“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 to sift the 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. Even though Jesus knew that Peter would fail Him at a coal fire He still prayed for Peter's faith not to fail. Jesus knew that in Peter's failure he would one day experience a strength of faith born of complete repentance. Jesus knew what His Father expected of His own life—to unselfishly give Himself for mankind. Just as Jesus knew what His own choice would be in the Garden of Gethsemane He also knew the choice to deny Him that Peter would make. 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 ultimately 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 you. Thinking that you will never fail Him, you declare, “Lord, I will never deny you,” and then find when you fail you are traumatized by the choice you have made. Jesus also pleads in prayer for you. Just like Peter you are so overwhelmed by your own denial that you cannot move past it. You yearn so badly to be forgiven, but what you have done just seems to be too terrible. Jesus does not want you imprisoned by your failure. Just as you made a choice when you failed Him He knows that now you 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 you. He asks you again and again if you also love Him. When you say “yes” He lovingly takes you to your own coal fire of failure where you are immersed in His forgiveness.
Jesus continually prays for you to have faith that will not fail. He prays for you not to falter in your walk, but when you do He prays for you to have the faith to return in repentance to Him. Then He prays for you to have the faith to accept His grace that forgives, and realize that where you have fallen He will now use you for His purpose. He can take your failure and bring about His glory but not just for your sake. He strengthens you so you can be used by Him to strengthen others in the faith. “Do you love me?” He asks, and when you answer “yes” He whispers “feed my sheep.”
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.
(Copyright 2017 Lynn Hampton Lacher)