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Praying with Jesus

In the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to ask for divine protection against temptation and Satan. The first part of this petition stands alone as a request for God not to do something—don’t lead us into temptation!

Do Jesus’s words suggest that God puts us in compromis­ing situations? In 2019, Pope Francis approved changes to the wording of the Lord’s Prayer in Roman Catholic liturgy from “Lead us not into temptation” to “Do not let us fall into temp­tation.” He reasoned that the traditional language made God out to be the bad guy. This change would better convey the truth that God doesn’t push us into sin, but instead—like any good father—is waiting to pick us up when we fall.

So, which is it? Does God lead us into temptation, or do we wander there on our own?

Temptation Defined and Defeated

It’s worth noting that the word temptation has a broad seman­tic range in the New Testament. This means that the word can have a different sense depending on the context it’s used in. You’re familiar with this in the English language. If I say to you, “That pizza was the bomb!” you know that the word bomb doesn’t mean the same thing as if I used it in the con­text of military combat. Context is the greatest factor when it comes to determining a word’s meaning. In some places, the word Jesus used in Matthew 6:13 refers to testing, as in under­going thorough examination. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine [test] yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” Of course, Paul wasn’t encouraging the Corinthians to open themselves up to sinful temptation!

In other contexts, the word is used when someone is trying to set a trap for another person. Satan tempted Jesus in the wil­derness (Mark 1:13; Luke 4:12), trying to induce him to com­mit idolatry. Here the word means to sinfully entice. While the wicked in Scripture do this (Psalms 57:6; 141:9), God doesn’t. James said, “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). God never forces you to sin. He isn’t cruelly putting you in hopeless situations to make you fall. When it comes to evil, no one can ever say to God, “You made me do it!”

On the other hand, this petition reminds us that God is sovereign over the avenues of temptation. To pray lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil is to recognize God’s power over the sinister forces that seek to undermine our faith in Jesus Christ, and to depend on his grace to overcome those forces. While we do well to never imply that God is the author of evil (something universally rejected by Christians), the tradi­tional rendering of Matthew 6:13 faithfully communicates the truth that while God doesn’t make us sin, he’s able to keep us from temptation and sin.

Herman Witsius in his study on the Lord’s Prayer noted how this petition expresses “very emphatically the powerful, but just, holy, and pure providence of God regarding tempters, temptation, and the consequence of temptation.”1 He high­lighted three ways God is sovereign over temptation:

  1. God alone gives the tempter permission to act. As one example, Witsius appealed to Ahab’s deception in 1 Kings 22:22, but the story of Job also makes this clear (Job 1:6–12).
  2. Sometimes God’s providence places us in the presence of temptation. Here we might consider Jesus being led into the wilderness by the Spirit where Satan would confront him (Matthew 4:1).
  3. Witsius noted that God sometimes withholds the heav­enly assistance that enables us to better resist tempta­tion. As an example, he gave 2 Chronicles 32:21, where God left King Hezekiah to himself that he might test him.2

So while God doesn’t make us sin, he’s our only hope against sinning. In this petition, we ask God to shackle Satan’s influence in our lives, to protect us from those situations that draw us away from the Lord, and to give us the divine assis­tance we need to act courageously in the day of temptation.


  1. Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on the Lord’s Prayer (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 355–57.
  2. Witsius, Sacred Dissertations, 355–57.

Excerpted from Praying with Jesus: Getting to the Heart of the Lord’s Prayer © 2024 by Adriel Sanchez. Used with permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.

Adriel Sanchez

Adriel Sanchez is pastor of North Park Presbyterian Church (PCA). In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, he serves the broader church as a host on the Core Christianity radio program. He and his wife, Ysabel, live in San Diego with their three children.

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