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Tough Questions: Why are there different versions of the Lord’s Prayer?


“Trials and temptations are a feature of our daily lives and, whichever version of the Lord’s Prayer we use, we will effectively be asking for the Lord’s help in dealing with them,” says The Rev’d Charlie Lacey from St Andrew’s, Springfield

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The Lord’s Prayer is essentially the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, as recorded in Matthew 6.9-13. In some later manuscripts the prayer closes with the words, “For yours is the kingdom the power and the glory forever. Amen,” hence those words conclude what is undoubtedly the best known of all Christian prayers.

The Anglican Church authorises traditional and contemporary versions of the Lord’s Prayer. The traditional version begins with the words, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” The contemporary version beings with, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Some argue that the traditional version sounds more melodious and poetic and I have some sympathy for that view, however, the modern version was offered to ensure that everyone could easily understand it.

To complicate matters further, there are two variations to the modern version, one which says, “Lead us not into temptation” and the other, “Save us from the time of trial”, so why the difference? This change stems from confusion about the meaning of the appeal to “lead us not into temptation”. Many have understood this to mean that temptation can sometimes come from God. This is categorically not the case. As it says in James 1.13:

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…”

“Lead us not into temptation” does not mean, “Lord, we think you might tempt us to do something evil; please don’t.” Rather, it is asking the Lord to help us in our times of temptation. The word “not” indicates that we want the Lord to do the opposite of leading us into temptation, which is to lead us away from it.

We must also bear in mind that we are reading an English translation from the original Greek, and whilst the meaning can be preserved, it is not always possible to provide a word-for-word translation. Personally, I think that the meaning of Matthew 6.13 is better captured by the Spanish NIV translation, which says, “no nos dejes caer en tentación“, which in English reads, “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

In light of the foregoing analysis, I do not have a problem with “lead us not into temptation”, however, I can appreciate why it was amended to “save us from the time of trial”. However, it should be noted that the amendment is not as significant as it might appear, since in Greek the same word is used for temptation, trial and test.

“Save us from the time of trial” acknowledges that we will face “trials of many kinds”, which of course includes temptation. When we pray these words, we are asking God to deliver us from the powers that rage against his kingdom, including our own evil desires.

In conclusion, trials and temptations are a feature of our daily lives and, whichever version of the Lord’s prayer we use, we will effectively be asking for the Lord’s help in dealing with them.

First Published on the St Andrew’s, Springfield website in July 2023.

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