In the Lord’s Prayer, what does ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’ mean? If you’re like me you’ve prayed these words for a long time without really understanding them.
So, what does ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’ really mean? The Greek text of this part of the Lord’s Prayer conveys this meaning: “Bring us not into trial, but rescue us from our evil heart of unbelief.”
In the remainder of this article, I’ll explain exactly why I modified this part of the traditional Lord’s Prayer using the bold words above. Before starting this study I had a lot of questions about “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” including:
- It always sounded to me like I needed to ask God not to lead me into circumstances where He knows I’d be weak and tempted to sin.
- But, as a loving heavenly Father, wouldn’t it be against His nature to lead me into sinful temptation?
- What evil was I asking God to deliver me from?
- Some translations (NASB, KJV, YLT) say, ‘deliver us from evil’ and other translations (NIV, NLT, BSB) say, ‘deliver us from the evil one.’ What is the correct translation of this phrase?
Perhaps you’ve also pondered these things. To resolve these questions, and to gain a precise understanding of this part of the Lord’s Prayer, I did an in-depth study of “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” It completely answered my questions and hopefully, it will answer your questions too.
Luke 11:4 and Matthew 6:13
The Lord’s Prayer is quoted only in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. By discovering and comparing the original meanings of the keywords (lead, temptation, deliver, and evil) in these two gospels we can confidently know what Jesus really meant in this part of the Lord’s Prayer.
The Greek and English words for Luke 11:4 are listed below.
The Greek and English words for Matthew 6:13 are listed below.
In this study we’ll be examining these keywords to learn what Jesus really meant:
- eisenenkes (lead or bring)
- peirasmon (temptation, trial, test)
- rhysai (deliver or rescue)
- tou poneros (the evil)
Eisenenkes (Lead or Bring)
In ”lead us not into temptation’ the word ‘lead’ is eisenenkes, which is only used in two places in the New Testament, Luke 11:4 and Matthew 6:13–the two examples of the Lord’s Prayer.
Eisenenkes is a variation of the Greek root word eisphero (Strong’s #1533) which means ‘to bring or carry inward.’ Here are some examples that illustrate eisphero well. Every bold word below uses eisphero:
- Luke 5:18, And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him.
- Luke 12:11, When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say.
- Acts 17:20, For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.
- 1 Timothy 6:7, For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
- Hebrews 13:11, For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest
So, instead of ‘lead us not into temptation’ perhaps it would be better to ask God to ‘bring us not into temptation.’
God plans the events and circumstances that His children face each day. We don’t know what tomorrow holds; we are only given our daily bread for today, and Jesus said we’re not to worry about tomorrow. God ‘brings us’ along the path He plans for us to walk each day, both for our development and for the advancement of His kingdom on the earth.
A man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, How then can man understand his way?Proverbs 20:24 NASB
So why differentiate between ‘lead us’ and ‘bring us?’
Being ‘led’ implies a leader and a cooperative follower. Being ‘brought’ implies a carrier and a passive cargo. In other words, I’m not a sheep being led by the Shepherd; I’m growing into a son of God as I consciously react to, and am molded by, the daily, unforeseen situations the Lord brings me into.
Peirasmon (Temptation, Trial, Test)
In ‘lead us not into temptation’ the word ‘temptation’ is peirasmon, which means ‘a trial, test, proving, or temptation.’ It is a variation of the Greek root word peirasmos (Strong’s #3986) which means a trial, temptation, test, calamity, or affliction.
Testing in the Old Testament
“And there in the desert they all grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt!” they said. “There we sat by pots of meat and ate our fill of bread, but you have brought us into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death!” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test whether or not they will follow My instructions. Then on the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”Exodus 16:2-5
“Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people, in keeping with the greatness of Your loving devotion, just as You have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.” “I have pardoned them as you requested,” the LORD replied. “Yet as surely as I live and as surely as the whole earth is filled with the glory of the LORD, not one of the men who have seen My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness—yet have tested Me and disobeyed Me these ten times— not one will ever see the land I swore to give their fathers. None of those who have treated Me with contempt will see it. But because My servant Caleb has a different spirit and has followed Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he has entered, and his descendants will inherit it.”Numbers 14:19-24
All of Psalm 78 details how Israel tested God and followed evil.
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, in the day at Massah (Massah mean testing) in the wilderness, where your fathers tested and tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I was angry with that generation, and I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore on oath in My anger, “They shall never enter My rest.”Psalm 95:7-11
Testing in the New Testament
In addition to Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4, peirasmos occurs 20 times in 18 verses in the New Testament. As you can see below, peirasmos can be positive and/or negative, depending on the context.
As you can see below, peirasmos almost always means a trial, testing, or proving. Here are some examples. Every bold word below is peirasmos:
- Matthew 26:41 and Mark 14:38, Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
- Luke 4:13, When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.
