|Relaxing in front of one of the eastern barrier gates of the Erie Canal|
"Give us each day our daily breadand forgive us our sinsfor we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,and do not subject us to the final test.” Luke 11:3-4When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he gave a short prayer which we have come to call "The Our Father." There are variant New Testament versions of this prayer but they all end with a Greek word that can be translated into English with three different words: temptation, test, or trial. The version I was taught and say ends with "Lead us not into temptation."
The meaning of this final petition is far from clear even though more than one billion people probably say this prayer every week. The literal meaning--lead us not into temptation--is problematic to say the least. Do we really think that we need to petition the Divine One not to lead us into situations in which we will be tempted to sin. This seems unimaginable and inconsistent with other New Testament views of divine care. The other two meanings are most likely eschatological, dealing with the end of the world and the last things. We ask the Divine One to save us from undergoing a trial or test of faithfulness when the world ends. Again, this is problematic and hardly pertains to our everyday life, which forms the core of the preceding petition about our daily sustenance.
For me, this is an open question. Every time I say The Our Father and those final words, I wonder exactly what it is I am saying. Honestly, sometimes I pray to the Divine One to save me from pain and suffering during my personal end time of death. I don't think that is the theological meaning ascribed to by the tradition but it is one that often comes to my mind.