What is the New Lord's Prayer?

What is the New Lord's Prayer?

Question

What’s the New Lord’s Prayer? (NLP). Why the change? Is it right?

Answer

The "real" Lord’s Prayer is seen in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. The so-called "New Lord’s Prayer" (or NLP) reads as follows:

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done; On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And do not let us fall into temptation; But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

When we compare some of the words of the NLP ("And do not let us fall into temptation") to the prayer Jesus literally gave his church ("And lead us not into temptation"), there is a noticeable difference. The word "fall" is substituted for the word "lead." This word change is significant! And errant!

Obviously, we should ask, who here has surrendered to the temptation of thinking they are correct and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who can’t sin (Hab. 1:13; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18; Jas. 1:13), are in error? That would be Pope Francis of the Catholic Church.

It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation," he told Italian TV. "I am the one who falls. It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.

A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation – that’s his department. [1]

Pope Francis argues that God the Father does not lead us into temptation, but rather Satan does (Jas. 1:13). Thus far the Pope is correct because God doesn’t literally tempt anyone. Though he gets this much right, he and his theological team have failed to understand the entire meaning of Matthew 6:13 (Luke 11:4) or consider the other relevant biblical data relating to understanding what the Lord himself is actually saying.

Let’s frame our concerns under four sections: (1) A Jesus Moment; (2) A Meaning Moment, and (3) A Pauline Moment, and end with; (4) A Pope Francis Moment:

A Jesus’ Moment

In Greek, Jesus said, "Kai me eisenenkes hemas eis peirasmon …" (Matt. 6:13). This isn’t a matter of translation, it’s a matter of words. The word "fall" isn’t in the verse as the NLP assumes. Rather the word "lead" (eisenenkes) is in the text. Jesus' Greek wasn't incorrect! Nor was the double witness of Matthew and Luke (2 Cor. 13:1). If Jesus would have meant "fall" then he could have used a Greek word like empiptousin as Paul did in 1 Timothy 6:9 or the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 10:31. But Jesus used a completely different word, (eisenenkes), to convey a very specific meaning. The text says what it means, and means what it says — "And lead us not into temptation" (Matt. 6:13).

So what does "and lead us not into temptation" (Matt. 6:13) mean? Let’s flesh this out a little. Immediately after his baptism we are told, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil" (Luke 4:1-2; cf. Matt. 4:1-2; Mark 1:12-13). In this text it is apparent that there is a distinction between the one who leads and the one who tempts. Clearly, God the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he would be tempted, but it was the Devil himself that did the actual tempting.

When I read the phrase, "And lead us not into temptation" (Luke 11:4) in combination with Luke 4:1-2 (or Matt. 4:1-2 with Matt. 6:13), I understand that no sane person wants to go into the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus himself was "driven" there (Mark 1:12, Gk. ekballei, meaning "to cast out"). Temptation isn’t a pleasant time (Heb. 12:11). It is hard and difficult. Even angels came to minister to Jesus after his wilderness ordeal (Matt. 4:11). No one wants to go through temptation. Thus we are told to pray, "Lord please don’t send us there."

As previously noted, the NLP subtracts "lead" from Jesus’ words and replaces it with "fall." This literally changes the meaning of the text. Of course no Christian desires to fall into temptation as this change implies. But Jesus went further than this saying we should pray to not be led into temptation in the first place! If we aren’t led to the place of temptation, we can’t be tempted to fall. Jesus’ every word matters.

While he might not realize it, Pope Francis, and those who agree with him, are literally asking God for more temptation! This is significant. By changing the wording, they are now essentially praying, “keep me from falling as the flood gates of temptation aren’t minimized.”

A Meaning Moment

Meaning and context are important! The Greek word for temptation is peirasmon. It refers to a trial, testing, affliction, or to a proving. This same word is used by Jesus in Luke 22:28 where he says, "You are those who have stayed with me in my trials [ peirasmois]." It is used again in Acts 20:19 to speak of Paul’s troubling situations. Peter uses it as well; "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials [ peirasmois]" (1 Pet. 1:6). It refers to Israel’s difficulties in the wilderness (Heb. 3:8). We also see it in James 1:2, 12, 1 Peter 4:12 and Revelation 3:10. So then, in the context of Matthew 6:13, "temptation" does not refer to any attempt by God the Father to intentionally make someone sin.

