This request always struck me as odd. We are told not to “tempt the Lord thy God,” but here we are, it would seem, asking God not to tempt us. First let’s take a look at the Greek. The word temptation is πειρασμός.
Strongs gives us a definition: a) trial, probation, testing, being tried, (b) temptation, (c) calamity, affliction.
Another word used is “experiment.”
Passing over the interesting connotations that might bring (cf. Job,) I’d like to focus on the trial, and calamity aspect.
It would seem that we are requesting deliverance from trying times. I think in terms of those moments when we are pushed to the brink. Rather like Jesus in the desert after 40 days, or perhaps hanging on the cross screaming to the heavens.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Mat. 27:46 KJV
When I was younger, I often misunderstood the scripture as requiring us to ask of God not to tempt us to sin. Asking God not to give us opportunity to “miss the mark.” Now I am wondering if Matthew had more in mind when he wrote πειρασμός. I think perhaps he is also referring to the many times we as human beings are on the edge of life and death call them both spiritually, intellectually, and or physically.
I am also led to this interpretation via the completion of this verse:
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…
In part two I would like to delve into this image of deliverance from evil.
One final thought: it seems with this last couplet in the Lords prayer, we are reminded that the Father is well aware that life is often trying. So he urges us to remember that his son knows this deeply. So have no fear but simply ask to be spared from temptation, from trials, from the times of tribulation. We are asking for God to prevent us, or go before us. And that’s when we are reminded: The God-man Jesus did.