- Luke 8:13, Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
- Luke 22:28, You are those who have stood by Me in My trials.
- Luke 22:40, 46 When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
- Acts 20:19, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13, No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
- Galatians 4:14, and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe
- 1 Timothy 6:9, But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
- Hebrews 3:8, Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.
- James 1:2, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials
- James 1:12, Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
- 1 Peter 1:6, In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials
- 1 Peter 4:12, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you
- 2 Peter 2:9, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment
- Revelation 3:10, Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
When I think of the word ‘temptation’ I usually think about being tempted to sin. But as you can see in the examples above, peirasmos is usually used in connection with testing, suffering, or tribulation.
Therefore, I believe ‘bring us not into trials‘ is a better wording than ‘bring us not into temptation.’
Rhyomai (Deliver or Rescue)
In ‘deliver us from evil’ the word ‘deliver’ is rhyomai, which means to rescue, or deliver.
Rhyomai is a variation of the Greek root word rhyomai (Strong’s #4506) which means to draw to oneself in deliverance, to rescue or deliver from danger.
Notice the added information about Mt 6:13 in the box below.
Every bold word below is rhyomai:
- Matthew 27:43, He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, “I Am the Son of God.”
- Luke 1:74, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear
- Romans 7:24, Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
- Romans 11:26, and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION,
HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.”
- Romans 15:31, that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea
- 2 Corinthians 1:10, who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us…
- Colossians 1:13, For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:2, and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith
- 2 Timothy 3:11, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!
- 2 Timothy 4:17, But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth.
- 2 Timothy 4:18, The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
- 2 Peter 2:7, He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men
- 2 Peter 2:9, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.
As you can see, all these verses agree that in the Lord’s Prayer rhyomai means to rescue or deliver.
Therefore, ‘deliver us’ provides the correct meaning for rhyomai. Or, ‘rescue us’ is also good.
Tou Ponerou (The Evil)
‘Tou’ in Greek is the definite article ‘the’.
Ponerou means toilsome and painful, hurtful, calamitous, evil, full of labors, hardships, harassments, and annoyances.
Therefore, in ‘deliver us from evil’ the word ‘evil’ is ponerou and it’s preceded by the definite article ‘the’. So, it is literally ‘deliver us from the evil.’
Evil and toil are connected. When Adam sinned, toil was part of the curse:
Then to Adam God said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”Genesis 3:17
In addition to Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4, ponerou occurs 11 times in the New Testament. Every bold word below is translated from ponerou:
- Matthew 5:37, But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.
- Matthew 12:35, The good man brings good things out of his good store of treasure, and the evil man brings evil things out of his evil store of treasure.
- Matthew 13:38, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil.
- Luke 6:45, The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil
- John 17:15, I do not ask You to take them out of the world but to keep them from the evil.
- Galatians 1:4, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father
- Ephesians 6:16, in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:22, Abstain from every form of evil.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:3, But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil.
- 2 Timothy 4:18, The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.
- 1 John 3:12, not as Cain, who was of the evil and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brothers were righteous.
Deliver Us From the Evil, or From the Evil One?
The phrase “the evil one” occurs 10 times in the NASB New Testament: Matthew 13:19, 13:38, John 17:15, Ephesians 6:16, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 John 2:13, 2:14, 3:12, 5:18, and 5:19.
In all 10 verses, Bible translators assumed the writer was referring to the Devil, translating tou ponerou as ‘the evil one,’ even though the word ‘one’ isn’t in the original Greek.
For example, as you can see in the image below, the brown text of 1 John 5:19 literally says, ‘the world whole in the evil lies.’
But (on the far right side) the translators added the word ‘one’ in brackets to inform us that this word was added by the translators.
Translators didn’t understand how the world could ‘lie in the evil,’ so they changed ‘the evil’ to ‘the evil one.’ In doing so they unintentionally created a completely different meaning, which has evolved into a whole world of false concepts about evil (poneros) and the Devil.
Then, NASB translators added even more words to 1 John 5:19 so that it reads, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
As a result of such changes, we now have to unlearn many false beliefs about the nature of evil and the Devil if we are to understand these scriptures correctly.
All 10 verses that refer to ‘the evil one’ in our Bibles are incorrectly translated, in the same way as 1 John 5:19 is. They all misdirect us from the evil (tou poneros) and point us toward the Devil. They should simply say ‘the evil’ and not ‘the evil one.’
Many Bible translators (e.g., NIV, NLT, BSB) made this false assumption within the Lord’s Prayer, mistakenly writing “Deliver us from the evil one”.
As you can see in the Greek words below, correct translations should read ‘Deliver us from the evil.
What is Tou Ponerou (The Evil)?
