What is the difference between a trial and temptation?
First, James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (KJV). Though the Greek word peirasmos is often translated as “tempted,” when the text states such as coming from God, or to the Lord Jesus, the thought is rather of being tested or proven. Simply answered then, the difference is the reason and the result. God allows or sends trials to refine us, to make us more spiritual. Temptations often come from Satan to ruin us. Trials are to bring us up spiritually, while temptation is to bring us down spiritually. The words of the Lord Jesus to Peter are telling in this: “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee” (Luk 22:31-32 KJV). The Lord sifts in trials to remove the chaff. Satan works in temptation that, if possible, he could remove the wheat.
In Matthew 6:13, why are we told to pray “lead us not into temptation” if God does not tempt any man to sin (Jas 1:13)?
God cannot sin and does not tempt any man to sin (Jas 1:13). This petition cannot be for God to not lead us into temptation to sin, but rather into trials and testing. Interestingly, it is the only negative petition in the entire prayer. It follows prayer for food on a very dependent daily basis. It also follows prayer in relation to being trespassed against. These bring before us potentially deeply stressful situations, particularly when the family is involved. If such situations escalate and continue, they could foster doubt against God, anger against others, or other potential sins. However, if needs were met and trespasses against us minimized without testing the boundaries of our limits of forgiveness, then we would not be led into trials in these realms. Rather, we would be preserved from them. This prayer of not being led would then be predicated and linked to positive answers to the previous prayer requests, forming a strong contextual basis. Also, while this prayer is both a model and applicable to us today, it will have great bearing in a future day of intense persecution on the nation of Israel in the Tribulation. All aspects will deepen but especially the aspect of being preserved from testing and delivered “from the evil one” (i.e., the beast).
Another aspect is that we should not desire or ask God to test us. While the results of passing such tests are blessed, the experience is not. Plus, we simply do not know what tests we are ready for, and if we think we are, that just proves we are not! We should leave the testing to His timing and will. Israel clearly failed at this when they said, after God’s providing for them, “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do” (Exo 19:8). Their pride and felt readiness to serve God soon resulted in a golden calf being made and blatant breaking of the very first commandment given. Proverbs 30:8-9 gives a similar thought, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (KJV).