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.”?