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How do we reconcile the prayer to for God to

"lead us not into temptation (testing),
but deliver us from evil. -Matt 6:13

...When in Jesus own life,

"...Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (tested) by the devil." -Matthew 4:1

(The word temptation may be more consistently translated as testing)

We could also consider some of the other examples of God testing:

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. -Deuteronomy 8:2

“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

I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not.” -Judges 2:21-22

And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart. -2 Chronicles 32:31

In fact God testing us seems rather routine:

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. -Proverbs 17:3

“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” - Jeremiah 17:10

In fact Old Testament saints prayed that God would test them,

Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. - Psalms 26:2

And the New Testament saints encourage us to expect them and consider them a joyous thing:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. - 1 Peter 4:12-13

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Since testing seems unavoidable in the life of Jesus and ourselves and even desirable and just something God does so that he may properly reward us, why would we pray that God not do something that God is going to do?

How do we make sense of this?

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  • Testing is used in a diff sense in Proverbs. Temptation is a situation of danger where we may fall into sin, this is why we pray God to protect us from temptation. Dont even let us fall in situations where we may sin.
    – Michael16
    Dec 16, 2023 at 17:44
  • The Spirit drove Christ into the wilderness. It was another spirit who tempted. The Lord trieth the righteous.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 18, 2023 at 3:13

3 Answers 3

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I suggest three avenues to reconcile the Lord's Prayer with the fact that the Holy Spirit led Jesus to be tempted.

    1. The implication of "lead us not into temptation" is that God would not lead a person into a trial he or she could not overcome. It is not asking that God protect us from all temptations but expressing confidence that God would not ask us to bear a cross too heavy for us to carry.
    1. Jesus knew how difficult his own temptations had been - including not only the ones in the desert but the ones he faced in everyday life. So he taught his followers to pray that God would not test them too harshly.
    1. Some translators reject "lead us not into temptation" and substitute "do not bring us to the time of trial," or "do not subject us to the final test." A footnote in the NABRE explains:

Jewish apocalyptic writings speak of a period of severe trial before the end of the age, sometimes called the “messianic woes.” This petition asks that the disciples be spared that final test.

Conclusion: One way to reconcile the Lord's Prayer with the fact of the Holy Spirit's leading Jesus to be tempted, is to understand that the Lord's Prayer means "temptations that one cannot overcome." A related explanation is that Jesus hoped God would not tempt his followers as he himself had been tempted. A third is that these passages do not need reconciliation because the Lord's Prayer refers to something other than what Jesus had experienced - something like what Christian think of as the Great Tribulation.

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Many people who read the Bible may wonder why God tests people. James 1:12-14 NIV explains that God does not tempt anyone;

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

It explains when someone is tempted, they are tempted by their own desire. In this circumstance, one possible way to be saved is through the Lord's intervention, which can shield them from the evil. However, if the Lord decides not to intervene, it may result in events as in the quote examples by the OP.

In Matthew 6:13, Jesus teaches us to pray for a wish that there is nothing inciting our sinful desire, and when there is, to lead us away from sin and not fall into a slave of the evil.

Jesus was led up by the Spirit to be tempted, which has another meaning. For God cannot be tempted by evil, His temptation is a proof of His incarnation. Jesus is an example of how humans can endure temptation and win the victory. Following Jesus' example is to follow Him.

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The OP asks, “Since testing seems unavoidable in the life of Jesus and ourselves and even desirable and just something God does so that he may properly reward us, why would we pray that God not do something that God is going to do?”

If Matthew 6:13 is referencing God’s testing of man, then He is not testing our strength but our faith and trust. Seen in this light, the words “lead us not into temptation” become more than just a prayer to be spared from testing and trial. They also serve as an acknowledgement of God’s power and omnipotence, as well as an admission of our own weakness and dependence.

Ellicott’s commentary on Matthew 6:13

But trials of another kind, persecution, spiritual conflicts, agony of body or of spirit, these may come to us as a test or as a discipline. Should we shrink from these? An ideal stoicism, a perfected faith, would say, “No, let us accept them, and leave the issue in our Father’s hands.” But those who are conscious of their weakness cannot shake off the thought that they might fail in the conflict, and the cry of that conscious weakness is therefore, “Lead us not into such trials,” even as our Lord prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass away from me” (Matthew 26:39).

If the point of God’s testing is to teach us to trust in God rather than rely on our own strength, then Mt 6:13 is entirely consistent with this purpose. Rather than a simple petition, it becomes a statement of our faith and reliance on God.

Matthew 6:13 and Matthew 4:1

Comparing Mt 6:13 and Mt 4:1, it is worth noting that the verbs are not the same.

Matthew 6:13 (emphasis added)

lead (εἰσφέρω Strong’s 1533 meaning to carry inward) us not into temptation

Matthew 4:1

Jesus was led (ἀνάγω Strong’s 321 meaning to lead up) by the Spirit

This difference in wording reflects a fundamental difference between Jesus and us with regard to temptation. The word εἰσφέρω in Mt 6:13 implies an inward motion, corresponding to the internal locus of our temptations (cf Mk 7:15, Jam 1:13). The word ἀνάγω in Mt 4:1, on the other hand, denotes an upward direction, indicating the external locus of Jesus’ temptations (cf 1 Jn 3:5, 2 Cor 5:21).

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