“Simon, 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 22:31-32, NLT).
It is the night of the Last Supper. It is just a little while until Jesus shall be arrested, accused, found guilty, and crucified. He knows His time has almost arrived. The evening is emotionally charged. The disciples have just argued among themselves who will be the greatest in His kingdom, and Jesus has explained that those who think themselves the greatest shall be the least. Satan has asked Jesus to sift His disciples like wheat—to see where their real allegiance lies. Now Jesus specifically addresses Peter because He knows what Peter’s temptation will be. In His carefully chosen words Jesus reveals, by saying “when you have repented,” that He knows Peter will ultimately deny Him.
Jesus did not say that He pleaded in prayer for Peter to be delivered from temptation. He pleaded that Peter’s faith would not fail. Even though he knew that Peter would fail, He still prayed for Peter to remain strong. Jesus knew what His Father expected of Him—to unselfishly give His life for mankind. Just as He knew what He would choose in the Garden of Gethsemane, He also knew the choice Peter would make by a coal fire. Jesus’ choice at Calvary would offer new life, and Peter’s choice would hide from its promise. In both choices God reveals the ultimate power found in redemption—the strength and healing found in forgiveness. In Jesus’s sacrifice the power of love would wipe out the sin of the world. In Peter’s failure the power of Jesus’ love would soon set him free. Jesus’ words spoken by another coal fire—asking “do you love me, Peter”—would bring healing and forgiveness to his repentant heart. Jesus instruction to “feed my sheep” would inspire Peter to “strengthen his brothers” and rise from denial to victory.
The Holy Spirit knows just where the enemy will strike hard trying to tempt me. Thinking that I will never fail Him, I say, “Lord, I will never deny you,” Then find when I fail that I am traumatized by the choice I have made. Jesus also pleads in prayer for me. I, like Peter, am so overwhelmed by my own denial that I cannot move past it. I yearn so badly to be forgiven, but what I have done just seems to be too terrible. Jesus does not want me imprisoned by my failure. Just as I made a choice when I failed Him, He knows that now I can also make a choice to repent. Just as He told Peter when he had repented and returned to Him that He would strengthen his brothers, He also instructs me. He asks me again and again if I also love Him, and when I say “yes”, He lovingly takes me to my own coal fire where I am immersed in His forgiveness.
Jesus continually prays for me to have faith that will not fail. He prays for me not to falter in my walk, but when I do, He prays for me to have the faith to return in repentance to Him. Then He prays for me to have the faith to accept His grace that forgives, and realize that where I have fallen, He can now use me. He can take my failure and bring about His glory but not just for my sake. He strengthens me so I can be used by Him to strengthen others in the faith.
What is Jesus praying for you? Only you and Jesus know. In the sifting process of the harsh circumstances and temptations of life, choose Him, and experience the power of repentance. He already knows your weakness, and now He pleads in prayer for you to be strengthened. Never be defined by your failure, but always by His prayer. Rise from denial to victory and share the life that has been so unselfishly and freely given to you.
Lynn Hampton Lacher