XXXIII. “And lead us not into temptation,” Jesus continues. Of course God does not set us up to fail, and God does not tempt us, as even James 1:13 explicitly states. We need to look beneath the surface of these words to understand.
In the background is Jesus’ own temptations in the desert and His humility in accepting, not only human weakness in the Incarnation, but even our sinfulness at the Cross. He unites Himself with that susceptibility to temptation, which in all its vast array of forms ultimately comes down to the preference of self to others, including God. The Pope uses the story of Job to illustrate this theme, for Job is a foreshadowing of the person of Christ, the innocent victim of Satan’s wiles Who loses all and refuses to abandon trust in God. Further, in Job, God allows his servant to be tested but does not abandon him to death.
St. Augustine pointed out that we only make progress and know ourselves in the context of trials and difficulties. They teach us our capabilities and our limits. Such trials are not themselves temptations or moral dangers – they are simply experiences where we are vulnerable and may fail. But we may also succeed. Our trials can humble us and can also make us more compassionate with others’ weaknesses. In this petition in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God not to allow our trials to overwhelm us. It is not about fear that God in His power will lead us astray; it is about awareness that we in our weakness may go astray ourselves.