THE Prayer, Part 7 :: Times of Trial

Our Father, who lives in the heavens,
May Your name be kept holy.
May Your Kingdom come,
May Your will be done,
On earth just like it’s done in Your presence.

Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Don’t bring us to the times of trial,
But deliver us from the evil one.
Amen.

Following Jesus is not an invitation to pretend that the world is wonderful and perfect, and that nothing bad will ever happen to you again. Headlines sing a loud song to this illusion. Neither is following Jesus an excuse to believe that the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket, and so our main task is to be patient and wait until we die and go and meet Jesus somewhere in the sky.

The truth is somewhere in the middle, and it’s also hinted at by this line in the prayer.

It’s not strange that Jesus would leave us these words, because he knew “times of trial” intimately. Consider:

  • Though we don’t know when exactly, we know that Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph is out of the story fairly quickly. The assumption is that he has died, leaving Mary and her children at risk socially and economically. He wasn’t one of the “insiders”.
  • His ministry begins with 40 days in the desert, culminating with a confrontation/temptation with Satan.
  • He experiences constant surveillance and opposition from the religious authorities in Judea.
  • His ministry was marked by a constant confrontation with evil spirits.
  • His closest disciples and inner circle consistently misunderstand him.

Jesus knows what the times of trial look like and feel like.

They are the times when we are most susceptible to doubt, to fear, the times when we’re most tempted to give up, to surrender.

To be faced with a trial is to be faced with the temptation to fall, to fail. To pray that we aren’t brought to the “times of trial” is to implicitly acknowledge that they exist, but not necessarily to allow our lives to be governed by them. In the face of the difficulties that Jesus faced, he went about his ministry fully and faithfully, even in Gethsemane when the trials began to be backed by Roman fists and clubs, whips and swords.

If you find yourself in difficulties, understand that Jesus knows all too well what it feels like. He is there with you, and he knows what it feels like. 

Ironically, Jesus ultimately confronts the times of trial not with glamourous victory but with blood, sweat, peace and eventually the cross… but that’s for another post.

What about you? What does it mean to pray, “don’t bring us to the times of trial” (or more traditionally, “lead us not into temptation.”?

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5 thoughts on “THE Prayer, Part 7 :: Times of Trial

  1. Great Post Eric. Interesting contrast of the two translations. ‘lead us not into temptations/ don’t bring us to the times of trial.” I’ve been thinking about this lately. Trial and temptations. And i was just thinking in my quiet time recently that it is these times of trial that tempt us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t do. It is like Satan uses these times of trial to tempt us to sin. To pull at our flesh.
    I’ve thought about these things as I have recently read Jesus’ constant refrain of ‘don’t worry’. the Father knows what you need. It is that worry that can lead you down bad roads. I thought Jesus was saying to rest in me and you will not be tempted in the times of trail. Oh you will still have trials, but you can avoid the temptation to ‘sin’ your way out of those trials.
    I have been pondering this and today your post shows up. Pretty timely. Wonder how that happens?
    Peace to you.

    • I remember reading somewhere that this line of the prayer is one of the moments of scripture… We need to pray to avoid trials because NO ONE WANTS TO SIN WHEN THINGS ARE GOING GREAT! It’s only when things get tough—when we get “squeezed”—that we look for some kind of way out…

      Thanks for your friendship Charlie!

  2. Great post, as usual. I like this line in Jesus’s prayer and I never heard the interpretation of the verse as pertaining to trials over temptation. The two words yield to widely different understandings for me.

    When I read it to say “temptation,” the verse reminds me of that line in Psalm 23: “he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” I’m wondering if Jesus tells us to ask God not to lead us into temptation, not because God is thinking about doing that so we better remind him which way we want to go. Instead, maybe Jesus tells us to pray this as a reminder of what God’s path is like: he leads us to places where we can restore our souls. If we find ourselves devouring something that devours our souls, then maybe we’re not in the place God wants us to be (or maybe we’re eating the wrong kind of food?).

    Trials, though–I think that they are a part of God’s restoration process for us. So if I read the verse as to “lead me not into times of trial,” it’s almost like I’m asking God to keep me away from growth. How else are we supposed to grow unless we suffer? In the context of Psalm 23 again, the only reason we recognize that the waters are calm is because we’ve also suffered through some rough waters. Same thing with silence: the only times we notice silence is after a bunch of racket.

    So the verse makes more sense to me in terms of temptation. But I’m going to keep thinking about it. Thanks so much for opening up the discussion.

    • The Greek word there is actually peirasmoß, “peirasmos”, which is literally a testing. In addition, I think temptations can test us in that sense, but I hope that helps…

      There’s a sense in which Jesus realizes his followers are going to go through difficulties, whether because that’s the way life is, or because of what society will do to them (us) when we truly live out an empire-defying, culture-resisting faith.

      We can pray for those things NOT to come, but I think Jesus is just being realistic. Imagine that lol.

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