Jesus Never Prayed the Lord’s Prayer
Question: In his famous “Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus prayed “and lead us not into temptation” (Matthew:6:13). Yet we are told that He was in fact “led up of the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew:4:1). So even His own prayer wasn’t answered! How can you explain this?
Response: First of all, the “Lord’s Prayer” is misnamed. This was not a prayer that the Lord Himself prayed, nor was it to be repeated word-for-word by anyone. It was a pattern for prayer – “After this manner therefore pray ye” (Matthew:6:9) – which He taught His disciples in response to their request “Teach us to pray” (Luke:11:1). It ought to be called the “Disciples’ Prayer.”
In giving them this pattern or model prayer, Jesus said to His disciples, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…etc.” (Luke:11:2). There is no suggestion that Christ Himself ever prayed this prayer. Indeed, it would be entirely inappropriate for Him, because the prayer includes the phrase “And forgive us our sins” (Luke:11:4), something that Jesus, being sinless, would never have prayed. So in responding to your question, I am doing so with the understanding that this is a prayer for His followers to pray, but it is not for Christ. That fact takes care of the question about the phrase “lead us not into temptation,” as far as Christ is concerned.
What about this phrase for His followers? No one who asks God “Lead us not into temptation” is guaranteed immunity from being, like Christ Himself, tempted by Satan. That phrase, like all the rest of the prayer, comes in the context of the affirmation “Thy kingdom come; they will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Thus the person repeating this prayer is ready to submit to God’s will, whatever that may be, even including being tempted by Satan.
Then why ask not to be led into temptation? It is the voice of humility acknowledging our own frailties. It is the opposite of praying proudly, “Lead us into all the temptation You want, Lord, because we’re ready to handle it!” Praying the biblical phrase acknowledges the appropriateness of Paul’s warning, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians:10:12). At the same time, it is the voice of trust in God in case temptation should come.