When Jesus, inspired of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), used the language of "leading" and "tempting" in his prayer, he wasn’t suggesting that God the Father was guilty of trying to make anyone sin. Rather, he was rightly stating that his Father’s sovereign providence extends over all of life — even in those situations in which one may be tempted or tested.

In this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). Indeed, those who aspire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will encounter persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). We know that the Lord God uses trails and suffering in a believer’s life to help produce godly character in them (Rom. 5:3-5; Heb. 12:11; Jas. 1:2-4). And though we will have trouble in this present world, it is not improper to pray for God to minimize it.

Imagine for a moment if we couldn’t pray and ask God to minimize our temptations. What would befall us? Remember what Jesus said to Peter: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail." (Luke 22:31-32). Peter had a very difficult life as it was. What would have happened to Peter if Jesus hadn’t prayed for him?

And Peter himself reminds us, "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). That means the Devil is after you. And me. I don’t know about you, but I desire less struggling, less sifting, less temptation, not more. I’m weak like David and must pray, "Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!" (Psa. 141:4). In other words, lead us not into temptation (Matt. 6:13; Luke 11:4).

The "real" Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:13; Luke 11:4) means we trust and submit ourselves to God’s will. Why? Because he knows better than we do what we need in this life — including the testing we require at times to further our holiness (Heb. 12:11; cf. Jas. 1:2-4). Though we should seek as much as possible to have temptations minimized in our lives, we also are instructed to ask God to keep us protected ("deliver us from evil," Matt. 6:13) when they do come. And they will come!

A Pauline Moment

The apostle Paul echoes the meaning of the "real" Lord’s Prayer when writing, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor. 10:13). Paul makes some significant points here, among them (1) temptations are common; (2) the saint will have temptations; (3) God is faithful in the midst of temptations; (4) God controls the intensity of temptations; (5) God provides "the" way to escape in the midst of temptation; and (6) temptation may be endured. Clearly, the focus here is on God’s purposes as he leads his people through difficult times (Psa. 23:4; cf. Jas 1:2-3, 12). This is quite a commentary on Matthew 6:13 and Luke 2:4!

Our prayer for God to "deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13) is an earnest plea for God to protect and guide us around situations and circumstances that may lure us into ungodliness. God certainly never authors any temptation to sin but, as in the case of Job, he does allow trails for our good. [2]

A Pope Francis Moment

May a Jesus Moment, a Meaning Moment, and a Pauline Moment help keep us from a Pope Francis Moment of falling into temptation and literally changing the text of Scripture.

It’s one thing to make a commentary upon a passage but quite another to rewrite what the Scripture actually states. While we have the right and obligation to study, understand and properly comment upon a text, we don’t have the authority to literally change it — not a single word of it. After all, "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar" (Prov. 30:5-6).

It’s God Word, not ours. God set his eternal seal of approval upon it (Psa. 119:89; Matt. 24:35). And his eternal copyright © law is very clear, and when violated there come some pretty serious eternal consequences. May we all learn that we are not to add or subtract from God’s Word (cf. Deut. 5:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18).

Footnote

[1] Harriet Sherwood. The Guardian. "Led not into temptation: pope approves change to Lord’s Prayer." (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/06/led-not-into-temptation-pope-approves-change-to-lords-prayer). 6 June 2019. Last Accessed 10 October 2020.

[2] We observe something similar in the book of Job. In Job, Satan was clearly the tempter, but God allowed the trials and temptation of Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6). God did not attempt to encourage Job to sin; he allowed Satan to test Job. Clearly, Jesus is telling his church to ask God the Father to keep them from such testing. But this key emphasis is lost in the New Lord’s Prayer.

Related Topics

Do you agree with what the Roman Catholic Church teaches?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).