When I was a child, a teacher once told me in church that I could “pray anywhere at any time about anything.” That guidance served me well through the years, and I’ve come to believe it to be undeniably true. Prayer is a priceless gift, but I often wonder if we underutilize it in the most critical areas of our lives.
My family took me to church before I ever had a say. I never experienced a stint of wandering years that kept me from the faith. As a pastor, I have maintained my regular proximity with God’s people gathering together. All that to say, I can’t even fathom how many prayer requests I’ve heard through the years. I have prayed for nagging health issues, combative work environments, second cousins twice removed, and numerous unspoken requests. Still, I rarely receive one of the most essential appeals: “Would you pray for my discipleship?”
If most of our prayer requests could be addressed by a second opinion or an alleviated circumstance, we might not be praying about all we should. How often have you asked others to pray for your spiritual growth? When do you personally pray for your sanctification? I am confident that you know that you could and should draw closer to Jesus, but when do you ever ask His help to see that happen?
On the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion, He gathered His disciples for the last time that the thirteen of them would be together. After breaking the bread and sharing the cup (Luke 22:14-20), the disciples began to argue in front of Jesus about the identity of His betrayer (Luke 22:21-23) and the agreement on which one of them was the superior disciple (Luke 22:24-30). At such a pivotal moment, the disciples became derailed at an alarming pace and to a shocking degree.
That’s when Jesus blurted out something that sounded awkwardly misplaced. “Simon, Simon, look out. Satan has asked to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). If you ever hear the Messiah say that the devil himself has specifically asked permission to break you down and take you out, you best pay attention. Simon Peter was probably shaken because he hadn’t been referenced as Simon in a long time. Jesus had changed his name earlier to portray the stable character He was transforming within Peter. After the introduction of “Simon” in the Gospel of Luke (5:8), we only read of “Peter” after he encountered Jesus (6:14; 8:45, 51; 9:20, 28, 32, 33; 12:41; 18:28; 22:8).
That is until this moment. Amid disciples pridefully bickering with one another, Jesus recalls a name that had been predominantly unused for three years. Jesus’ voice breaking through the debate must have soberly echoed in Peter’s soul. It’s almost as if Jesus beckoned this disciple not to return to his former ways.
Jesus knew something that Peter did not. Satan wanted this individual disciple taken out. He was a threat to demonic activity.
So, what did Jesus do about it besides alerting him to such unsettling information? He prayed for him. Not only Simon Peter but Jesus prayed for all the disciples.
“But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
Satan demanded the right to have Peter, but Jesus prayed for all the disciples. The “you” is plural in His request. He directs His prayers to all the disciples and then refocuses on Peter’s return after His imminent fall. With the potential disruption on the horizon, Jesus didn’t preach a sermon but offered a prayer. He prayed that their faith wouldn’t fail. And when it would unfortunately falter, He prayed they would reunite to provide the mutual strength that only the gathered saints can provide for one another.
Jesus’ prayer was focused on the fact that temptation is unavoidable, but sin isn’t guaranteed. He highlighted that spiritual warfare is real but not failproof. He was praying that the growing faith of Simon Peter that had actualized into increasing mobilization would not waver.
We see Jesus praying for Simon Peter, but do we see Simon Peter praying for himself? Jesus encouraged him to do so, but shamefully, Simon failed to get around to it. Later that evening, Jesus took three disciples to the Mount of Olives, and Peter was a part of this entourage. Before Jesus withdrew to pray Himself, He instructed: “Pray that you may not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:40). It was Jesus’ way of telling His followers that He had prayed for their endurance, but they needed to as well. After some time, Jesus rose to find them not praying but sleeping (Luke 22:45). After imploring them to pray again (Luke 22:46), it was time to meet His betrayer.
Jesus knew that challenging circumstances were coming for Peter, so He prayed for his disciple and encouraged Peter to pray for himself. How often do we fall asleep regarding our spiritual condition? Instead of seeking power from above to strengthen us in our times of need, we often give way to our weaknesses. Jesus warned Peter about the necessity to pray since his flesh was undeniably weak (Matt. 26:41).
Jesus prayed for disciples like us. Even in His time on earth, He prayed for our spiritual health (John 17:20-26). While He now lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25), we need to pray for eternal matters more than temporal concerns. We need to pray to be fully pleasing to Jesus (Col. 1:9-10). We should pray that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened (Eph. 1:18). We should pray that our love would grow in knowledge and every type of discernment (Phil. 1:9).
You may not think that Satan wants to sift you like wheat, but what if I told you he wants to devour you like a lion (1 Pet. 5:8)? He is out to get you. Temptations abound in this life. Our faith can often feel frail. So, what are we to do? Pray.
Share prayer requests and commit to praying for others. But what if we started praying for our spiritual stability amid all other petitions? If I can pray anywhere at any time about anything, I best pray about the most important thing – my walk and witness in this life.
Make your spiritual growth a matter of prayer. Pray against the temptation that is plaguing you. Pray for the areas of development you know need to happen. Move from the general statements to specific petitions. Ask others to pray that your faith doesn’t fail. And maybe we will start seeing the change we’ve always thought about once we start praying about it.