Lead us not into temptation …. What a strange thing to pray! As if Our Father – or any good father – would lead us “into temptation”.
It is as if Our Father wants to lead us into temptation and we have to ask – or beg – that He doesn’t! Umm…. maybe this is not what it means!
A clue to understanding this phrase lies in its position. We have just asked for forgiveness, and, more relevant, next will ask for deliverance from evil. If we say the two phrases as if they were one:
“lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
the meaning comes a little clearer: we are asking to be guided away from evil and not be allowed to be led into temptation.
God gave us free will (to choose), a conscience (to discern good from evil) and a brain (to think about our actions and circumstances): and He expects us to use them. God is not in the business of conjuring up solutions for us – well not usually anyway. God is in the business of guiding our discernment, and this is what we are asking for: for help to discern what is right and then for grace to chose what is right.
How do we obtain that guidance and grace? Consider going to someone for guidance – either spiritual, emotional or, more frequently, medical. What do we do?
– we tell them about the situation, then
– we ask for their guidance, and then
– we listen.
Many of us are good at telling God things, and even better at asking, but we often miss the last step: listening for the advice.
Listening requires stopping: stop talking; stop doing; stop the internal chatter.
When praying – talking to God – many people find it helpful to imagine Jesus sitting next to them, or behind them. Try it… Enjoy it… What is He saying to you?