So, ‘the evil’ is what Jesus said we should pray to be rescued from, and not the Devil. This conclusion sent me on a journey to research, discover, and share what ‘tou poneros’ really means.
At first, I resisted this prompting. After all, if the meaning of ‘tou poneros’ was easily understood all the Bible translators wouldn’t have universally avoided it. But after I prayed for the Spirit’s revelation I believe the Lord led me to the correct meaning. I believe ‘the evil’ is the evil heart of unbelief within each Christian that we must overcome. Let me explain…
The first clue came when I researched this question: How and where are the themes of both testing and evil used together in both the Old and New Testaments?
I soon discovered the themes of testing and evil are used together in the Exodus account of the children of Israel in the wilderness.
God tested Israel by giving them manna as their daily bread:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test whether or not they will follow My instructions.Exodus 16:4
But Israel tested God by their persistent grumbling and unbelief:
“not one of the men who have seen My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness—yet have tested Me and disobeyed Me these ten times— not one will ever see the land I swore to give their fathers.”Numbers 14:22
In the verse above notice God’s linkage between testing and ‘the land I swore to give to their fathers.’
The establishment of God’s nation of Israel within its own territory is a central theme of the Bible. It has always been very important to God, from Abraham up to today.
God wanted to bring His people out of slavery and into their own land, the land He promised to Abraham their forefather. But, the people Moses led out of Egypt didn’t believe God was able to successfully bring them into the land, so God deemed them unfit to populate it.
Hebrews 3:12 teaches us that it was because of their evil heart of unbelief that God prevented them from entering the land of milk and honey, the promised land of Canaan, God’s rest.
So I swore on oath in My anger, ‘They shall never enter My rest.’ See to it, brothers, that none of you has an evil (ponera) heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God.Hebrews 3:12
There are many connections between Israel’s wilderness experience and the Lord’s Prayer:
- Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as it is in heaven, so it shall be on the earth.
- Israel was looking to enter God’s rest, the promised land of Canaan.
- “There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9)
- We are looking to enter God’s rest, the kingdom of God.
- Give us this day our daily bread
- Israel received daily ‘manna from heaven’
- Each day the people are to go out and gather enough for that day. “In this way, I will test whether or not they will follow My instructions.” (Exodus 16:4)
- We receive ‘the true bread from heaven’
- Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33)
- Israel received daily ‘manna from heaven’
- Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
- Bring us not into trial/testing
- “Now these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So the one who thinks he is standing firm should be careful not to fall. No trial has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested, He will also provide an escape, so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13)
- Rescue us
- Jesus delivered us from so great a death, and will rescue us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet rescue us… (2 Corinthians 1:10)
- Jesus rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13)
- the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial (2 Peter 2:9)
- From the evil (tou ponerou)
- Israel failed to enter the promised land (God’s rest) because of their evil (ponera) heart of unbelief (Hebrews 3:12, 19)
- Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, in the day at Massah (Massah means testing) in the wilderness, where your fathers tested and tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I was angry with that generation, and I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore on oath in My anger, “They shall never enter My rest.”(Psalm 95:7-11)
- If we want to enter God’s rest
- Immediately after quoting Psalm 95:7-11 above, the Book of Hebrews says, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has an evil (ponera) heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:7-12)
- So we see that it was because of their unbelief that they were unable to enter. Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be deemed to have fallen short of it. For we also received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, since they did not share the faith of those who comprehended it.” (Hebrews 3:19-4:2)
- Israel failed to enter the promised land (God’s rest) because of their evil (ponera) heart of unbelief (Hebrews 3:12, 19)
So, we have a promise concerning entering God’s promised land of rest, but we need to do something to obtain it.
In the Biblical example of the Israelites, the thing that prevented them from entering their promised land was their evil heart of unbelief.
Based on all the reasons above, I believe when we pray ‘deliver us from the evil’ in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus meant for us to be asking God to rescue us from the evil heart of unbelief that remains within each of our hearts.
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.Galatians 5:16
Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.Romans 12:1-2
By walking in the Spirit and renewing our minds we can overcome unbelief and enter God’s rest in the kingdom of God.
All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.Romans 8:14
Based on the references and logic in the study above, a more accurate way to pray ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’ is:
Bring us not into trials, but rescue us from the evil heart of unbelief.
Q: Couldn’t “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one” be correct? After all, the Bible says in Matthew 4:3 the Devil is the tempter.
A: God doesn’t lead anyone into temptation. We are only tempted when we are lured by our own evil desires. (James 1:13-14)
The only way the Devil can tempt anyone with anything is by appealing to an evil desire that already exists within a person’s heart. So if we pray for God to deliver us from our own evil hearts we’ll be immune from temptation, regardless of whether the temptation comes from the Devil or not.