Does God Tempt Us to Sin? Should we Change the Words of the “Our Father” Prayer?

There are a lot of discussions about the Pope’s comments a while ago on the wording of the “Our Father” prayer, especially the line “Lead us not into temptation” (Matt 6:13). He said it gives the wrong impression — that God Himself leads us into sinful temptations. Of course, taken at face value without understanding the nuances of the wording, it could be incorrectly understood that way.

To be clear, the Pope did NOT say he was going to change the Sixth Petition of the Our Father Prayer in the Bible. The news media again went overboard exaggerating the whole situation. Another example of not trusting the mainstream media. But subsequently, the bishops of several countries, including France, have actually changed the wording in the Mass.

First, it could never be the case, that God leads us to temptation or into sin, since we learn elsewhere in Scripture that God tempts no one. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one.” Along with other similar verses, it is clear God could never tempt us with sin nor lead us into an alleyway to push us into sin.

The UBS Handbook on Matthew, a series I find especially helpful, states, “This final petition is especially difficult to interpret. The Greek word translated temptation may also mean “trial, persecution”… the sense here can be either “to tempt to do wrong” or “to test or try.

For me, this line in the Our Father has never been a problem. The same Greek word for temptation used in the Our Father (peirasmos) is also used for testing in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Second, Jesus himself had just been led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. St. Matthew tells us, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt 4:1).

The Sermon on the Mount follows Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. He had been led by the Spirit to be tempted by the Devil. I have always thought the two were related. We pray that what happened to Jesus does not happen to us. We pray that we will not be put to the test or subjected to trials like the temptations Jesus experienced.  He taught us to pray that we not be subjected to the same kind of testing.

Third, remember when God approached Abraham in Genesis 22 and told him to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering? The conversation between God and Abraham begins with, “After these things God tested Abraham.

The Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was the primary translation used by St. Paul and the early Church.  The Greek text of Abraham’s test uses this same Greek root word (test, trial, temptation) when referring to God testing Abraham by asking him to offer up his only son. It was a test of Abraham, not a temptation to sin. After testing the faith and obedience of Abraham, God proclaims, “now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.

The books of Hebrews, when describing this testing of Abraham, use the same Greek word peirasmos.

Fourth, the Catechism makes it clear that “lead us not into temptation” does not mean God tempts us. It states, [I]t is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.” … We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle ‘between flesh and spirit’; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength” (Catechism 2846).

Finally, what is needed here is not to change the wording of the prayer—which would be difficult and problematic on many fronts. To change the words “lead us not into temptation” to “do not abandon us in temptation” is simply a manipulation and alteration of the original biblical text. Instead of changing our Lord’s words, it is best to educate and teach the meaning and nuances of the actual wording of the petition so people understand the meaning of the prayer.


For Catholic World Reports article “Should the Sixth Petition be Translated, ‘Do Not Let us Fall?’” click here. 
For Jimmy Akins article on this topic here.
For Msgr. Pope’s article on not changing the petition, click here.
Catholic On-line here.


This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Fiat Lux

    I do not subscribe to Roman Catholicism – I follow the Protestant path. Nearly 7 decades ago I started Sunday School and the Lord's Prayer, which was learned by rote, included the phrase, "Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil". So far, so good – until my early teens when I began to question certain biblical teachings – those that were causing me concern or discomfort. This phrase was one of those – I knew in my heart that it was somehow or other incorrect. I spoke with several church elders and clergy as to why God would ever choose to lead us into temptation – a God who, we were taught, is all compassionate, loving and forgiving. After all, it was surely the devil who does the tempting! No one could offer any rational explanation. My conviction that this was in conflict with rational thought caused me to amend the plea to "Lead us out of temptation" when I was reciting the prayer. This rendition sat very easily on my conscience and fostered my loving relationship with God.
    It was not until many years later that I came across the explanation for this peculiar phrase. The Greek rendition, upon which Matthew and Luke both agree, is ??? ?? ?????????? ???? ??? ?????????. The difficulty arises from the last word, ?????????, which makes the phrase difficult to translate because of its several meanings, among which are temptation, testing, trial, etc.
    I was obviously not alone in the non-acceptance of this peculiar phrase and I must have been picking up the universal vibrations pertaining to it.
    In 1975, after years of study and contemplation, the English-speaking churches internationally adopted, ecumenically, the phrase “Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil”. This is now the common usage among non-Roman Catholics. What a huge relief this must have been for many Christians.
    Perhaps the Pope should move with the times.
    Blessings to all.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Thanks For your comments. Unhappily, the Greek is the Greek and says what it says in the Bible translated according to the way it’s written. It is translated as “Lead us not into temptation” in all the major Protestant Bibles too, including the NASB, NIV, ESV, KJV, NKJV, RSV, etc.

    We don’t have the authority to change the Word of God, which is what Martin Luther wanted to do with disastrous results. The Pope does not have the authority to change the Word of God either. And getting with modern times is the last thing Christians should do.

  2. George

    You do realize as a convert…..most cradle Catholics do not accept you as truly Catholic.

    STEVE RAY HERE: I have no idea what you’re talking about. I just got done doing an EWTN show yesterday and was swarmed by people who recognize me as being Catholic and they’re glad that I am a Catholic. So I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    1. Bill912

      Maybe George is telling us about his own beliefs.

      Others who were not cradle Catholics include: Mary, the Apostles, St. Paul, St. Luke, St. Mark, St. Timothy, St. Titus, the father and grandfather of St. Teresa of Avila.

    2. Dan

      George, you have to realize how much of an over-the-top generalization your comment is.
      If you’re polling… I would like to offer my thoughts on Mr. Ray, as a cradle Catholic, I can tell you- at the risk of ripping off Jack Nicholson…
      Mr. Ray “makes me want to be a better Catholic”.
      Take note.

  3. Tom+Govern

    Not sure if George is a “cradle Catholic” but I know that I am. I also know that converts like Steve Ray and so many others are the very best evangelists for the faith that I did not really understand until they explained the reasons for their conversions. They speak out when cradles do not.

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