Do you have people in your life that have issues? Perhaps some folks lacking self awareness? Individuals that just don’t “get it”? You can clearly see what steps they need to take to make things right, but they won’t? Or, are you that person in other peoples lives??? 🙂
Last night I came across a scripture that I have read probably hundreds of times during my life. However, an author from a book I’m reading put it into an entirely new context. The book is called A Prayer For Orion by Katherine James. It is her grueling story of her teenage son’s battle with heroin addiction. By her own admission, how many times her and her husband just wanted God to “fix” their son. And isn’t there something more to “do” than just pray?
Jesus is talking to Peter before his crucifixion on how the disciples would abandon Jesus. Peter insisted he never would. Jesus foresaw the future and mentioned that not only would Peter abandon him, he would also verbally deny him three times. Here are the verses and what I learned from them:
“Simon (Peter), Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
- Satan wanted to destroy all of the disciples. If Satan couldn’t take their lives, he at least wanted to annihilate their faith. I always thought this verse was about Peter alone. I never noticed the request “to sift each of you like wheat.” Sifting in those days was to separate, tear apart, isolate, and shake violently. I think all of us can recall examples when we have been sifted within the last two years. We frequently need to be reminded that we have an unseen enemy.
- Even Jesus needed to pray to God the Father. Frequently throughout his 33 years of life – Jesus modeled praying first instead of analyzing, controlling, and attempting to fix. Try a Google search sometime on the subject of Jesus praying. A verse that has always spoke to me is Mark 1:35 – Very early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went to a solitary place where he prayed. If he needed to start his day this way – how much more do you and I need to? I have some good news if you’re a night owl and not a morning person! The Jews believe that a new day begins in the evening. So if you enjoy staying up late – you’re really getting an early start on the next day!
- Jesus prayed for Peter’s faith, not that he would be “fixed.” Jesus or the Father probably could have supernaturally zapped Peter and changed him. They definitely could have altered events so Peter would have been protected from his painful betrayal of Jesus. However, Jesus believed Peter’s faith would be made stronger through this crisis. And, he knew that Peter couldn’t have a worldwide impact in his current state (see the book of Acts to witness Peter’s amazing transformation).
- Jesus spoke of a hopeful future to Peter. “When you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Paraphrased: “I believe in you Peter. You’ll have regrets – but no one is too far from my forgiveness, and you’ll come back. Then I need you to go in your new faith and strength and help others that are struggling.” Jesus easily could have shamed Peter, told him that he better not blow his big chance, replaced him, or he could have lectured him. Jesus knew Peter needed to go through the pain of betrayal and loss to truly be sold out as a follower.
Conclusion – Someday when I’m in Heaven – I sincerely and respectfully want to ask God, “Please help me understand what praying was about while I was on Earth?” Until then, it is obvious God has made it a huge priority. Next time we want to fix, label, or solve someone – let’s try praying for them first instead. Maybe if we take a deep look inside there might be an area or two we need to fix within ourselves? Jesus continually demonstrated praying first, receiving direction, and then taking action. Or, he waited for His Father to go to work after praying. Possibly it is just all of us slowing down a little bit and copying his example as we rush through life like fire ants whose pile has just been kicked. Jesus loved and cared deeply for Peter, saw his amazing potential, and was dedicated to letting him grow in his faith despite the pain involved. Guess what? Jesus wants the same for you and I.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)