Monday, August 07, 2017

I don't even understand the Lord's Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer ends with:
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matt 6:13)
Argggggh! What does that even mean? Consider
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (James 1:13)
Taken together, these two passages seem to suggest something along the lines of “God, I pray that you will not do that which you promise me you will not do—be the source of my temptation.”  

That hardly seems worth praying, if not a little insulting.

Now, there is some nuance with the word temptation. We take it today to mean being in an opportunistic situation where our desire and likelihood for sin increases. If lust is our problem, then “Lead me not to a Victoria’s Secret fashion show.” That sort of thing.

But temptation can also mean test, as in a test of faith.  We see this “archaic” use of tempt when we compare the KJV to modern translations:
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. (Gen 22:1, KJV)
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am. (Gen 22:1, ESV)
So perhaps the Lord’s Prayer should be more along the lines of

And do not test our faith, but deliver us from evil. 

But that doesn’t seem right either, because testing our faith, or trials, unlike temptations, is something that that God promises he will do and that it is for our good. (see James 1:2, 12; 1 Pet 1:6-7.) Just like we (seemingly) shouldn’t pray for God not to tempt us, given that he has assured us that he will not, we shouldn’t pray for God to spare us from trials, when we know that he won’t, and that they’ll be used for good—to make our faith grow stronger.

Perhaps some help is found in Gethsemane. Here we find our Lord warning his disciples:
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. (Mark 14:38)
In context, it seems that what Jesus is saying is: Your faith is about to be tested. Pray that you do not fail the test.

Maybe that is what temptation, at times, means—not a synonym of a test-of-faith, but of failing the test.

So perhaps the last line of the Lord’s Prayer could be understood as:

And [when we are tested to strengthen our faith, let us not fail the test], but deliver us from evil.

I don’t know! I just know the more I read the bible, the more I realize I have to read it some more. It is a feedback loop that I hope results in amplification, not squeal.

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