Lead Us Not into Temptation

Of all the petitions offered in the Lord’s Prayer, the one that most provokes my curiosity is “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” 

The early desert monastics (beginning in the fourth century) acknowledged the sobering reality of temptation in their lives. Yet for them, temptation was not something to be avoided, since the refining of our spiritual lives required an engagement with temptation. My study of that period of monasticism has helped me to appreciate that temptation reveals areas of my spiritual armor that need to be fortified in order for me to become more fully the person God created me to be. 

Even Jesus, in his humanity, was tempted after his baptism by John in the Jordan River. You’ll recall that he withdraws into the desert for forty days, where he faces a series of temptations. In each temptation delivered upon him by the devil, Jesus withstands by recalling scripture that he had learned and memorized growing up in his faith. The desert monk, Evagrius Ponticus, adapted this method of engaging temptation in his book Antirrhêtikos, which means “Talking Back,” by using scripture to confront the wiles of the devil, empowering the individual to avoid acting upon temptation. 

The crucial insight we can take from the desert monastics is seeing that temptation itself is not a sin. They deemed that only entertaining temptation in such a way as led to acting upon it was sinful. 

Like the teachings of the desert monastics, our own Rule of Life acknowledges the reality of temptation in our life of faith: “For the hours of the day to be permeated by mindfulness of the divine life we must be engaged in constant struggle, depending on God’s grace. Powerful forces are bent on separating us from God, our own souls, and one another through the din of noise and the whirl of preoccupation.” For me, this preoccupation usually occurs when I’m not feeling my best. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert, he was in the midst of a forty-day fast from food and water. In my own life, when I am facing temptation, I recall a slogan from the rooms of 12-step recovery: H.A.L.T., which is an acronym for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.” Whenever you feel tempted to do or say something that is not conducive to the life to which God has called you, you might find it helpful to notice if you are feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired and then tend to some self-care. Seek nourishment, counsel for your anger, the company of a trusted friend, or take some time for respite. You might want to recall the words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel: “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Temptation is inevitable; and we have at our disposal many tools we can use to help us withstand it.

In our Monastery, we use a modern adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer in contemporary language which renders this line, “Save us from the time of trial.” For me, this prayer means asking for God’s grace in resisting the trap of entertaining temptation, which I can do by remembering Jesus’ example and recalling God’s desire for wholeness and abundance of life for me. 

In the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer each day, I am reminded that if I turn to God in my moments of temptation, then I, like Jesus, will be able to dismiss temptation’s toxicity, and be fortified and empowered to live into the divine life which God has enabled in me. 


  1. Richard Higgins on March 23, 2023 at 14:18

    For me, to be human is to be tempted to veer away from the will of God. That’s why we’re down here. What I like about temptation is that it gives you a choice. A choice that I usually cannot handle on my own. So our knowledge of God is the ultimate “good influence” to steer in the right direction, often just in time. A rationale I have heard for not using “Lead us not into temptation” is that God would never do so. I never thought of such a reading. I don’t think “lead us not” implies that. It is just archaic language for “help us to resist.” “May we not be lead” by our own selves deeper into the den of temptation than we can extricate ourselves from. May we all have angels whispering in our ears is to make the right choice.

  2. Bob Trask on March 23, 2023 at 11:28

    In the New Zealand Prayer there is an “alternative” form of the Lord’s Prayer translated from the Maori (Indigenous) language. “In times of temptation and test, strengthen us. From trials too great to endure, spare us. From the grip of all that is evil, free us.”

  3. Lyn Brakeman on March 18, 2023 at 17:17

    Yes, setting up our own temptations just to see how strong or good or powerful or sober we are, is the worst kind of self-abuse I can imagine. And yet we all do it sometimes. Too often I omit my credentials as a published author when I introduce myself at some meeting/gathering or other. Such false humility is NOT authentic. It’s just a lie. Ick!!

  4. sherrie coefield on March 17, 2023 at 16:06

    thank you for this awesome guidance and counsel. I have a question “right before King David was tempted by seeing Bathsheba the Bible records that he was coming fresh out of a successful battle and that it was in the spring of the year when King’s go into battle.

    Interestingly, the Bible does not explore the state of King David’s health at that time, for example did he have a traumatic injury in battle, or did he pray for Godly guidance and strength as he did in preceding chapters where he prayed to the Lod our God before he made the decision to go into battle.

    So from your incite I am thankful to receive any background details about this incident recorded in our Holy Bible.

  5. david mcmillan on March 17, 2023 at 11:10

    I used parts of this in my Sunday Sermon. Thanks . David

  6. Phil Gunyon on March 17, 2023 at 09:59

    For me, the word “temptation” is stronger in the English language, than “trial”. For me a time of trial envisions endless processes whilst a temptation is “in your face”, So when I say The Lord’s Prayer I always use the way I first learned it, over 80 years ago. And by the way, I prefer to SAY the prayer and not sing it, as so often happens in church.

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