“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22 NASB).
It had been revealed to Jesus that one of His primary disciples, Peter, was going to go through an unusual time of testing. Jesus said that Satan had “obtained permission by asking” to sift him like wheat.
This is reminiscent of Job, as Satan gained a similar permission to test Job. Job went through a similar sifting for a similar purpose.
Sifting wheat was a familiar process to anyone in Peter’s culture. Its design was to remove the chaff—the useless, non-grain that had been gathered in harvest—and to purify the wheat and get to the usable wheat. It was vital, but hard work.
What Could Jesus Do?
Jesus did not say that He would save Peter from this testing. But what He did say was that He was praying for him. He also indicated that His prayer would be effective.
To us it looks like Peter’s faith did fail; but this would not be Christ’s evaluation. It did falter a bit during a crushing moment when all Peter had hoped and dreamed for—banked his life on—was nailed to a cross, and he denied that he knew Jesus.
But remember that, with John, Peter was the first disciple to the empty tomb. And not many days later, he stood preaching on the day of Pentecost, and in a single moment, 3,000 people were saved!
His faith had been sifted, as God removed the fluffy, lightweight chaff. But when it was purified, he was a lion. Read 1 and 2 Peter, and you will find a sobered, matured faith—a faith that was aware and ever vigilant against the enemy, a faith that would stand the test.
History tells us that Peter was martyred for his faith. Refusing to be crucified as his Lord, he asked to be crucified upside down.
Our Task in Prayer
What was Jesus’ main responsibility for Peter in this grueling time of testing? To pray; to pray that Peter’s faith would not fail. And it worked!
What is our responsibility when those we love go through the same? We must do the same as Jesus. We must carry them through to a matured faith through the process of effectual prayer.
Who around you is being sifted right now? They could come out on the other side with a damaged faith instead of a developed faith.
Their well-being and usefulness for the kingdom may well depend on your prayers. This may be one of the most important works we ever do in discipling others.