Hmmm. Why would God do that? Why would God lead us into temptation? Why would we pray that God not lead us into temptation?
We are told in James 1:13, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”
If God doesn’t tempt us, what is the meaning of this prayer?
In James 1:2-4 we are told, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The Greek word we translate as “tempt” is the same word for “trial” and “testing.” When we see this prayer as “Lead us not into a test or trial” it begins to make sense.
Although God never tempts us, God does test us. God tests us because testing makes us better people. That’s why we are to consider it all joy when we face trials and tests of many kinds. The trials and testing makes us mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Even so. Let’s say God does test us. Then why would we pray, “Lead us not into temptation/testing/trials”?
Perhaps what Jesus is really saying here is “Lead us not into more testing than we can handle.”
An airline pilot goes through rigorous training before they are ever allowed to pilot a plane with passengers on it. At first, they begin in the simulator with just basic flying. Then as the pilot gets more accustomed to flying the airplane, the testing gets more difficult and the trials more severe. Eventually, the pilot is trained to respond to catastrophic failures of equipment. Every pilot would fail their training if they started with catastrophic failures of equipment. You don’t start there. You build up to it.
So it is with us. “God, lead us not into more testing than we can handle. We do look forward to getting stronger and becoming a better people. You know best what we are able to handle. So we trust you.”
This is our prayer when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”