Sunday, March 01, 2015

Tempting the Paternoster

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the second Sunday in Lent 2015

It’s probably the most prayed prayer in the world. You pray it about six times when you say the rosary. According to the Church Fathers, you should be praying it at least three times a day – morning, noon and night. It’s the prayer that Our Lord teaches us. It seems quite simple in its form, but is it?


Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name,
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy Will be done
on Earth as it is in Heaven.

There are big ideas there, but at the very least in our prayer we recognise the sovereignty and familiarity of God the Father. We should spend more time unpacking these ideas, but let’s move on for now.

Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
Still so far so good. We recognise that we are in need of God to provide all that is necessary to live. We also recognise the need to be forgiven and that our forgiveness depends on how much we are willing to forgive. Again, we should think about this a bit more. It’s the next statements that cause us some trouble.

Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Does God really lead us into temptation? Does He really want us to suffer Evil?


The fact of the matter is that we are tempted. Even Jesus, Our God is tempted! If that’s the case, why do we pray not to be led into temptation? If it’s going to happen, why not put a brave face on it and just let it happen? We have to remember that Our Lord Jesus suffers an agony in the garden over precisely this issue. Hear Him as He says, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” He is talking of His impending crucifixion where He will be subjected to torture and to pain and death. This is what has to happen for human beings to be reconciled with God. The human nature in Jesus is frightened, as each and every one of us would be, and yet He recognises the Will of His Father as being supreme.

He is praying for strength, and He is given strength.


When we pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” we are recognising that we cannot stand up against sin, the world and the devil without the assistance of Almighty God. We may want to do the will of God, but we also know that we shall fall. We pray for the strength to avoid temptation, to flee from those near occasions of sin, and, when tempted, to look honestly and earnestly for the will of God in that situation.

We pray that we may be delivered from evil, not that we won’t feel the side-effects, but that we won’t succumb to it. We are praying for the strength to trust God, even in the darkest, most wretched and miserable hour as we wrestle with the Evils that beset us. Our deliverance from Evil IS our salvation which is being worked out now with God. That working out of our salvation comes with fear and trembling, but, recognising that God is there for us, anything against us will fall.

May God the Father, indeed, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil, and may we find in Him greater strength and trust, so that we come to that wonderful promise of Eternal Life that God has prepared for all who truly love Him.

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