The Lord’s Prayer includes three petitions that we pray for ourselves and our loved ones. First, we ask God to supply our “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), that is, to supply our physical needs. Second, we ask God to forgive us our sins (v. 12), which is a petition for our Lord to meet our spiritual need for forgiveness. Today’s passage is the final petition in the Lord’s Prayer in which we ask Him to meet one of our specific needs. We ask Him for spiritual protection when we pray that He “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (v. 13).
When we ask God not to lead us into temptation, we are not saying, “God, please do not tempt us to sin.” James 1:13 tells us that “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” Our Creator is morally incapable of being an agent of temptation. The world, the flesh, and the devil are all sources of direct temptation for us, but God is not a tempter. He sovereignly permits the world, the flesh, and the devil to tempt us, thereby establishing in His sovereign decree that temptation will come. But He is not the tempter and is never morally blameworthy for evil or sin.
God does not tempt people to sin. However, in permitting our temptation, He does test us. The Lord established a test for Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden when He forbade them from eating of the forbidden tree, but He did not tempt our first parents. Satan did (Gen. 3). Similarly, the Lord tested Job by allowing Satan to interfere in his life and tempt him to curse God, but our Maker did not introduce temptation into Job’s life.
When we acknowledge the reality that God tempts no one and look at the grammatical structure of today’s passage, then we understand what the petition for protection in the Lord’s Prayer is asking. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13) exhibits synonymous parallelism, a grammatical convention frequently used by the Jews. In a synonymous parallel, two lines express the same truth but in slightly different ways. So, “deliver us from evil” tells us what it means for God not to lead us into temptation. As many English translations recognize, the line is better translated as “deliver us from the evil one,” that is, Satan. Essentially, the petition is asking the Lord to preserve us from a time of testing, to keep us safe from the temptations of the devil.