Lead us not into Temptation

There is one prayer in our faith that unites all Christians. Any guesses? That’s right! The Lord’s Prayer (or sometimes called the “Our Father” after the first two words of the prayer).

It is a wonderful prayer because it can be traced back to Jesus himself and was his response to being asked how one should pray.

That is why I found it interesting that a few weeks ago there were headlines about a strong desire on the part of the Pope (no less) to change the wording of this prayer.

Now, this would not be the first time wording has been changed. There is an eternal debate among us Protestants as to whether the prayer should read “Forgive us our trespasses” or “Forgive us our debts” or “Forgive us our sins”. Our church uses “trespasses” (the previous church I served used “debts”).

Some believe “Deliver us from evil” should be “Save us from the time of trial”.

These debates are rooted, of course, in the fact that Jesus didn’t speak English. The biblical origins of the prayer are written in Greek. Consequently, how we choose to translate from Greek into English is a bit up for grabs. What keeps the prayer relatively consistent is one thing, really: Tradition.

The change that Pope Frances is proposing is something new. The line he is concerned about is: “Lead us not into temptation”. Theologically, he says, this paints a troubling picture of God. Would God ever lead us into temptation? Why would God ever do such a thing?

Consequently, “Do not let us fall into temptation” is the proposed, alternative language. Three things about this:

First, I actually agree with the Pope on this! (Mark your calendars because I can’t promise when or if this will ever happen again!). Our God would never “lead” us in a direction that would harm us. The only one “leading us into temptation” is ourselves. This is why our faith in God is so important; it bolsters our ability to make positive, healthy choices.

Second, despite my agreement I don’t think the prayer should be changed. That’s because the prayer has become greater than the words that compose it. Because it has been said for millennia, it has become more of a mantra that connects us to our faith. The predictability of the words brings great comfort to people and that comfort would be hobbled by monkeying with the language; however theologically sound the reason.

Third, be assured that the Pope has no authority to change anything in our church (I hope that goes without saying). With the stroke of a pen he may be able to alter the
language in every Catholic parish, but that would have no bearing on us. If such a change were to be adopted at First Congregational Church, it would need to sift its way
through our democratic structure to assure that everyone supports the change. Right now, I have not heard any desire to consider any such changes to the language we use in the Lord’s Prayer at FCC.

When it comes to the Lord’s Prayer, I believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Still, as always, these headlines were interesting food for thought!

See you in church,
–Rev. Dominic