At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
After this manner therefore pray ye: 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 debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matt. 6:9-13).
This petition has been confusing to some. Just a few chapters before this, right after the Lord’s baptism, we are told that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1). But we are also told that God tempts no one (Jas. 1:13).
The word involved in all these places is peirazo (or peirasmos) and it has two distinct meanings, and those distinct meanings provide us with the answer to our question. The word can mean either tempt or test. In English, these are distinct words for distinct things. In Greek, they used the same word for distinct things—revealing that we are dealing with an actual human language. After all, remember that the English word cleave even has opposite meanings. It can mean making one into two, as with a meat cleaver, or it can mean making two into one, as when a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife (Gen. 2:24). We can readily tell which is which by the context. The difference between testing and tempting is that when God tests us He wants us to succeed. When the devil tempts or entices us, he wants us to fail.
As James teaches us, God never entices us to sin. He does not lure us into sin the way the tempter does. But He does allow us to get into situations where we are tempted, and tempted by someone who does desire our failure. We are instructed to pray to God the Father, asking Him to minimize or eliminate all such occasions. To this request, He may say yes or no, but we are required to avoid all such occasions of sin. When in the providence of God He allows us to go through such a trial, from His vantage point it was a testing, and from the devil’s it was a temptation.
“Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God!” (Psalm 7:9, ESV).