempts people to sin when He said “lead us not into temptation.” What, then, could Jesus have been referring to?

The Temptation of Jesus

Perhaps the answer lies in the details of an earlier run-in that Jesus himself had with the Devil. Here’s the way Matthew describes how this came about: “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1). Here we see that the Holy Spirit did, in fact, lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but did He actually do the tempting? No, He did not; the Scripture says that it was the devil who did the tempting; the Holy Spirit only arranged the meeting. If you read on in Matthew 4, you will see that the temptations that the devil used against Jesus were powerful and, potentially, very enticing. Moreover, to trick Jesus into complying, they were bathed in Scripture, making it appear as though it would be within the will of the Father for him to accept the devil’s offers. We can only imagine how difficult it may have been for the human side of Jesus to withstand such temptations. In retrospect, it could have been a terrifying experience for Jesus.

Jesus Was Concerned for His Disciples

What I am suggesting is that the reason Jesus instructed His disciples to pray “lead us not into temptation” was that He, himself, was so severely traumatized by these vicious attacks of the devil that He wanted his followers to be spared the kind and intensity of trial that God the Father, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, had put him through, and that He was concerned that they might not fare as well as He did if they were tested like that. This suggestion seems to be all the more likely when one compares the wording in the two relevant passages: “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted” and “lead us not into temptation.” It makes sense to me that Jesus instructed his disciples to pray “lead us not into temptation” because He didn’t want his disciples to go through what He went through. What do you think?

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