Those famous words from The Lord's Prayer, Matthew 6:13:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

I find puzzling. Why would anyone ask God not to lead is into temptation, when James explicitly said that God does not tempt us in James 1:13-14:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

What do these words mean? Is something lost in translation here?

  • It would be a bit cumbersome for us to resist temptation if a spiritual entity would forcefully “lead us” into it. We must therefore pray that that mustn’t happen. Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 22:54

9 Answers 9


I think you have it right there in the difference between what you quoted - the Lord's Prayer doesn't say "do not tempt us" (and James agrees as to why) and James does not say "God does not allow people to be dragged away and enticed" (which would make the world a very different place).

A prominent example of God explicitly allowing someone to be tempted is the book of Job.

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:8-12, ESV quoted)

"Lead us not into temptation" would be a prayer specifically against that sort of scenario. Eve's being enticed by the serpent to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3) might be another example. Being led into temptation also happened to Jesus himself, according to Matthew 4:1, just two chapters before the Lord's Prayer:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

In all these cases it is not God doing the tempting - the devil, the serpent, Satan are specifically named. God may indeed lead us into temptation, but James points out that God is not the tempter—likewise we might say, the trainer that brings us into the arena to fight is not the opponent we face.

  • 2
    So are we asking our trainer not to bring us to the arena to fight? If then what is the training for? Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 7:21

Joachim Jeremias in New Testament theology p.202 says that it means 'do not let me fall victim, not to everyday temptations, but to the last great trial'. He says that Jesus expected his mission to lead to a time of terrible widespread suffering before God's reign starts, and therefore the disciples are to pray to be protected from apostasy.


St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Expositio in orationem dominicam a. 6, explains "and lead us not into temptation":

But does God lead one to evil, that he should pray: "Lead us not into temptation"? I reply that God is said to lead a person into evil by permitting him to the extent that, because of his many sins, He withdraws His grace from man, and as a result of this withdrawal man does fall into sin.

Related to this is St. Thomas's explanation of how God could have given the Romans up "to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonour their own bodies among themselves" (Rom. 1:24), because it seems this would mean He forced them to commit acts sodomy and thus to sin. He quotes James 1:13 in his Commentary on St. Paul's Letter to the Romans c. 1 l. 7:

But since impurity of this kind is a sin, it seems that God would not give men over to it: God himself tempts no one to evil (James 1:13).

The answer is that God does not give men over to impurity directly, as though inclining a man’s affection toward evil, because God ordains all things to himself: the Lord has made everything for himself (Prov 16:4), whereas something is sinful through its turning from him. But he gives men over to sin indirectly, inasmuch as he justly withdraws the grace through which men are kept from sinning, just as a person would be said to cause another to fall, if he removed the ladder supporting him. In this way, one’s first sin is a cause of the next, which is at the same time a punishment for the first one.

To understand this it should be noted that one sin can be the cause of another directly or indirectly: directly, inasmuch as from one sin he is inclined to another in any of three ways. In one way, when it acts as a final cause; for example, when someone from greed or envy is incited to commit murder. Second, when it acts as a material cause, as gluttony leads to lust by administering the material. Third, when it acts as a moving cause, as when many repetitions of the same sin produce a habit inclining a person to repeat the sin.

Indirectly, when the first sin merits the exclusion of grace, so that once it is removed, a man falls into another sin. In this way the first sin is the cause of the second indirectly or incidentally, inasmuch as it removes the preventative.

It should be borne in mind, however, that sin as such cannot be a punishment, because we suffer punishment against our will, whereas sin is voluntary, as Augustine says. But because sin has certain features contrary to the will of the sinner, it is by reason of them that a sin is called a punishment of a previous sin. One of these features is something preceding the sin, as the withdrawal of grace, from which it follows that a man sins. Another is something that accompanies the sin either interiorly, as that the mind is disarranged; hence Augustine says in Confessions I: you have commanded it, O Lord, and so it comes to pass that every disarranged mind is a punishment to itself; or in regard to its outward acts, which involve difficulties and labors, as sinners aver: we journeyed through trackless deserts (Wis 5:7). The third feature is something that follows the sin, such as remorse of conscience, bad reputation, and so on.


The Greek word eispheró is 'to bring in', not 'to lead into'.

The Greek word peirasmos is 'testing', not 'temptation'. Here it is about our testing God's faithfulness.

The text reads: 'Do not let us brought into a [place of] testing [Your faithfulness]."

Note: Recently Catholic wants to change translation as 'Abandon us not when in temptation'. www.patheos.com/blogs/throughcatholiclenses/2018/12/pope-francis-our-father-should-say-abandon-us-not-when-in-temptation/ Sorry, it's a wrong try.

We are praying to our Father; Father would abandon us? Father would lead us into temptation? No way. Help us not to fall into temptation?

Temptation is from our desires within. Note: the so-called Temptation of Jesus is not about His being tempted by Satan, but putting Himself into a testing to prove who He Himself was when challenged by Satan.


Why pray, “lead us not into temptation”?

Matthew 6:13 (NET Bible)

13 "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

“lead us not into temptation” or "do not let us give into temptation."

God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13) ,however the Bible does speak that God allows us to be tempted, two examples in the scriptures is that of Jesus and Job.

