What kind of prayer is ‘Lead us not into temptation’?

Bonhoeffer points out that we are told to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” At first, it sounds like we are cowards who cannot handle it.
Why shouldn’t we pray, ‘Lead me into temptation that I may test the power of the good in me.’
Why shouldn’t we pray, ‘Help us overcome whatever temptation we might encounter?’ After all, that sounds much more courageous and spirited.
In praying, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ we are confronting two types. The first type is natural man. Natural man “wants to prove his strength in adventure, in struggle, in encounter with the enemy.’ The second type is moral man. Moral man “knows that his knowledge is true and convincing only when it is tried out and proved.”
We seem to have a lot of natural and moral Christians in our day. We want to focus on how strong we are and we have minimized weakness. We want to talk about how we have it all together, how we can handle any kind of trial. We have a lot of great advice for those who are going through the trial.
And then the trial hits us. Instead of saying that we are weaker than we thought we say, “That temptation was more than any normal person could handle.” Or we come up with all kinds of justifications for why we failed. Or just blindly refuse to admit we did anything wrong.
Wouldn’t it be better just to admit weakness? ‘God there are some things I can’t handle. If tempted, there are some areas that I will fail in if the temptation. So, please keep me away from situations that You and I both know are going to end in my destruction. Lead me not to any trial where I will fail.’
This prayer strikes our pride, self-sufficiency, and everything our culture has come to believe about the self. But it more true than thousands of pages of self-help, psychology, and what passes for religion.


Leave a Reply