“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
This statement by Jesus always strikes me. Both with its content and with the beautiful reality glimpsed here – that Jesus prays for us. Personal, individual prayers for us in the midst of our circumstances.
We see in Jesus’ words Satan’s intent to destroy. His demand to sift Simon Peter was no doubt a desire to break him absolutely, to silence this one who spoke with such passion of his commitment to following Christ.
But Jesus’ prayers are more powerful than any effort of the enemy. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3a). The universe is held up by the mere word of His power – and His words spoken on our behalf will hold us up as well.
Simon Peter was sifted. He denied his Lord that very night, multiple times, likely overwhelmed with the drastic turn of events that shook his world and with the pressures coming at him from all sides. How his heart must have broken when the Lord turned to look at him after his third denial, that moment the rooster crowed (Luke 22:60-61)… “And he went out and wept bitterly” (v. 62).
But we see on this side of history the outcome. This moment was not the end of Peter’s story. His faith did not fail. This is seen first in his running to the tomb at the report that Jesus had risen (Luke 24:10-12). It is seen again in his “[throwing] himself into the sea” to reach Jesus on the shore, not content to wait until the boat reached land (John 21:7). Peter’s pride had been broken, but not his faith. And throughout the recorded Acts of the apostles and in his letters to the churches, we see his faith grow. We see him strengthening his brothers and taking his role as a key leader in the early church.
None of this was due to Peter himself – let us not elevate him too highly. If we do, we will miss the truth and encouragement here for us. The strengthening of Peter was a direct result of Jesus’ prayer. Peter’s strength did not draw him out of the despair seen in Luke 22:62; Christ’s did. The words of Christ set a foundation and guard around his faith, and Peter’s continued relationship with and pursuit of Christ is what resulted in the fruit we see through the rest of the New Testament. Because anything good in us, any fruit evident in our lives, has its source not in ourselves but in the vine that is Christ, the One in whom we abide (John 15:4-5).
Whatever you’re facing today, if you are Christ’s, He is praying for you that your faith may not fail. If your steps falter, know that His love upholds you and will never let you go. And when you turn again to Him, running determinedly to the One who is your life, He will receive you with rejoicing and will fill you with all you need to in turn strengthen those around you.
We may be sifted, but we will not be irreparably broken. Rather, our brokenness will allow us to shine all the more brilliantly with the radiant glory of Christ as our faith grows and we are brought from strength to strength.
Because our Savior prays for us. Ever-interceding, ever-abiding, ever-strengthening us as our hope and anchor.
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,
a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf”
“He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him,
since he always lives to make intercession for them.”