time I say the Our
wonder what it means, “Lead us not into temptation.” Would God
be that mean to us to tempt us? I’ve never heard an explanation that
isn’t just a fancy cover up of what seems to be the obvious yet
his petition (Lead us not into
temptation) and the following petition (Deliver us from evil) are
closely related, and they aren’t meant to suggest that God would lead us
into temptation. On the contrary, they are meant to ask God, our heavenly
Father, to not do what dysfunctional human fathers
do on a regular basis: push us into worldly activities that
tempt us to engage in the sins associated with those activities, and, consequently,
send us right into the grasp of evil. This petition, however,
does not say this directly; instead, it uses an indirect psychological method to make
Although many theologians through the ages
have offered their explanations of the Our Father, and these explanations
all have some merit, I will offer an explanation of the psychology behind the petition
which, in its own way, will lead us to the depth of its theological meaning—a
meaning that many modern theologians fail to understand.
Consider what your mind experiences
when I tell you, “Don’t think of pink elephants in the next few minutes.” Well,
now that you have read my admonition, note the effect of it. If you are as
imaginative as most persons, in your mind you immediately visualized pink
elephants, despite having been told not to do so.
This, then, points to a curious
psychological principle about a negative admonition: when told
not to do something, we immediately think of doing it.
In the case of the Our Father,
when we say, “Lead us not into temptation,” we can’t avoid thinking of temptation.
And that, right there, is the theological issue that Christ was pointing out to
us. He wanted us to think about temptation, daily, for a good reason.
To begin to understand this,
let’s take a more simple example. Many times Christ told the Apostles,
“Do not be afraid.” Notice that He didn’t
just say, “Be at peace.” By saying, “Do not be afraid,”
He deliberately puts the thought of fear into the Apostle’s minds. Why?
Well, the reason is psychological: to remind the Apostles that they
are afraid, and to emphasize, therefore, that without Him all they
have in their lives is fear. But with Christ—He
who is speaking—there is no fear. Thus, by telling them what not
to do, Christ reminds the Apostles of their
wretched reality while at the same time offering
freedom from it all.
This, then, is the same dynamic
at work in the Our Father. When we say, “Lead us not into
temptation,” we can’t help but think about temptation and realize
that we are surrounded by it. It’s everywhere. The world is full of
temptation. Temptation is in the air like a foul mist dripping from clouds
So there’s our
And where is our freedom from
Well, once we realize the horror
of being surrounded by temptation, we can then be receptive to what God is
calling us to do: renounce the
world and its impious darkness
and follow Christ into the light. In other words, rather than muttering in
our hearts, “But I will die if I have to
give up the satisfactions of the world!” we find ourselves in the place
of begging God to lead us away from the world. In this place away
from the world is the love of God, and in this place away from the world is
our freedom, because the only weapon that can pierce the armor of temptation is our
love for God.
Many persons make
a psychological mistake of trying to fight a temptation by overpowering it
through their own will, telling themselves that they can’t have something
or shouldn’t do something. But trying to force yourself away from a
temptation only increases its intensity! Therefore, it is important to look
beyond the illusion of satisfaction that the temptation projects in front of
you; instead of seeing the illusion, pay attention to what you are really seeing.
Instead of seeing a body that arouses your lust, learn to see the sad reality of
a wretched soul who has been duped by secular society into believing that emotional
emptiness can be filled by using the body to incite lust in others. Instead of
seeing your own pleasure, feel in your heart the sadness of seeing another soul
deceived by cultural lies and lost in sin. Feel the sorrow for a world that has
been overwhelmed by the insanity of sin.
Then, being clear
about the evil and sin you are really seeing, open your heart to “see” what is
really good and pure: God’s love. And resolve that, for the sake of love, you
will not fall prey to the temptation.
Therefore, when we pray the words
our Savior gave us—“Lead us not into temptation”—we find
ourselves essentially imploring God the Father for a
detachment from the world—a detachment that,
left to ourselves, we would never think of wanting. Moreover, with that detachment,
we are then protected from the evil that would
snatch us if we fell into temptation.
To sum it up then, in this
petition of the Our Father we are essentially asking that God be a good
father to us who won’t lead us into temptation. Unlike
a dysfunctional father who fails to protect and
guide his children and restrain them from dangerous ideas and impulses, and, in
that failure “leads” them right into temptation and evil, God can guide us away
from the sins of the world—and away from temptation—and in so doing
He will also deliver us from evil.
The Lack of
But why then are there so many
Christians who, despite their praying the Our Father, have swallowed
temptation hook, line, and sinker? The answer is simple. When reciting the
Our Father, most persons don’t pray with love,
looking with deep contemplation into the
darkness of their hearts caused by their own failed fathers; instead, they say their
prayers as just rote words, missing the point of prayer
did Christ say about this sort of empty piety that fails to incite a desire for
the holy and misses the point of a real, heart-felt communication with God? “I
tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you
will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
that. In what He said, Christ left us a straight-forward positive admonition,
not a negative admonition. So what does Christ want you to do? Well,
maybe now, after reading this page, you know the answer.
The text of
this webpage, integrated with other material from my websites,
has been conveniently organized into a paperback book of 350 pages, including
a comprehensive index.
Though Demons Gloat: They Shall Not Prevail
by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
Though we are attacked by liberal activists from without and by apostasy
from within, the true Church—that is, the body of those who remain
faithful to Church tradition—weeps, and she prays, because she knows
the fate of those who oppose God.
Our enemies might fear love, and they can push love
away, but they can’t kill it. And so the battle against them cannot be
fought with politics; it requires a profound personal struggle against
the immorality of popular culture. The battle must be fought in the
service of God with pure and chaste lifestyles lived from the depths of
our hearts in every moment.