The Devil is the "Tempter" (Matthew 4:3) or creates situations for us to be tempted, it is however it is up to each individual ,whether he will allow himself to be brought into temptation or not. Jesus immediately rejected each temptation by quoting on every occasion from the scriptures.

Jesus is basically encouraging his followers, to pray to God to help them resist temptation. On another occasion Jesus said : "If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit[a] to those who ask him?”(Luke 11:13 NABRE). God will not abandon his faithful servants that make such a request.


The operative word here translated "temptation" is πειρασμός (peirasmos). BDAG give the follow meaning:

  1. an attempt to learn the nature or character of something, test trial, eg, 1 Peter 1:6, 4:12, James 1:2, Heb 3:8.
  2. an attempt to make one do something wrong, temptation, enticement, eg, (a) [active] Luke 4:13; [passive] James 1:12, Matt 6:13, Luke 11:4, Matt 26:41, Mark 14:38, etc.

Thus, BDAG (rightly or wrongly) places Matt 6:13 in the "enticement" meaning. I suggest that this is probably correct because "God does not tempt anyone" (James 1:13) but Jesus teaches us to pray that we are kept from enticement. However, Jesus does warn us that there will be difficulties and trials to test and refine our characters. John 16:33, 1 Cor 7:28, 2 Tim 1:4, Heb 13:12, 13, 1 Peter 2:21.

  • The Greek for James 1:13 uses the same Greek word for temptation. ... Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 2:38

It is helpful to let Scripture interpret Scripture. Where else do we find a similar expression in Greek - lead/enter/fall into temptation?

Matt 26:41

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (ESV)

Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (CEB)

ρηγορεῖτε καὶ προσεύχεσθε, ἵνα μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς πειρασμόν·

Luke 22:40.46

“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (ESV)

“Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.” (CEB)

“Pray God that you will not be overcome by temptation.” (TLB)

“Pray for strength against temptation.” (NCV)

“Pray that you won’t fall into sin when you are tempted,” (NIRV)

Προσεύχεσθε μὴ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς πειρασμόν

1 Tim 6:9

those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, (ESV)

people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. (CEB)

οἱ δὲ βουλόμενοι πλουτεῖν ἐμπίπτουσιν εἰς πειρασμὸν

The Greek preposition eis is flexible. It can mean up to, towards or into. Based on the other passages, I understand the intention to be: Help us not to fall into (enter inside) a temptation (when it comes), but deliver us from the Evil One (when he tempts us).

Or we might say: Lead us in such a way that we do not enter inside/succumb to a temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One (who wants to tempt us).

We see the example of Jesus being tempted by Satan. The Spirit led him to a place where he could be tempted by Satan, but the Spirit also led him to react in the proper way so that he did not fall for the temptaion. He was led to a temptation, but was not led all the way inside it.


I think your question is theological and belongs elsewhere. However, your question contains a nugget of Hermeneutics. Also, I believe the accepted answer is mistaken.

James is clearly stating that the Prayer recorded at Jesus' Sermon on the Mount should be amended or clarified. In Greek, he uses a nearly matching phrasing which he states that no person should say.

There is no question that a large amount of material in James parallels the Sermon on the Mount. In many cases, the sentences have matching phrases in Greek.

In the case of James 1:13-15, and particular 1:13, my conclusion is that James was attempting to clarify a misconception that was running through the early Church, of which he was head. He seems to have been addressing a similar misconception in 4:15-16. In this regard, I would see the contradiction not as a direct refutation, but as a clarification of some teaching that has gone awry at that locale and time.

  • 2
    This is an interesting theory, but the Greek doesn't seem to back it up. The phrase in Matthew 6:13 is μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν (do not bring/lead us into temptation), whereas in James it's μηδεὶς πειραζόμενος λεγέτω ὅτι Ἀπὸ θεοῦ πειράζομαι (let no one being tempted say, "From God I am being tempted"). In other words, Matthew talks about being led into temptation (noun), where James talks about being tempted (verb). If that's supposed to be an allusion, it's not a very straightforward one.
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 3:05

This is a prayer. Prayer assumes that the actions of God are not inevitable. Our prayers make a difference to the outcome. In this sense the leading of God is something specifically to be requested. And what we are requesting is for God to lead us in a path that avoids temptation - if that isn't pushing the text too hard.I can't see this as if God is about to lead us into temptation and we're asking him not to. Rather that God responds to our prayer by leading us down the 'not temptation' path. The commentaries focus on the meaning of temptation. This is insufficient. We need to know what the whole phrase means. If I ask you not to do something - in English it implies you were about to - but is that the implication in Greek or the Aramaic it translates? Sorry. I don't know. But even in English, I might say 'Don't let me say that again.' or 'Shoot me if am about to make that inappropriate joke again.' We may have a clue in the Hebrew style couplet, where the same thing is said twice but in a different way. 'Deliver us from evil' is the second half of this couplet and its meaning is clear. One further thought - Jesus says 'if your eye causes you to sin . .' So he does encourage us to actively avoid circumstances which will cause us to be tempted and this prayer asks for divine back up in doing this.

  • Hello Mike, and welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics. Please keep in mind that not all of your readers here are Christian. Please consider editing to describe your perspective rather than prescribing it to readers.
    – Susan
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 21:13

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