To this day I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and as an old man eat and drink from it and never get my fill.
Martin Luther - 1535
The Lord’s Prayer, le Notre-Père in French, is a central prayer in Christianity.
The last word of its sixth petition (And lead us not into temptation) is generally understood as referring to moral temptation, to the temptation to be dishonest.
But a completely different perspective seems to be opened by the new French formulation of this sixth petition.
The Vatican has endorsed a new French translation of the liturgical Bible.
Le Notre-Père in particular will be different.
From now on, the French-speaking Catholics will no longer say:
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation (And do not subject us to temptation).
They will say instead:
Et ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation (And do not let us enter into temptation).
The previous formulation seemed to imply that God may put the faithful to the test, and even lead them to sin.
It was in contradiction with the Gospel of James, 1:13-14:
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
(This biblical quote and the following are from the New International Version)
The new French formulation clarifies the fact that God is not the Tempter, thus emphasising the role of free will.
But this new formulation, with its verb entrer en, enter into, also points to a different understanding of the nature of temptation.
WHAT TEMPTATION CONSISTS IN
The new formulation in the French Notre-Père (do not let us enter into temptation) hints at a geographical location.
The term temptation in the Lord’s Prayer corresponds to the Greek term peirasmos, which is also found in the Greek version of Exodus, 17.
The first verse explains:
The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, travelling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim.
In Hebrew, Rephidim means rest, repose.
But, as there is no water to drink, the people quarrel with Moses, who says:
Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?
This is why Moses
called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
In Hebrew, Meribah means quarrelling, and Massah, testing, is peirasmos in the Greek version of the Bible.
And this is why it is said, in the Deuteronomy (6:16):
Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.
The perspective is therefore reversed: in the Lord’s Prayer, temptation (peirasmos) does not refer to the fact that God may put the faithful to the test, but that they may put God to the test by doubting him, as they did in Massah.
In the face of adversity, in times of trial, the faithful can react in two opposite ways: they can either choose Rephidim, the rest, the repose consisting in trusting God, or Massah, the temptation consisting in doubting him.
But temptation can also be more widely seen as the temptation to be like the gods.
It goes back to the original sin, when Eve was tempted by the snake, who said:
God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Doubting God, putting him to the test, and even taking his place: these are the different aspects of temptation.
You may also be interested in reading On biblical translations
ECHOES OF THE LORD’S PRAYER:
TEMPTATION IN THE GOSPEL
It is only through Christ that the faithful can overcome temptation, because he, who taught them the Lord’s Prayer, defeated the Tempter.
♦ Matthew, 4:1-11
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Jesus overcomes temptation. He says to the devil:
Do not put the Lord your God to the test
thus quoting the Deuteronomy, 6:16 (mentioned above).
♦ Matthew, 26:36-46
Just before his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus struggles with his vocation and prays to his Father to take away the cup of suffering; he does not want to die and seeks some other way of delivering his people:
My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.
He then says to his disciples:
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
And he overcomes temptation:
My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.
(Cf. Thy will be done in the Lord’s Prayer)
In the New Testament, the Lord’s Prayer appears in two forms:
- a longer form in the Gospel of Matthew, 6:9-13, as part of the Sermon on the Mount
- a shorter form in the Gospel of Luke, 11:1-4, as a response by Jesus to a request by “one of his disciples” to teach them “to pray just as John taught his disciples”.
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1662)
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Notre Père qui es aux cieux,
que ton nom soit sanctifié,
que ton règne vienne
que ta volonté soit faite
sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour.
Pardonne-nous nos offenses
comme nous pardonnons aussi
à ceux qui nous ont offensés,
et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
mais délivre-nous du mal.
Car c’est à toi qu’appartiennent :
le règne la puissance et la gloire,
Aux siècles des siècles.
In his book Paroles (1946), French poet Jacques Prévert wrote his own Pater noster.
The first lines are:
Notre Père qui êtes aux cieux
Et nous nous resterons sur la terrre
Qui est quelquefois si jolie
Our Father, which art in heaven
Stay up there
As for us, we’ll stay on the earth
Which is sometimes so pretty