This sentence in the Lord’s Prayer is the one that I understand the least: “Lead us not into temptation.” Why is this difficult to understand? James 1:13 tells us that God tempts no one. And, if you think about it, we should be really happy about that. God tempting us would give us the idea that He is tempting us with something evil. Since he’s not evil, he can’t do that. One of the meanings of the Greek word that is translated “temptation”, “peirasmos,” is test or trial. Since the Lord doesn’t tempt anyone, I’m going to lean toward this meaning—but I’m not a Greek scholar by any stretch of the imagination. All I do is use the resources that I have.

Before we go any farther, it’s important to state that the Lord does test us. In fact, the uncomfortable truth is that He, by the Holy Spirit, “led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” This is, um, challenging. Is the Bible telling us that the Lord would actually lead us to a place where we would be tempted? Apparently. This makes me think of the Old Testament passage where the Lord told Israel, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:1–3). Once, when I read this, I thought, “Hmm. The Lord allowed people to perform signs and wonders. Wow. He allowed signs and wonders to be done by false prophets to test Israel. He wouldn’t do that today, would He? (I have to admit, even though I’m a Pentecostal believer, this makes me wonder about some of the weird, not-in-the-Bible things we hear about that are happening these days.) But I don’t want to get off point. The point is that the Lord will allow things to happen that will test us—in fact, He might actually lead us to that place, as He did Jesus.

The Bible says that the reason the Lord tests us is for our good. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2–3). Just recently, some relatives of ours were endeavoring to adopt two babies from a foreign country. We talked to them a lot about this. They had read the fourth chapter of my book Deeper about finding God’s will (Shameless plug: You can find it on Amazon. Just type “Deeper” and “Thomson” into the search field) and had prayerfully asked for the Lord’s guidance each step of the way. They had done the best they could do “keep a light grip” on the process, although they admitted that when it came to the kids, their grip was getting pretty tight. Understandable. Well, it spite of the fact that they sensed God’s peace in every decision, things still went drastically awry. There was a person in the adoption agency who was actually working against them, as strange as that seems (She has been subsequently fired). The lawyer in the country from which they were adopting the two kids was lying to them. This last Easter, when they showed some video to the family that they had taken of the kids on a recent visit, the Lord said to me, “They will get these kids.” I shared that with them. What I neglected to tell them, which I remembered later on, was that when the Lord says such things, the reason is probably that they will need this promise to help them when times are tough. Well, the times were tough. To make a long story short, after two years of trying to get these children, they decided to fly to this foreign nation and get them themselves. They were there six weeks (the dad had to be away from his job), going through all sorts of bureaucratic rigmarole. However, they now have their babies, and they are back in the States. Did the Lord know beforehand, when He was giving them peace in the decision making process, that all these trials and testings would happen? Yep. Did it cause them to grow? Absolutely. In fact, the dad told me that this process had essentially caused him to be a different person. I don’t know what the fullness of that means—he probably doesn’t either—but it has to do with trusting in God, patience and humility.

We draw close to the Lord in tough times. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we are driven to Him. But it is there, in that need to draw close, that God does His good and necessary work in us, to cause us to know Him and His character, to trust Him, to die to ourselves and understand our neediness.

So why did Jesus teach us to pray that we wouldn’t enter into this? Well, perhaps it has to do with not going to a place where we would fail when so led and so tempted. This makes sense because it is followed by, “deliver us from evil,” so it’s probably that the requests are connected. We’ll talk about being delivered from evil next time.