PRESERVED BY PRAYER: Why we need to take prayer more seriously.
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)
In the above text, Jesus reveals a remarkable thing to the unsuspecting Peter. From a dimension where transactions take place which affect His followers, Jesus brought a vision of Peter's future to his attention. This was not a detailed account of what Peter would encounter on a daily basis but it was accurate enough to alert him to Satanic attacks against his life.
Peter was about to go through a sifting that would eventually remove all the chaff (unwanted elements) from his life.
Satan's motive for doing this was to cause Peter to ultimately turn his back on Jesus and abandon his God-ordained purpose. Since we know how the story ends, we know that this did happen temporarily but not ultimately.
This was the same motive that Satan had for Job (see Job 1-2). He calculated that if he would remove Job's material wealth from him then Job would curse God to his face. God was confident that this wouldn't happen so he allowed Job to go through the loss of all his material wealth, and then some. Job was prepared to die with his integrity intact rather than curse God just because his circumstances changed. Spoiler alert!!! Job was twice as rich on the inside as he was in his external world. In the end, he was restored double what he lost!
Back to Jesus and Peter
There is something that may not be obvious to many who read this passage of Scripture in Luke's gospel. The prayer of Jesus did not save Peter from the process of being sifted, it only preserved him in the midst of it. There is no doubt that this sifting process took place in Peter's life - even to the point of denying Jesus. Did Peter ever backslide? What is clear is that Peter did turn his back on Jesus, even if only briefly. Remember his vulgar denial that he even knew Jesus, much less followed Him?
When Peter realized what he had done, he wept bitterly. (Luke 22:62)
It was not a coincidence that the angel singled out Peter when he sent the three women to tell the disciples about the resurrection of Jesus. It seems that God wanted to encourage him specifically: But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” (Mark 16:6-7)
Jesus knew that Peter would be tested. But he prayed for a favorable outcome. He not only prayed for it, he was assured of it. This is why he could confidently instruct Peter to strengthen his brethren when his period of testing was over: Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)
The above scripture challenges us to press toward answered prayers. The key is to know that we are praying according to the will of God.
Prayer based on the known will of God is not a pointless exercise. It can actually keep people from being derailed or destroyed.
The most tragic thing that can happen to an individual is not that they go through trials in life but that they miss their purpose for living; That they live a life which God never intended.
In my next post, I will explore the reason why Peter was sifted but more importantly why Satan couldn't destroy his life. Peter was air-marked for something much more powerful than Satanic attacks against his life!