“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13, KJV)
“And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, NRSV).
“And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, NLT).
I love reading different translations mostly because I love words.
My wonderful mom tells me from time to time that I’m very good at finding the perfect way to say things, the most accurate way to express something. And sometimes when I’m talking to someone else who doesn’t know me well, they’ll respond to something I say with, “You mean _______ ?” And I reply, “No. I chose my words.”
The truth is, I read a lot and talk a lot. I try to listen a lot. But I also think a lot, and I think in different ways. One of those ways, obvious as it may sound, is in words. If you’re someone who thinks in images (which I also do sometimes), think of it less as my mental self scanning a dictionary and more of her sitting under a tree looking up at the sky contemplatively. I’ll not deny that God has given me the gift of being able to string words together well, but it’s also that between all of these things, I spend a lot of time with words.
So let’s talk about the words in these three translations. We’ll start with the first part.
Two of our three versions say “temptation” while the other says “trial.” The two words aren’t synonymous, but in a spiritual sense, they might as well be. We have eternal, heaven-bound souls in mortal, sinful flesh. If we’re honest, all of our spiritual trials involve temptation. The temptation to doubt or to return to our former ways or to try something we shouldn’t for one hollow, fleeting moment. So I do feel that these two words are connected in a very specific way.
Trials of other varieties exist too, though, and I don’t want to dismiss that or downplay that. Stuff happens in our lives physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and in so many other ways, and it can really push us or stretch us thin. But I don’t want to downplay the impact that can have on our spiritual lives either. Hurt, anger, bitterness aren’t contained to one place no matter how hard we try to keep them there. They bleed through to other parts of our lives, sometimes while we’re unaware of them. They climb over the walls we construct in attempts to compartmentalize, and they spread. Trials of all kinds can become spiritual problems if we don’t handle them correctly by trusting in God.
In the KJV, Jesus asks God to “lead us not into temptation”, but the NLT has Him asking God not to “let us yield to temptation.” This is confusing, right? Because in the former, God is wholly active, and in the latter, we are equally active. Confusing as it is, I think these two are saying the same thing; it’s just that the NLT is doing a better job.
James 1:13-15 (NRSV) says, “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.”
James identifies the source of our temptation as our fleshly desires. Our desires are played upon by Satan, not God, hence why each version of Matthew 6:13 either asks God to deliver us from the evil one or from evil itself, which is brought by and personified as Satan.
You know, we give Eve a lot of flack for the whole forbidden fruit thing, but look at all the stuff Satan tempts us with to get us into trouble.
So God does not actively lead us into temptation. I think Jesus is more asking that He not let us be led into trials where we are tempted by Satan proding our desires.
Now, let’s discuss the elephant in the room: why does the KJV have that extra line at the end of the verse?
Alan informed the congregation on Sunday, that this last bit, which isn’t included in more recent and more accurate translations such as the NLT and NRSV, would have been said at the end of prayers in Jesus’s day. This means it would have been a given to Matthew’s peers and audience, which would explain why he didn’t write it down, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a given to the people of King James’s time or ours.
What a beautiful way to end a prayer!
This shifts our focus back to God and who He is. He’s the powerful king who deserves all the glory and who loves and listens to us. We aren’t praying empty words that won’t leave the walls around us. We’re praying to a mighty and caring God.
And it’s important to remember just who God is after talking about our problems because that has the potential to emotionally drain us or give us anxiety. But in turning our focus back to God, we can gather ourselves and see that our problems, regardless of what they are, are nothing compared to God.
The Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray, but it also shows us a lot about God and His heart for us. It proves to us that a relationship with God is exciting and requires our effort. God is infinite, and we can only discover new things about Him by engaging Him in His word and in prayer.
By Carrie Prevette