BUT (The Our Father, Word by Word)

November 9, 2011 | 7 comments

Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done,
On Earth As it Is in Heaven. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those
Who Have Trespassed Against Us. Lead Us Not IntoTemptation But…

I almost skipped this word. It’s just a conjunction! I thought. Is there really anything to say about it? But then I noticed something.

The but in the English translation of the Our Father actually serves an important purpose: It conjoins two thoughts that might otherwise seem to be only loosely related:

Don’t lead us into temptation


Deliver us from evil

The prayer does not say, “Lead us not into temptation. And, on an unrelated note, deliverance from evil would be great as well.” The two requests are joined with the word but. The last two words of each thought, temptation and evil, are juxtaposed as to invite a connection.

I’m not sure it’s a connection I make often enough.

I usually talk about temptation as a light concept. Don’t want to be tempted! I might say with a laugh as I move the Bluebell Banana Split ice cream to the back of the fridge. But, as we discussed the other day, our worst sins almost always begins with a simple temptation. First you’re tempted, and only after that do you actually commit the sin. Sin is all about giving in to temptation. And what is sin? That’s another concept that some of us (cough-cough me) often don’t take seriously enough. We’d do well to remember that it is nothing short of cooperation with evil, a willful act of assent to the force that wishes to destroy every good thing and leave nothing but death and destruction in its wake.

When I pray the Our Father tonight, I’ll pause on this simple word and note the two phrases it conjoins. And hopefully this will remind me that in order to reject evil, we must first reject temptation.


  1. Michael

    Oh, but there’s so much theology hidden within prepositions and conjunctions! Thanks for pressing on.

  2. Erica

    Home sick with pneumonia, I am totally typing off the cuff here and without enough pondering, BUT,
    Could Jesus be leading us into a new cry out to our heavenly father requesting new and different treatment needed after the fall? Not that the tree in the garden of Eden just sitting there was being lead into temptation, specifically, but nevertheless, temptation was provided in the garden. And we gave in to it. So, please DON’T do that any more, God, BUT DO deliver and save us from our resulting mess of evil, oh please do that!
    Which leads my wandering and fuzzy mind to wonder, in the context of the Our Father as a section of scripture, housed within the context of the narrative of Jesus’ time in corporeal for on earth, is he in this passage urging his disciples to pray without even realizing it for the success of his ultimate salvation mission through his death and resurrection on the cross? And for us, now, every time we pray this, are the phrases so weighted as to have us joining in prayers for the deliverance of all humankind?
    I don’t know. I think I just made my head hurt. I’m going to make more tea and listen to prayasyougo.org. Feel free to correct me if I’m off base here.

  3. GeekLady

    When reading Humphrey Carpenter’s biography of Tolkien and the companion volume of collected letters, I got the distinct impression that Tolkien was trying to emphasize this. At the climax, where Frodo gives in to the irresistible temptation of the Ring, he’s saved and the Ring destroyed by what seems like pure dumb luck. There was also a speculative discussion of what would have happened if Gollum had been redeemed, and he was of the opinion that the ending wouldn’t materially change, but Gollum would be trying to save his master, instead of trying to take the Ring.

  4. cinhosa

    Today’s mass readings talk about our bodies being a temple, in the first reading, Saint Paul asks:

    “Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
    and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

    When I consider this statement in a moment of temptation that I can be like Jesus and guard my temple with zeal.

    Good post.

  5. Maria

    Amen! Love what you said:

    And hopefully this will remind me that in order to reject evil, we must first reject temptation.

    Thanks for a great post.

  6. Trisha Niermeyer Potter @ Prints of Grace

    That’s a good one to remember. It’s not a sin to be tempted, but the more comfortable we become with the thoughts and feelings that tempt us, the more likely we are to slip down the slope from temptation to sin. If we’re better about identifying temptation and cutting it off at the pass, then we’ll be better at avoiding the near occasion of sin as well as the evil action itself. I’m wondering if this means I should put away the Halloween candy, so I’m not tempted to snack on it all day. Hmm, we’ll have to see about that one. These malt balls are pretty good.

  7. jack gibes

    When I have the temptations that I cannot stand anymore I just offer them up to the Lord and ask Our Lady to help with the fight. I also noticed that the best way to fight them off is just to start ignoring them. Also when I weaken over time I need to go to confession and ask for the grace of fortitude. I complain to Jesus in confessional and for a while it is much easier after that. The word “but” is not a funny word, this is the word that satan puts in out heads all the time to make us doubt most anything, just like in the Garden he instilled doubt in Eve.

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