I am not one to razzle-dazzle with the Greek and Hebrew. I strive for accessibility by all. But on rare occasions, there is something to be said. This is one of them.
I have no complaint with the standard translation of the words in the text; but in Greek the punctuation is often a matter of opinion. Once Upon a Time (yes, it was that long ago) the speech professor at Princeton Seminary had a take on this passage that I still remember and agree with. He said there ought to be a comma after the word us.
Lead us, (comma) not into temptation…
This changes the whole dynamic of the passage. The way we normally say it, without the comma, it is an apprehensive and fear-filled request: “please don’t lead us into temptation. Oh, please, oh please. I can’t handle any more…” as if God is normally inclined in that direction.
With the comma, it becomes at first a positive request. Lead us, Lord. Lead us:
In the paths of righteousness for your name’s sake…
The subordinate clause, “not into temptation” is then able to be said as a word of hope. We know temptation is not God’s desire, but in this world we also know God allows temptation, trials, tribulations at times in order to reach us and bring us closer to him. It is how God burns away the dross and transforms us more into his likeness.
We are like the man who confesses that God never gives a person more trouble than they can handle (and no, God does not have us confused with someone else). We are hopeful here that at least for the moment we have fulfilled our quota. This is our request.
But when offered as a subordinate clause we understand that “Nevertheless, thy will be done…” We already requested that earlier in the prayer. But here, we can show courage if we understand that God is leading us, positively leading us. It is like that single set of footprints in the sand, when Jesus carries us. God is my strength, shield and buckler when he leads me and I willingly and gladly follow. So even if temptation comes, I will not be alone. I will pick up my cross and follow after him.
Lead us, (comma) not into temptation is the fifth request of the prayer.