Q: Archbishop J, How do we pray? Pt 4
The ‘Our Father’ is a gym for spiritual development and growth in discipleship, stretching the one praying just a bit more towards the goal—abandonment to Daddy.
Look again at the movement in the text: (1) God is Daddy (2) Daddy is in heaven—we are connected to the power of creation (3) learning to trust enough to bend our heart to Daddy’s will (4) Trusting Daddy to give us every day what we need—most of all Himself as bread (5) Learning to let go and forgive—understanding the truth of our reality—we are sinners (6) wrestling with evil—the role of temptation in the spiritual life (7) deliverance from evil.
Each petition opens the question of faith at a very different level. If we do not see God as daddy, how could we bend our will to His? How could we lovingly and trustingly ask for bread? How do we dare to forgive others? If we cannot do these how do we resist temptation and ultimately, how do we resist evil?
The interconnectivity of the prayer and its developmental steps make it a gold mine for spirituality.
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil
Lead us not into temptation
This line has been the subject of controversy for years. It paints a very different image of God, at odds with Daddy God. It is an ancient translation, which makes God into the tempter and we weaklings begging not to be subject to this temptation.
Pope Francis has gone on record saying that the wording of the prayer should change; that the translation does not work anymore. There are many contending formulae.
The Spanish and French currently pray: “do not let us fall into temptation”. This changes the dynamic; Daddy God is on our side protecting us from falling. The Italians pray: “do not abandon us in temptation” (America Dec 8, 2017).
The Greek word peirazo, used by St Matthew and St Luke, is most often translated as ‘tested’. But it is also used to mean ‘tempted’. There is a big difference, however.
St James uses the same word with both meanings: “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (Jas 1:12–14).
There is a difference between being tested and tempted. God may test, but never tempt. “Gold and silver are tested by fire but the Lord tests the heart” (Prov 17:3). St Matthew says: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Mt 4:1). The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. But note it is the devil who tempts.
It is in temptation that we come to the centre and core of the mystery of salvation: Whom will you serve? Will it be God or your desire? Remember Adam and Eve’s: ‘I will not serve’. Pride always comes before the fall. Through temptation we grow to trust God; we grow as children of God; we grow in holiness. We learn to put God first before our desires.
Temptations exist because we have free will. Each temptation is an opportunity to exercise our free will and choose for God; to use what is most precious, the only gift that is worth anything at all to God.
In our choosing God we demonstrate the depth of our love. God does not tempt us: that is what Satan does. God graces us in temptation and invites us to choose love and to grow up to the utter fullness of Christ.
Do not go looking for temptations: that is why we pray, “do not let us fall into temptation”. And when we are being tempted, we pray: “Do not abandon us in temptation”. Both of these aspirations are contained in “Lead us not into temptation” and “Deliver us from evil”.
Deliverance from evil
The modern person does two things with evil. We either give evil more power than it actually has or we grossly underestimate it by reducing it to psychology and projection. Both of these are heresies.
The first constructs the world as a competition of two great powers—God and Satan—equal and opposite. This is a lie. God is God and Satan is a liar. Satan is a creature like us and so cannot be equal to God. This is vital to understand. The only power Satan has is the power we give him.
The art of evil is deception and the first and major deception is to get the person and the culture to either misrepresent or underplay the truth. Do not spend time on Satan and his kingdom, rather seek first God’s kingdom and all else will be given (Mt 6:33).
Our generation also underplays evil as if it is a projection of humans. Well it may also be that. Evil is real. We need to learn how to recognise its work and how to avoid its traps, snares and trials. We must reject evil. Key is that we cannot fight evil; nor do we have to. Jesus has already done that for us.
Through His unconditional love, by His absolute ‘yes’ to God—even to death on the cross—Jesus defeated Satan. He put His life in the hands of God and trusted when trust did not make sense. In this act evil was undone. Through freely choosing God’s way we too undo evil.
Not only is Satan a liar, he is an idiot. His work of temptation can actually be the driving force to our holiness and growth in the spiritual life. Pray for deliverance from evil. This requires us to recognise evil, trust God and make the right choices.
Key Message: Temptation is part of the spiritual life; we overcome it by abandoning ourselves to Daddy and accepting grace. This too is prayer.
Action step: Look at the temptations you experience. Ask Daddy to spare you from these temptations and not to abandon you when in temptation.
Scripture Passage: Matthew 4:1–11