by Rodney Marsh Note: This is a re-submission of an older post, found here, relevant for Lent in these times
Here is a repost of a blog post from 2018. It was written before the trauma of the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine. It seems humanity is intent on destroying God’s world either slowly through climate disasters or quickly through nuclear war. Our common future, it seems, will involve ‘hard testing’ for all of us and these world-changing events will require true faithfulness to Jesus by his followers. Jesus instructed his followers to “pray like this” and he taught them an Abba Prayer in five easily remember Aramaic phrases. I believe he was teaching his disciples to learn and use this prayer daily. This blog examines what Jesus meant by asking us to pray “Lead us not into temptation” or “Do not bring us to the time of trial” or “Do not bring us to hard testing.”
A crisis seems to be rapidly developing in the Western democracies. At the 2018 Garma Festival, Richard Flanagan said, “The world is being undone before us. History is once more moving, and it is moving to fragmentation on the basis of concocted differences…….. The bonfire of our vanities is fully loaded with the fuel of growing inequality, fear and division.” I hear the ‘ring of truth’ in his prophecy.
In his day, Jesus often spoke of an imminent, destructive, worldwide crisis or trial. So, when Jesus taught his followers to ask our Father, “Lead us not into trial”, he meant, “don’t, please God don’t push us into the time of crisis before you’ve made us ready for it. Don’t push us until you’ve given us what we need to face it.” (Rowan Williams). Our daily prayer, “…do not bring us to the time of trial” is not therefore, motivated by the desire to avoid inevitable suffering nor is it a desperate plea filled with fear, rather it is a request for courage to face what is coming. It is a prayer made in faith that our Father will see us through whatever is ahead.
When we teach our children to pray, “do not bring us to the time of trial” we are joining with them to travel together through dark valleys and well as the light plains. We face, with confidence, the unforeseen, and often uncontrollable, frightening circumstances of our lives because we know we never travel alone. As the storm clouds were gathering around Jesus, his own daily prayer was “do not bring us to the time of trial”. Consequently Jesus became strong to face what was to come and he told his followers, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, You will soon be set free.” Perhaps, when a coming firestorm fuelled with “growing inequality, fear and division” can be seen approaching us, and our nation, it is the time, once again, to teach our children to pray, “do not bring us to the time of trial” in faith and hope, every day.
Prayer: Our Father, it seems there are storms ahead today. Please let the storm pass, but if it does not, stay with us. In the storm, strengthen us. Grant faith to replace fear. Then enable us to stand up, and lift our heads to welcome our freedom. Amen.
- The Garma Festival is an annual gathering of the Yolngu clans of Arnhem Land in Northern Australia. They come together for a 4-day celebration of art, music, dance, ceremony and song and to which they graciously invite other Australians. Booker Prize winning Tasmania author, Richard Flannagan spoke at the 2018 Festival. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/05/the-world-is-being-undone-before-us-if-we-do-not-reimagine-australia-we-will-be-undone-too.
- We should note that, in context, the word Jesus uses for “the time of trial” probably does not mean a “temptation”, as translated in the traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer. The translation ‘temptation’ carries the modern implication “to be tempted to do something morally wrong”. The word Jesus used does not carry this moral tone. Rather the word means rather “crisis” or “trial” such as the trial Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane. God decided to say “No!” to Jesus’ garden prayer (the only recorded time) to “take away this cup” (‘to be delivered from this hard test’), Instead the Father strengthened Jesus to do what had to be done.
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